If you’re a fan of Super Metroid, then you’ve probably heard of Ghost Song: A Journey of Hope. Eerie, haunting and ethereal, it seeks to encapsulate nearly all great aspects of metroidvania titles while throwing in some tasty Dark Souls flavours for good measure. And since we haven’t covered the game in quite some time, why not congest all we’ve missed into one juicy, gameplay-filled article?
If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It
Perhaps due to being a solo project, Ghost Song has now been in development for over three years after its Kickstarter success. Its identity and overall design have also remained unscathed, presenting a moody platforming experience set in a disturbingly quiet alien world. Crash-landed on a moon named Lorian V, you stumble on a place known for its ominous nature. As developer Matt White puts it, “When people end up there the result always seems to be the same. Death.”
As a mute character, your journey mostly consists of exploring lonely alien caverns, forests and abandoned structures. The moon’s victims are now ghosts, trapped and stripped away from their dead, brooding bodies. NPCs with cryptic dialogue and questionable motives appear from time to time, offering at least a little bit of insight into Lorian V’s inherently grim nature.
Here’s one such conversation:
Otherwise, the game has certainly remained pretty simple and straight-forward when it comes to its mechanics. It’s your typical Metroid-inspired platforming experience – you’ve got a double jump, an electric dash, health upgrades and weapon unlocks. Gradual unlocks guarantee the need for backtracking, finding hidden paths, revealing “invisible doors” and generally acting like an overly-obsessive individual. There’s even a tiny, floating robot companion which helps you out with shields (I think).
Still, a couple of new abilities, or power-ups, or whatever you want to call them, have been teased in the recent past. Those include becoming The Flash and shooting blue goop to clear other blue goop. Oh, there’s also this nasty-looking SMG acquired from a hostile NPC hunter found while roaming back to the game’s starting area:
A World Worth Exploring
But even with these additions, the game’s mechanical backbone has remained as solid as it was three years ago. What’s more essential for a metroidvania game like Ghost Song is to craft an intricate environment filled with well-designed routes and unique NPC encounters.
For instance, below you can see a boss fight against a “fungal giant”. The enemy’s shots bounce off surfaces, which becomes more challenging since the area you’re in contains low ceilings. So, proper use of dashing and constant swapping between longer-range blasters and in-your-face shotguns becomes a necessity.
According to White, this boss is an example of an encounter that isn’t forced upon players. The game’s world is deliberately made to be indifferent to the protagonist and their actions, even though you might decide to engage the foe and kill it. It isn’t hard to make a connection with the Heide Knights from Dark Souls 2, who are passive enemies mostly seen sitting in a depressed, discouraged state of mind.
In general, all of this is very reminiscent to the way Dark Souls handles its gameplay. In a similar way to its source of inspiration, Ghost Song oozes mysticism mainly because its world seems forgotten and derelict. This unique atmosphere is illustrated in yet another short video, where you can hear a girl’s distant voice reacting to an elevator being used for the first time since seventeen years.
Calibrate All Systems
Needless to say, having such a well-realized world requires a lot of tinkering. In the most recent Kickstarter update, White writes about having to overhaul scripted encounters in order to eliminate verbosity and retain the important sense of mystery. The game’s prologue has also been entirely cut in favor of a more immediate start. As it stands, most development work is currently focused on finishing Ghost Song’s mid-game content and then slowly moving on to shape later portions of the game.
Although there isn’t a concrete release date yet, White remains active on Twitter where he frequently posts GIFs and fun little bits of information regarding Ghost Song. The game’s OST has also been having some new additions worth listening to.
Finally, if you’re looking for something lengthier, here’s a 24-minute-long video walkthrough taking you through an entire area of the game. There’s a dark lab filled with dangling cables, barely functional elevators and… glowing hot peppers?