I was obsessed with Mega Man Battle Network as a kid. Mega Man satisfied the frenetic whimsy of my attention at an early age. The series was filled with games that were fast, fun, stylish — and most importantly, cool. My brother and I lost countless hours on the ultra-hard difficulty of the Mega Man games. Instead of giving up when we encountered impossible bosses, instant death spikes, and maddening levels, we pushed onward, the delicious prospect of victory a reward we demanded above all else.
When Mega Man Battle Network released, it did so with mixed reviews. A strange mash-up of the Mega Man formula and the RPG genre, Battle Network also introduced a deckbuilder aspect — battle chips, a way to construct a deck filled with recurring skills and abilities that would refresh at the onset of every new battle. This curious customization awarded limitless opportunities for how each battle would play out and spurred a new obsession. Combined with a local multiplayer that allowed my brother, my friend, and I to pit our best decks against each other, Mega Man Battle Network was the summer game for six years…and a game that would eventually fade into obscurity.
Last summer, Slay the Spire released on the Nintendo Switch. A unique indie RPG, Slay the Spire combined the best aspects of the procedural dungeon crawler and a deckbuilder to create a deeply satisfying experience. You begin every run of the game by choosing one of three (now, four) characters to play as, special classes that begin with specialized decks. As you conquer rooms within the dungeon and slowly conquer randomized enemies on your way to each of three boss fights, your deck evolves based on factors of randomness and your own choosing. Each run of Slay the Spire is unique and complex, making the game deeply replayable. I have spent over 150 hours on the game and still haven’t beaten the true last boss once — but it doesn’t matter. The joy in the game is not in beating it, but by becoming better in every run and pursuing that elusive perfect deck.
Genre is an interesting thing, especially in video games. Genre itself exists only a selling point, a system of intentionally objective labels that try and quantify your tastes to specific salable items. In video games, genre evolves over time due to the popularity of specific gameplay implements, and often time these elements join together in chimerical harmony, such as “Metroidvania.”
One Step From Eden evolved from two very unique prospects: the battle system feels like a galvanized Mega Man Battle Network, and the meat of the game plays like Slay the Spire. This unlikely combination, drafted across years of video game design and player taste, results in a game that is so utterly satisfying that it comes across as the distillation of a long journey. Mega Man Battle Network is no longer doomed to death in obscurity; its unique grid-based card combat feels more alive than ever in One Step From Eden.
Following methods baked into both games and elevating them both, One Step From Eden is a procedural dungeon crawler with combat so utterly smooth that it felt like a serotonin hit from the start. It presents its gameplay in the simplest possible terms, allowing any player with even a cursory understanding of its predecessors to jump into the action almost immediately. Between each battle you are allowed to select your preferences of card reward, pushing your deck towards its streamlined form as you conquer enemies and bosses on your path toward Eden. Each run of the game is immensely satisfying, the combat frantic and wild but designed to be easily understood. Every death awards new characters, cards, and customization options — and forces the player to want to try again and again.
Indie offerings like One Step From Eden give me faith for the video game industry in ways so profoundly different from $60 AAA offerings that sometimes I forget that they aren’t viewed as the apex of what this medium has to offer. At a low $20 price tag, One Step From Eden almost feels like a steal, an endlessly playable joyride that also features co-op and PvP.
Its unique aspects, such as choosing whether or not to kill bosses and playing as a huge variety of different characters, push that feeling of unique replayability to dizzying heights. I’ve had a blast run after run, trying my hardest to build a deck that will take me to the end while enjoying the endless depth of the game’s combat. It’s a truly outstanding offering that belongs at home on every Switch.
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