Back during the time of the original NES, I did not once play an RPG. My first experience with an RPG was Final Fantasy 7 when it released 20 years ago. Since then, I play almost nothing else. But I still don’t have the experiences most others have. The nostalgia of the old school RPG. Enter Pixel Heroes: Byte & Magic.
Pixel Heroes: Byte & Magic is a retro style RPG from indie developer The Bitfather. The Bitfather has done a fantastic job creating a fantasy world with tons of modern humor. Everything from character backstory to dialogue is filled with just the right amount of crude humor you don’t normally see in RPGs. The backstory for each of the thirty characters seems like something out of a Mel Brooks movie. Small details like helping a family member move a rock collection give reason to a character’s attributes. These little bits of humor help to make dying in the game a lot more fun.
You will DIE in Pixel Heroes: Byte & Magic
Oh yeah, did I mention that you will die in this game? Because you will. A lot. My graveyard is filling up with several headstones from various parties that did not make it past the first quest. The difficulty settings are Hard, Brutal and Insane, with the last two difficulties locked until you beat the previous setting. And don’t think you are bringing back a downed party member from the dead. Permadeath, folks! You die in the game, you die in real life (just kidding).
There are health potions in the game, but if a party member falls in battle, they are gone for good. So make sure you choose your party members wisely. Otherwise, you could end up like I did and have a priest fighting a boss fight alone. I’ll let you all figure out how that ended. Don’t let the difficulty discourage you though. Dying is still fun in the game.
The gameplay is pretty much what you would expect in a retro RPG-style game. The side-scrolling action is reminiscent of 80’s games that could only fit so much on the scene at once. The Bitfather set out to create a game that captures the old school style of RPGs and they did it in terms of the gameplay. Like most RPGs of the past, the combat relies on turn-based combat. While I have never been a fan of this, I do understand that in order to stay true to the roots, this is necessary. Despite my dislikes, the combat did not stop me from enjoying the game. Another great combat feature shows you how close an enemy is to dying. The status of each enemy ranges from Healthy to Near Death, letting you know how close you are to victory.
She’s got the look (and sound)
Pixel Heroes nails the look of the retro RPG. Everything from menus to maps to the characters themselves take players back to a simpler time. In this day and age of pushing graphics to the limit, it is nice to sit back and enjoy something familiar. It’s like reading your favorite book from your childhood. The sound design is great as well. Classic beeps and boops from your childhood ring out as you make your way through treacherous woods and haunted dungeons. And when you die (did I mention you die a lot?), you are carried to the afterlife to the familiar sounds of retro death.
All in all, I cannot say enough great things about this game. Even with my numerous deaths, I still had tons of fun playing this game. Every play-through presents different challenges and picking the right party members is crucial to your survival. But even if you die, it’s still pretty satisfying. This is one game that I highly recommend to anyone that loves RPGs or retro games in general.
Pixel Heroes: Byte & Magic releases for Xbox One of Friday, February 3rd, 2017. It can be pre-ordered or purchased though the Xbox One store for $9.99/€9,99 / £7.99.