Monday , December 4 2023

PAX East 2019 – Day One Preview – ‘Streets of Rage 4,’ ‘Dead Cells,’ and ‘Katana Zero’

The First day of PAX East is always incredibly exciting.  There is an incredible rush walking onto the showfloor to see new games, meet the developers and be enveloped in the sounds and sights of a major videogame conference.

I always start my PAX experience checking out some of the more interesting smaller games and that usually stays a focus throughout the show mixed between the huge titles that dot the expo hall.  This year on Day one I checked out Streets of Rage 4, Katana Zero and Dead Cells new expansion early into my PAX East experience.

Streets of Rage 4

It is always a gamble taking on a sequel to such a beloved franchise as Streets of Rage but the folks at Lizardcube, Guard Crush Games and Dotemu seem to get what makes the series special based on what I saw at PAX East this year.

Featuring beautiful hand drawn animation the game looked stunning and featured Axel and Blaze from the original series back for more.  The developer has teased additional characters but won’t quite reveal who they are.

The action was familiar to me with the expected quick beat em up action the series is known for but with a few new twists.  Some weapons can be thrown and retrieved afterwards, there are new special abilities and some enhanced combo attacks.

The action was fast and varied with levels having a higher degree of interactivity.  Some areas allowed transitioning into the background which adds some depth to the fighting.  There are also environmental dangers that can be used against enemies, or stumbled upon if I was not careful enough.

Overall the game looks amazing with plenty of new features while maintaining a traditional feel that will make series veterans happy.  Streets of Rage 3 was a game I played a ton of far too long ago so I am excited to see what the full experience looks like in this long awaited sequel once it launches.

Dead Cells – Rise of the Giant

Dead Cells is by far my favorite game of the last 5 years and I was beyond excited to check out their new free DLC at PAX East this year.

Developer Motion Twin was on hand as I tried it out and told me that they plan to keep supporting the game as if it is still early access.  Adding features and tweaks to continually enhance the experience.

In this major update they added a new Cavern level after the game is finished filled with traps and leading to a huge new boss. They have also added a ton of blueprints and enemies that are scattered through the main game as well.

But most importantly they added nearly 50 outfits that can be obtained via enemies as blueprint drops. Once purchased with cells you can change your characters appearance.  This is so incredibly cool in action as the designs are universally amazing.

They even added a handful of female models as a starting point to have more choice in the game.   The outfits range from replicas of enemies skins to complete overhauls of the characters general appearance. It may seem small, but in action it is really cool to see.

I had a chance to play the new level and the boss (who beat me after a long battle) and I was greatly impressed with the work added to this already terrific game.  The boss is multi-staged, huge and very impressive and shows a progression in their designs and mechanics which was impressive.

It is beyond impressive how this game is supported and I am looking forward to more great things from them as they continue to enhance Dead Cells.  This is a must own game and all the new content just makes it that much more amazing a title.

Katana Zero

One of the more impressive original games I saw at PAX East was askiisoft and Devolver Digital’s new title Katana Zero.   At first glance it seems just like a pixel art rogulike action game but as I played it I realized it is so much more.

Set in a neon infused cyperpunk world the game revolves around an amnesiac assassin who receives his orders from a psychotherapist after sessions.  The actual depth of story surprised me as I was expecting a pretty cut and dry action game.

In between each stage there is a therapy session where my character can either answer questions on a timer or simply demand medication. Once the sessions ended I got a new dossier detailing my next assignment.

The actual ability to make dialogue choices that have consequences was very cool – one in particular I made by accident and it impacted me after the mission.  I was rude to a receptionist at a building I was entering and after I completed the stage I was chased out by guards because she was angry. Was a very nice touch.

The action is even more impressive with a pretty cool way to represent the insta death many roguelikes have.  The character has precognition so when I played a level I was essentially ‘planning it out’, if I died then I would start planning again.  Think Doctor Strange’s time bending abilities where he sees all the alternate paths possible.

There are traps, doors, different guard types and the ability to deflect and attack in different ways which makes the runthroughs always interesting. There was even stealth sequences where I could blend into a dance crowd or go behind walls to evade guards and sneak attack them.

The levels themselves were also quite interesting with a range of objectives and some surprises like an end level battle that ends with the boss avoiding the fight by falling to his death instead.

Katana Zero was terrific fun and surprised me with some of it’s innovative features.  It is also a game coming out REAL soon on April 18th for PC and Nintendo Switch.

It was great checking out all of these titles at PAX East – they were all quite different games but universally enjoyable. This show has a very Indie game focus which is great to see as it exposes so many smaller but amazing games to the masses.

About Michael Prince

A longtime video game fan starting from simple games on the Atari 2600 to newer titles on a bleeding edge PC I play everything I can get my hands on.

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