Developer: Moon Studios
Publisher: Microsoft Studios
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Version Reviewed: eShop download
Category: Adventure, Platformer, Action
No. of Players: 1 player
Release Date: September 27, 2019 (EU & NA)
Price: $19.99 USD
Ori and the Blind Forest first launched on the Xbox One family of systems back on March 11, 2015. Unsurprisingly, this adorable yet stunning action-platformer took the world by storm and launched the new IP to crazy heights. For several months it was all the buzz as Xbox had finally struck gold for what seemed like the first time on the Xbox One.
Fast forward to the spring of 2016 and the definitive edition of Ori and the Blind Forest released. Relaying the same story from the original release, this version of the game featured two brand new areas, those being Black Root Burrows and the Lost Grove, which play as an expansion on the lore that the original release set for the franchise.
From a graphical standpoint, it took the hardware to the limit in order to create a beautifully crafted and breathing world with hours of content to discover. The gameplay was fun, fluid, and was just what the market was lacking at the time. Here we are, four and a half years later with a Nintendo Switch port launched and available for purchase now on the eShop.
Thanks to Studio MDHR’s Cuphead opening the floodgates, this port was fully realized due to the newfound partnership amongst Nintendo and Microsoft. However, does the game still hold up in 2019 alongside the plentiful list of indie masterpieces that have come to light since the original launched? Let’s find out.
Courage. Family. Sacrifice. Three pillars of society that are crucial to growth and perseverance. Ori and the Blind Forest tells the story of a young orphan, Ori, and how she must rebuild her world and save the forest of Nibel from a mysterious dark nemesis that has transformed the land. Left as an orphan at a young age, she must claw her way through numerous enemy-infested areas and tight platforming in order to clear the world from the darkness that has plagued it.
Dangerous creatures sit on every corner, and in this heart-wrenching tale, nothing is the way it seems. Ori was destined for much more than this, but she must do whatever it takes in order to return the forest back to its former self. The cutesy aesthetic of Ori and the forest of Nibel will fool you, as the game is not as easy as it is stunning. From beautiful lands to wretched creatures, Ori and the Blind Forest has something for everyone.
Imagine yourself all bundled up by the campfire on a cold winter night. The freezing temperatures combined with the calmness of the fire fill you up with electricity in a similar way to how Ori navigates the forest of Nibel in search for hope. Buttery smooth popcorn does not even lay a dime on how Ori and the Blind Forest feels as a platformer. Ori moves smoothly from left to right, and bouncing around the terrain feels as good as it should.
Wall jumping, a technique that has been around for generations, feels effortless as the player bounces towards the top of a structure. It would be an understatement to say that the game is challenging, but the storytelling combined with the world building makes this an unforgettable experience. Enemies deal more damage than they probably should, which adds to the games’ difficulty.
Ori and the Blind Forest takes one step further in order to immersify the experience by making each moment feel important by leaving out an autosave feature. It can be frustrating to die by an enemy after surviving a grueling portion of a level as the game will send you back to a previous checkpoint. Saving occurs manually by using the energy orbs gathered throughout the adventure. Collecting enough energy to deal a massive blow takes time, which makes saving less appealing in the long run. Decisions are plentiful, but choosing what to use and when is one of the best tricks hidden behind the titles’ phenomenal design.
Referring to Ori and the Blind Forest as a platformer doesn’t do the game justice as there’s much more to the game than jumping over obstacles such as thorns and poison bathes. With the push of a button, Ori can send concentrated energy blasts towards enemies as the main method of attack. Unlike 2D Mario, you can’t just bounce around on enemies in order to drain their health bar. Precise attacking and backtracking are essentially required in order to progress. Most of the shadowy figures have rather large health bars, meaning that one blast won’t be enough to send them to the underworld.
In order to combat the large health bars of enemies, an additional element was strapped into the game, that being the ability tree. The tree serves as a collection point in which players can spend their obtained ability points to strengthen Ori and speed along the process in which enemies can be defeated, along with learning new mechanics. Abilities can cost between one to three ability points, depending on how far up the tree the ability is. Strategy comes into play when deciding if points should be saved or which branch of the tree should be enhanced next.
Included exclusively with the definitive edition of the game are new abilities, including dashing and light burst. Dashing allows Ori to venture forward much more quickly from place to place. Upgrading the dash function through the ability tree allows Ori to dash in mid-air and bash enemies in the air. Light burst works similarly to bombs like they do in Breath of the Wild, where Ori can aim and throw them wherever the player pleases.
CONTENT & FEATURES:
Besides featuring beautiful terrains and challenging puzzle platforming, Ori has more to offer than one might think. Unlike Cuphead, the definitive edition of Ori and the Blind Forest features direct connectivity with the Xbox One. In-game achievements link up directly with an existing Xbox account which allows the player to earn Xbox Gamerscore points straight from their Nintendo Switch.
The game includes multiple difficulty options aside from the standard normal difficulty option. For newcomers and those that want a more laid back experience, the easy option is always a choice. Enemies do less damage here which makes some of the more difficult sections more bearable. For those that find the game a piece of cake, certainly not me, two much more difficult options exist: hard and one-life mode.
One-life mode is definitely the biggest attraction from the new difficulty options, which includes an online leaderboard where players can compare how long they’ve lasted in the mode. Also included here is a convenient fast travel system which makes backtracking to previous areas much more simplified.
Completing the game in its entirety takes around eight to fifteen hours to beat depending on how much of the world is explored. Searching every nook and cranny of the world while killing all the enemies will take longer, but for the amount of content that’s here, there is plenty to do and discover.
Sound design can make or break a game. Bad themes can make levels a chore to move through which is everything that a developer usually tries to avoid. Thankfully in this case, the wonderful compositions add an additional level of magic to the pre-established atmosphere. The sound design can best be described as a mixture of genres spanning cinematic themes to modern day games.
Songs are epic and make the player feel as if they are right there in the moment. Themes are charming, inspiring, and make the world surrounding Ori feel populated and exciting. There were times where I was scrambling to finish a section of the game, just so that I could move on and listen to some of the new tracks in the next area.
VISUALS & PERFORMANCE:
Carried along from past releases of Ori and the Blind Forest is the games’ stunning nature. Each tree, each character, each enemy, and each terrain looks phenomenal whether the Switch is running the gaming in handheld mode or docked. The game runs at an incredibly stable 720p/1080p depending on how the game is being played. Visually, you could not ask for a better handled port on the Switch.
Ori is animated at a crisp 60fps, which is even better than the animation rate on the Xbox One. In fact, the game runs at a stable 60fps throughout the entirety of the campaign. Unlike some of the other third party ports already available on the console, there were no frame drops to be found anywhere in the game. Comparing this version to the versions already available on the PC and Xbox One, it would be extremely difficult to find any differences between the versions.
With platformers being one of my favorites genres and hearing the constant praise for years and years about how Ori and the Blind Forest deserved my attention, I am more than happy to say that the game is simply incredible. From the small details to the interconnectivity of the world, flaws were few and between throughout the campaign.
Everything looks and sounds as if the game were being released for the very first time. Difficulty was my main concern heading into the game, but with their being so many different options to choose from, it didn’t steer my enjoyment away.
Ori and the Blind Forest: Definitive Edition is a game that easily deserves to be on everyone’s radar. Gameplay is fun and easy to pick up, and the difficulty can easily be adjusted for those that want a more laid back experience.
If you’re looking to play a fantastic game with a great story for a low price, look no further. It looks and sounds incredible regardless of how the game is played, which made this such an unforgettable experience.
THE VERDICT: 9/10
*A download key was provided by Microsoft Studios for the purposes of this review
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