Game Boy is immortal. You know that monolith at the beginning of 2001: A Space Odyssey? That’s a Game Boy, that is. And, indeed, in an ultimately vain grasp for similar immortality, the small team behind the upcoming Coria and the Sunken City have deigned to make it an actual, real Game Boy game, that you can play on a Game Boy and everything. And I did. I put it on my EZ-Flash Jr and I indeed played it on my Game Boy Color, and I indeed had a lovely time.
The lovely folks behind Coria sent me a nice little new demo, featuring a handful of rather well-realised (if clearly early in development) areas, and a playable Coria, who – and I apologise in advance for this – called to mind the likeness of Retronauts’ very own Bob Mackey.
Gameplay-wise, the easiest comparison is to the original Shantae, with its non-linear side-scrolling gameplay and exceptionally smooth control. Thankfully, though, your offensive option in Coria is a much more effective sword swing. You can swipe repeatedly to enact a sort of chain assault, and you’ll need it because even in this demo version there are plenty of different enemies – classic stuff like slimes in the ruins, frogs in the jungle, one-eyed flying creatures in the castle, amongst others.
Admittedly, the game is still being made so there’s not much to latch onto yet besides the base mechanics – but said mechanics feel as good as any Game Boy game I’ve played. The graphics and sound are superbly evocative. The title screen is particularly striking in its use of colour, though the game works on the original monochrome Game Boy too. The music is marvellously catchy – I’ve already got the tower theme stuck in my head.
Problems? At this stage, sure, there are a handful, but all of it is stuff that gets ironed out during development. Coria’s collision seems a little strange in places – hitting airborne enemies is a little awkward, but it’s the kind of awkward that’s indicative of authenticity; the likes of Battle of Olympus back in the day had a similar feel, wherein the placement and timing of your swings could feel unintuitive at first but became second nature as you, well, learned their nuances.
It’s not done, and there will be additional weapons, NPCs and the other genre conventions when the game sees release. At present, there isn’t a map, and I don’t know if that will change in the final release. The demo didn’t seem confusing in its layout, but maps are always a nice quality-of-life thing. Still, Wonderboy 3: The Dragon’s Trap didn’t have a map, and it’s the first cited influence for Coria.
The game is planned to be released on a real Game Boy cartridge, which is pretty exciting for the truly old-school, though it will be made available on PC as well. We’d recommend playing it on actual hardware, of course, because it fits it like a glove, but fans of exploration platformers would be advised to check it out in any form they can. There’s a playable demo you can run right in your browser just here.