The best Metroid-likes induce a sense of wonder and joy as you make your way through strange worlds and find a steady stream of new abilities and power-ups to propel you onward. Ghost Song succeeds at this in ways many similar games fail to, all the while offering a fairly robust suite of combat options that made me want to play the whole game through twice in a row. It does suffer from a curiously low difficulty bizarrely paired with superfluous Souls mechanics, but it still ticks enough boxes to make itself a worthy entry into the pantheon of similar games.
Ghost Song begins with your character waking up on an unfamiliar planet — for her and for the player. The entire way through the game, the main character is only known as Deadsuit, which is the name of the suit she wears. Or is. I think I’m missing endings that would have cleared that up. Early on, Deadsuit meets the crew of a downed spaceship that was sent plummeting after getting caught in a field around the planet. There are five makeshift parts that Roper, the ship’s mechanic, needs to get the ship fixed and off-world — a task taken by Deadsuit.
There’s a somewhat heavy story focus here, although you can always opt to spend less time visiting with the stranded crew. After you deliver each ship part, the members gain new things to say and some even offer items for continuing to interact with them. The game borrows several features from the Souls series, though, even if the general clarity of the main narrative is infinitely more straightforward and dialogue-based. The first, and most successful, thing that Ghost Song borrows from the Souls games is the way it handles character side stories. Finding and chatting with characters allows you to track down their next location to continue their storylines. Dialogue is mostly delivered through text, but there’s some voice acting here too.
Keep your Souls
Ghost Song offers a normal mode and explorer mode. To put it simply, the explorer mode does away with the wholly unnecessary Souls elements. On normal mode, you lose your currency — called nanogel — every time you die, and must return to the location of your demise to collect it. You also get a bit of your health locked off with each death, although this can be repaired with a small amount of nanogel. While I’m quite fond of the games FromSoftware makes, I have played very few games inspired by them that I actually enjoyed, as I feel most tend to miss the mark while copying the mechanics in the hopes of riding FromSoft’s coattails.
Truth be told, I immediately groaned, as the last thing I wanted to play was another Souls-like. But, as I mentioned, those elements here are horribly out of place. And that’s because Ghost Song is easy. In my run on normal difficulty, I died three times. There was absolutely no reason to include those death penalty mechanics, as the game just isn’t challenging enough to make them engaging. But explorer mode removes one facet of the game that can make for an even less challenging playthrough. Each time you give Roper a ship part, another day begins. On normal, enemies scale. On explorer, they don’t. I’d recommend that no one play the explorer mode due to this.
Deadsuit has an arm cannon that looks similar to the arm cannon of ‘you-know-who.’ But it’s quite different. It rapid-fires shots but starts to overheat after a bit. Once it overheats, Deadsuit will do increased damage with her melee weapon until it cools down. This is a compelling feature that encourages you to mix it up. Melee weapons include a spear, a greatsword, a large fist, and a boomerang wheel that you throw at enemies. These weapons are entertaining to use, even if your foes don’t tend to pose much of a threat. You’ll also find modules that let you equip a secondary ranged weapon. These tend to boost your stats, so there’s reason to have more than one equipped.
Another trait borrowed from the Souls games is that you spend nanogel to level up stats. You’ll pick between gunpower (ranged damage), vigor (melee damage and HP), and resolve (HP and stamina). Yes, you consume stamina whenever you run or use melee attacks. You can only level up at specific points but they don’t actually function as bonfires. Instead, you save at glowing flowers, which is where you’ll be recalled upon death. You can also fast travel, although the fast travel and level up spots are few and far between. One thing that’s interesting is that leveling up isn’t all that important. You’ll find items that increase your level in specific stats, and the aforementioned modules can boost your parameters as well.
The leveling is also front-loaded, so you’ll level up a lot at first and then hardly ever. The final Souls touch is that you heal yourself with healing cores you find. It’s easy to get five or six of these very early on, which is part of the reason Ghost Song‘s level of challenge is so low.
It might seem like you can tackle the ship parts in any order you want, but that isn’t necessarily the case. The game tells you to go after the green one first, which will get you the double jump. You can’t do the others without it. You need the walljump ability to get to most of the others, but you can mostly do them in whatever order once you obtain this, so there’s variance between playthroughs.
Two in one
Despite the general lack of challenge, many of the items you find greatly increase your combat potential. It’s a shame that there isn’t really anything you’d need to use these things on. For instance, you can acquire modules that allow gunpower and vigor to scale with your level, which makes you an absolute beast. There is one optional boss fight that may give you some trouble, as its attacks can be quite hard to dodge. Thankfully, the missile module you find early on is one of the best in the game and can get you through most situations as long as you synergize it with another choice module. Deadsuit’s dash also grants invincibility frames, which is quite handy.
Ghost Song lasts about six to eight hours, depending on your desire to explore or complete side quests. I wish it were more challenging, and the inclusion of most of the Souls elements are wholly unnecessary. But this is a captivating Metroid-like that offers some wonderful exploration and some very satisfying upgrades. Anyone looking for their next Metroid-like fix will likely be quite satisfied with what Ghost Song offers.