Review by Iyamtebist
The Quintisential Metroidvania, the pefect balance between Metroid's Freedom and Castlevania's Strategy
Bunny Must Die is a game that practically defines cult hit. The game was a Japanese indie title that was originally released back in 2006 and was not officially localized in the US until 2012 for its release on Desura, and eventually Steam in 2013. Up until that point, most have played it through a fan translation. Despite the fact that this game was largely unknown, it had enough demand to still be supported 6 years after its original release. In fact, the Desura and Steam re-release of Bunny Must Die also included enhanced graphics and a remixed soundtrack, but yet at the same time it included the options for the original graphics and music. It is clear that Rockin Android put a lot of care into recreating what was already a fantastic game.
Bunny Must Die: Chelsea and the 7 Devils is a really well crafted action platformer that clearly takes a lot of influence from both Metroid and Castlevania in its design and successfully executes a game that seamlessly combines the styles of both games. Now I understand the existence of the term Metroidvania and how its meaning has expanded to now refer to any game that fits the style of the Metroid series or the more recent 2D Castlevania series, but Bunny Must Die is probably the absolute best way you could combine gameplay elements from both series. A lot of other Metroidvania titles are ones that are just 2D games with an open world. While some of these games could be considered more innovative than Bunny Must Die, it is still remarkable just how well crafted an experience this game is. Bunny Must Die is a game that shows a lot of care in its design. Literally every room in this game is well crafted and well thought out, and it is clear that a lot of effort was put into this game. If that was not enough to convince you that this game is worth your money, it also is one that will take up a decent bit of your time as well.
So this is What Samus Would Look Like In a Bunny Suit
I must make a few things clear beforehand. While there are a few interesting and unique elements to the story of Bunny Must Die, it is not what you will be playing the game for. What the story does provide though is an interesting backdrop to the whole experience. There is a bit more thought put into the story than a typical excuse plot, but at the same time there is not really enough of it to come close to carrying the game. What the game gives us, however, is still enough to give the game its unique charm and make it a more memorable experience overall.
As stated earlier, Bunny Must Die is split up into two separate campaigns, each starring a separate character. The first campaign is simply tiled Bunny Must Die and it stars the titular Bunny girl with the highly creative name of Bunny. According to the games backstory, Bunny is not human and is an actual bunny and that the human appearance is just how the games weird world works. The plot starts out where she ends up with a curse that ends up giving her cat ears. Seeing as how one must always take sides in the unending war between bunny girls and cat girls, Bunny naturally hates her cat ears and is taken to a labyrinth to where her curse will supposedly be lifted. Unfortunately her escort is killed and Bunny is left stranded in the middle of this labyrinth and needs to find her way out.
The story from there really does not go anywhere until you beat the game and get treated to the sudden twist ending, which leads into the second campaign, which is titled Chelsea and the 7 Devils. This, campaign stars Chelsea, another character that had some slight involvement with Bunnys path, who goes through what is essentially the same path with the exception that there is a typical save the world plot involving the titular 7 devils. You also get to see how Bunny gets involved with this path in the end and how she relates to the overall plot of the game which is pretty cool. In terms of characterization, Bunny is certainly amusing in the few scenes of dialogue she has. There is a bit of humorous banter between bosses on both paths, but it is immensely more entertaining on Bunnys path due to the running gag of none of the bosses being able to hold a conversation.
Bunny Must Die is a game with a surprising amount of personality for a game with such a small amount of plot. The way that the game is designed also goes into reflecting this as well. Perhaps one of the most entertaining examples is that one of the games bosses is a giant, photorealistic cat that is made amusing simply due to the contrast of its appearence. Another boss is a vampire who has a very similar attack pattern to Dracula from Castlevania, but he speaks entirely in broken English and even quotes Zero Wing. The game certainly has a strange yet pleasant feel to it that helps the overall game stand out just a little bit more.
The graphics in Bunny Must Die are done well in an artistic sense and are enough to give off the proper feel, but there is not really that much else to them. The character art is pretty well drawn and the sprite work is well detailed. The backgrounds, however, tend to all look the same with the only difference being the color. There are a few moments where you need to interact with something that looks like part of the background to continue, but really that is more so a result of the designers trying to trick you than having anything to do with the art direction.
There are some small amounts of voice clips in Bunny Must Die that are still in Japanese if that really bothers anyone. However, the in game dialogue is not voice acted unfortunately, so it really does not mean much to begin with. Also the original Japanese dub actually had English lines in them so even that does not make much of a difference. The voice work in general is rather unnoticeable and it just seems to fade into the background like the rest of the sound effects. Speaking of which, the sound effects are really effective as well, with one exception. That exception is that normal enemies have the same sound effect when you hit them as some other objects that are indestructible. This can cause it to sometimes be difficult to tell whether or not something can actually be damaged seeing as how these same surfaces also flash in the same manner as normal enemies when they are hit.
