Orebody: A Binder’s Tale (Steam)- Review

Thanks to NAMI TENTOU for the review code

Title: Orebody: A Binder’s Tale
System: Steam
Price: $9.99
Release Date: 11/30/2022


Story

In this NES action platformer, you take control of a robot, found by a scientist and repaired, before your home is attacked by an evil empire! Now out on a quest for revenge, it’s up to you to fight and save the world. Also includes a bonus sokoban clone set in the same universe.

Presentation

Similar to the first NES port by Nami Tentou, this also comes in a specialized wrapper. Like before, you have a sound test for the in-game music, scans of the physical version’s manual, and this time, even a bonus game available to play! Shockingly, during the middle of the review process, the NES emulator Orebody uses got a pretty handy update recently, taking it from the simple emulation wrapper seen in Yeah Yeah Beebiss II, and adding some save states, screen size, CRT filter and other misc options to the mix, and I’m legitimately impressed by how pleasing the CRT filter looks here. Throw that in the 4:3 display option and you have a fairly damn good looking emulation that actually makes me want to leave the CRT filter on!

When it comes to the game itself, Orebody looks pretty decent, clearly being an inspired take on action platformers like the Mega Man series, sticking to pretty simple tilesets that still manage to distinguish each stage as its own locale. The sprites and UI are fairly basic, but still effective, and the animations fits the nature of the hardware. The music is OK, not too memorable, but works as decent backing noise for the action, even though some of the weapons have really irritatingly pitched sound effects, most notably the boomerang.

Unfortunately, I had the entire emulator’s audio die out on me several times during runs of the game, and the only way I could fix this was by rebooting the entire game from the very beginning and loading a save state. Thankfully, this didn’t happen much at all after the update with the emulator enhancements outside of one time, but before said update it was unfortunately very frequent and popped up during the second stage quite often, so hopefully this issue gets ironed out more for future releases.

For the Sokoban like, Orebody: Sand Ripples, well, the game is just Sokoban. You control a goofy octopus, and push boxes into holes and exit. There’s not much else and it looks & sounds the part. I can’t really say much else about that one.

Gameplay

Orebody is an action platformer, tasking the hero from traveling up to the mysterious city in the sky to avenge the death of his friend! Being made for the NES in mind, you have the traditional attack and jump controls, with extra abilities such as a double jump or dash augmenting your movement later down the line. Your default weapon is a laughably slow arm cannon, but you can get handy weapons such as a boomerang, beam, or others to help make fighting easier.

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Right away you’ll notice that this game uses one hit deaths, and at first it doesn’t seem too terribly unfair, especially if you keep your distance and fire at enemies. There’s an novice mode and an advanced mode, which determine how many lives you have to play with, and if you get a game over, it’s back to the start of the stage if you continue. Unfortunately, while there are some fun highlights such as several boss fights and playing around with the upgrades, the design of Orebody is just pure jank, examples including how the hitbox of your main character is pretty big, and multiple times I brushed the edge of a sprite and got killed for it, along with your main shots being just too weak if you end up getting stuck back on the default weapon, making a ton of bosses and tougher enemies super spongy, and not in the fun way.

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Speaking of bosses, later bosses end up going a bit too off the rails, with some having absurdly weird hitboxes or weird movement, though at the very least they all have a recognizable and memorable pattern I was able to eventually practice and nail. There’s a boss rush mode available which tasks you with taking out every boss in the game without continuing, and having used the new save state emulator feature to give the mode a run through, good lord are these later bosses super spongy. Even when you know the pattern and memorize what to do, some of these fights just end up being boring, and not all that exciting.

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The main game also has design problems and jank, such as how the dash abilities work. In the second stage you gain your first one, and it’s meant to be used as a handy way to inch closer to enemies while crouching to avoid their fire, but when doing the technique, the screen doesn’t scroll. Thus, you will more often than not slide to the edge of the screen and not be able to move it until you do a normal walk, meaning that yep, cheap deaths from being stuck on the right side of the screen as it scrolls, somehow worse than in Valis II since you can literally dash right to the edge of the screen without it moving an inch. Thus, that ended up leaving the double jump as the only upgrade I really found much use for, as it does come in handy when dodging tight situations. Alas, the main game didn’t really grip me hard, and all this frustration and jank just led me to being content with my boss rush victory to call it a day after finding the main game too spongy and dull after several attempts.

So, what about Sand Ripples? Well, it’s a separate ROM, so it has its own set of states, and it does the job fine as a sokoban clone. The puzzles work, it controls fine, nothing’s jank or wonky here, it just feels like a bonus minigame more than anything else.

Conclusion

In conclusion, Orebody is a pretty rough platformer, with some promising concepts and a lot of ambition, but failing to really strike a balance and be all that fun. From slow shot speed, frustrating enemy/projectile placements, wonky hitboxes, and weird design designs, Orebody is definitely a game that needed several refinements to be a lot more fun.

Thankfully, the recent updates to the emulator made this port a lot more fun to play, and save states go a long way to help the frustration, but when looking at this from the view of if this were an NES cart game, with none of those helpful features, Orebody would be absolutely miserable, with some glimmers of fun covered by a whole wave of jank. As for the Sokoban clone, well, it works and plays fine, and is more or less an inoffensive bonus, but with this package being $10 compared to the NES Virtual Console standards of $5, I can’t help but feel the price is a bit of a stretch for this game, especially considering how Orebody is incredibly janky, and this game could honestly just benefit from a 2.0 of some kind that speeds up the gameplay and makes things less spongy.

I wouldn’t mind seeing this emulator improved upon for future NES ports though, and it’s clear games like Orebody benefit from the added features Nami Tentou added. Still, as it stands, this decent emulator still is used for a rough game I can’t recommend except to those who won’t mind the wonky gameplay and spongy foes, or who won’t mind sitting down and playing the entirety of the bonus Sokoban game.

I give Orebody: A Binder’s Tale a 5 out of 10.

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