STAFF REVIEW of Trophy (Xbox One)

Wednesday, January 26, 2022.
by Adam Dileva

Trophy Box art I grew up with the NES and still remember that day that I opened my system for Christmas, starting my decades long gaming career. While that statement may age me, classic games from this era are extremely nostalgic for me, as that was my childhood. Needless to say, when a game is built with that classic 8-bit retro at its core, it speaks to me and brings me back to waking up early on the weekend, turning the TV to channel 3 and playing one game all day because of how hard it was.

Beginning as a Kickstarter, Trophy doesn’t try and hide its direct inspiration. If you grew up with and loved the classic and ultra-challenging Mega Man games on NES, screen slowdown and all, Trophy is going to fall right into your wheelhouse. Interestingly, Developers Gradual Games initially created Trophy as an actual NES cartridge to be played on the classic hardware. Thankfully they’ve decided to expand and now Trophy is available on Xbox as well, bringing gamers down memory lane with an authentic 8-bit gaming experience.

For better and worse, Trophy is a truly authentic 8-bit game, but that means that there won’t be any hand holding, the difficulty is cranked up, the narrative is loose at best, the graphics are basic, and the chiptune music is absolutely fantastic. Starting as a homebrew game, it should be noted that it’s no easy feat to turn a game from those humble beginnings to a full release for the masses, so kudos thar that feat.

Aside from a handful of RPG’s, games from this era generally weren’t known for their deep and engaging narratives. Trophy is no different, as it instead focuses on its Mega Man inspired gameplay, which is absolutely acceptable, as it nails that aspect perfectly. That said, there is a story that underlines your journey.

Two scientists travel to planet Gearus 9 to explore, finding a wonderful and peaceful place full of robot inhabitants. They end up living there for years, trading cultures and creating relationships. One decides to head back to Earth alongside a small robot, Beeper, as proof of their discovery. In their absence, Quine, the scientist who stayed back on Gearus 9, has slowly descended into darkness, proclaiming himself Lord Q and turning the robot inhabitants into violent machines. This means he must be stopped, so you and Beeper return to Gearus 9 to stop Lord Q. Problem is that Beeper is programmed to be peaceful only, and a simple human has no chance of surviving a robot onslaught. The solution? Beeper fuses with you, almost like a suit of robot armor, and Trophy is born.

As mentioned above, the story won’t win any awards, but that’s not why you play games like this. If you’ve played any of the classic Mega Man NES titles you’ll know exactly what to expect, almost to a fault. You begin by choosing one of eight levels (a ninth and final unlocks afterwards), each their own setting and biome and defended by a large and challenging boss before being able to move on. Keep in mind that Trophy is meant to be designed like a classic NES title, so you have a set amount of life, limited lives and plenty of challenge.

If you’ve not been fortunate enough to grow up in this era of gaming, you’re in for a treat. As you make your way through the levels, the screen scrolls with you, only allowing you to see enemies once they enter your vision at the edges of the screen. This means that many times as you’re moving along and dropping down, you’re not going to see enemies until it’s either too late or you only have a split moment to react. Also, just like classic Mega Man, if you move backwards then forwards to where you once were, enemies respawn where they once were, even if they were out of screen by a few pixels, so memorization will be a must.

You will be jumping and traversing across levels, using your arm blaster to shoot enemy robots that get in your path. Make no mistake about it, Trophy is hard as nails, and while thankfully there’s a classic password system in place to continue when you do inevitably die numerous times. Levels are quite large, decent in length and the bosses are massive and incredibly difficult. Defeat these bosses and you’ll get a become slightly more powerful which is always exciting, though the skill swapping from classic Mega Man games is absent here. Trophy icons will drop randomly from enemies and this is how you’ll regain small portions of health along the way, so always be on the lookout, as you’ll need it.

On one hand, I absolutely adore that Trophy is absolutely authentic to being a classic and retro NES experience, especially given it was made for an actual cartridge initially, but there are a few caveats. The 8-bit pixel work is done wonderfully for the era, the bosses are huge and levels quite expansive, but if you remember that classic ‘slowdown’ from the original Mega Man games, that also is here as well. Now, I wouldn’t be surprised if that was on purpose somehow, but the slowdown can happen when it gets chaotic on screen, but that’s how it sometimes was for the technology at the time. Also, given that this was designed for an 8-bit NES, don’t expect any quality of life or modern improvements, even down to not being played in widescreen format, so it seems ‘small’ on the screen at times.

There are no difficulty options, there’s no way to rewind a mistake and you’re going to die dozens of times, and you’re going to like it. That’s how games were back then, and it’s no different here. The nostalgia is dripping in Trophy, and if you didn’t know it was a ‘new’ game, you could easily assume it was a classic NES game from the 80’s, that’s how authentic it looks and plays. The chiptune soundtrack and effects are perfect for the era as well, and while the opening title theme song isn’t as memorable as the classic Mega Man theme, it’s wonderfully done.

Trophy knows what it’s trying to be, nothing more, nothing less, and it succeeds in every way. Is it going to be for everyone? No, but for those that enjoy classic 8-bit gaming and enjoy that retro gameplay or wants some nostalgia, Trophy fits the bill. While it may be a Mega Man clone at its core, “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery”.

**Trophy was provided by the publisher and reviewed on an Xbox Series X**

Overall: 7.5 / 10
Gameplay: 7.5 / 10
Visuals: 7.5 / 10
Sound: 7.5 / 10


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