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3000th Duel by NEOPOPCORN slashes its way onto Nintendo Switch and PC. Sitting firmly within the Metroidvania genre this take is action-packed and rammed full of surprises that will have you heading back and forth between different areas to reach its finale. For NEOPOPCORN, it’s their debut title, even though the founders have several years of experience in the industry. Today we ask – is 300th Duel worth the battle for your much-coveted storage space?
The game opens inside an enchanted forest with our unnamed and masked hero dazed.
The story is simple, travel the land to remember who you are and discover the secret of what has driven you to this point. There’s not much more to it than that, follow a few simple tutorial-esque instructions and away you go.
The world is split into several segments, some areas give platform-style exploration while others are like a more traditional dungeon with swarms of evil creatures to overcome. You will need speed, skill and a little bit of luck (grinding) in order to survive. As identified in the opening paragraph, 3000th Duel is a Metroidvania – explore, collect, upgrade and re-explore for previously hidden or unattainable areas. In reaching key milestones new abilities and powers will unlock to aid in this endeavour.
In order to keep track of exactly how deep the rabbit hole has gone the game features a handy mini-map which can be accessed at any time using the trigger button. It becomes one of the most advantageous tools in your arsenal. Frustration is caused when you trek to a new area only to realise the path is locked and a key or new ability is required.
Contained within each area are beautifully crafted stone statues that spiral up out of the ground as you approach. Usually paired in close proximity one offers the ability to upgrade stats using the XP collected in battle, known as karma, while the second acts as a much required save function. It’s wise to save regularly, not only will it keep your progress safe but it also restores lifeforce and other essential powers.
Hitting the plus button will bring up the in-game menu. From here you can adjust your heroes loadout with any new weapons or powers gathered, use and manage items or spend points collected in return for perks from the sealed skill tree. Each skill will provide a little boost and makes the later segments a little easier going. Mapping spells to the d-pad will be vital for quick-fire boosts in the midst of battle.
B O S S B A T T L E S
Speaking of battles, the boss battles are designed to be larger than life with most filling the screen and offer a steep spike in difficulty. Often I met a grizzly death resulting in the loss of any unspent karma, thankfully you can reclaim this by revisiting the scene of your demise and collecting the floating orb left behind. A good tip is to grind areas of enemies, that respawn, for their XP when stuck on a boss because it will happen. Stick with it and learn their attack patterns.
3000th Duel is a pretty looking game with a sleek style and an abundance of visual effects. The lighting and particles dancing in the wind really add to the ambience. For the most part, character design is executed well, some of the enemies are fairly generic and repeated only with slight variations. The friendly neighbourhood NPC’s are brilliant, dishing out golden nuggets of information to help progress the story and clues to overcome some of the puzzle elements. A highlight was meeting the strange anthropomorphic inhabitants of the world. Audio is on par with the visual and helps unite the final package into one cohesive experience, the soundtrack is enchanting while upbeat.
Considering 3000th Duel is a first release for the studio it sets a high bar for future projects. While not demonstrating any significant additions to the genre it offers a solid, well-polished experience that is perfectly executed and suited to the Switch. The difficulty may put a few off but stick with it, level up and endure because the endgame will reveal the true story of our hero. With smooth visuals and an epic soundtrack 3000th Duel is easy to recommend, so make room on that SD card and add another purchase to the collection.