As mentioned before, Bunny Must Die allows you to listen to either the original games soundtrack or a remixed soundtrack exclusively used in this new version. While both soundtracks are equally effective in their own ways, I do find it odd just how different the remixed tracks have from the original ones. Certain tracks that sounded more orchestral in the original have a mechanical vibe in the remixed version and some of the slower songs in the original Soundtrack are remixed as faster paced songs and vice versa. The funny thing about this though is that none of the songs in either soundtrack feel out of place when you see them all as part of the same score. Both soundtracks are equally good at expressing the feel of the game despite handling it in different ways. This is even nicer when you consider that you can change the music at any time you want during the game. That way if you prefer one soundtrack to the other, you can switch them on the fly.
In terms of design, Bunny Must Die is a very well made and well thought out game, as I have stated before. The game was clearly made with the intention of making sure that no one can blast their way through, and it does away with just about all modern day hand holding. Bunny Must Die has no tutorials in it other than a short description of what certain items you have obtained do, and it trusts you to get an understanding without the game telling you everything. This type of design is, naturally, something that a lot of games today do not follow. Most of them have tutorials that are forced on the player and end up being incredibly intrusive. Some other games also make the mistake of assuming that the player might not be able to get through anything that requires even a remote amount of creative thinking.
Bunny Must Die is not like that. Whenever you collect a new item or gain a new ability, the game simply gives you a short text description of what it does and nothing else. There are some really tricky moments in this game that will require you to think outside the box in order to figure out what you need to do to progress. These occur in not only puzzles but in enemy placement, platforming, and boss battles as well. In Bunny Must Die, your main method of attack is different depending on what your current weapon is. Weapons function in a similar way to Castlevanias sub weapons except that they do not have a cost and they are the main method of attack. Every weapon in the game has their own various uses for both combat and puzzle solving and no one weapon is better than the others, with one exception.
You have the daggers that go all the way across the screen and fire rapidly which could be used to hit far away enemies. The boomerangs that have shorter range but go through multiple different surfaces and come back meaning that you can do damage more rapidly to far away enemies, although you do not have as much range as with the daggers. The sword is useful for dealing damage quickly at short ranges and can block enemy projectiles easier. The ball and chain is the strongest weapon and can take out the defensive enemies in one shot and can deal the most damage in a short amount of time. The only weapon that is not that useful is the homing missile which almost never spawns in the first place and tends to home in on inanimate objects instead of enemies.
Oftentimes, these weapons are the key to figuring out how to effectively deal with bosses as well. Bosses almost always require close observation and methodical thinking in order to figure out the best way of dealing with them. As a result, you will almost never beat one on your first try. The strategies for taking down these bosses involve trying to observe their patterns so that you can figure out how to simultaneously damage them and avoid their attacks. Based on your current weapon, your strategy could change drastically as well. These boss battles often require outside the box thinking and are incredibly intense and fun to fight.
Another really nice aspect regarding Bunny Must Die is the several moves you get from upgrades. As you go through the game, you will find items that give you several different abilities, and you will need to be proficient at all of these abilities in order to be proficient at this game. A major example is the ability to avoid damage from hazards by jumping on them the right way. If you land directly on top of certain enemies or hazards, you will avoid damage and bounce on top of them indefinitely as long as you are in that position. This is used as a way of getting past certain obstacles and is used for a lot of specific boss strategies.
The exploration element of Bunny Must Die is very well done as well. Despite the overworld technically not being that large, there are plenty of secrets to it that keep it from being boring. Similar to Metroid, there is an emphasis on some hidden items throughout the game. These items range from certain optional abilities, to health and magic upgrades, and to bunny dolls, which allow give you another chance from the same room, if you die, instead of from the last save point. The ways these items are hidden can either be through hidden passages, or from solving tricky puzzles in order to get one that is clearly visible yet tantalizing. The game keeps a map of every area you have been to and it has every item you have collected marked on there as well, which helps makes things a bit more convenient. However, you will still likely end up using a guide to get 100% item completion if you do not want to spend hours exhausting every possibility.
The way the game is paced is also handled well. You start out with access to only a small number of areas, but the further you advance in the game, the more areas that you need to keep track of are unlocked. This is a very well thought out way of starting out simple to ease the player into the game and letting them slowly learn for themselves how to approach the game. Bunny Must Die is also one of the few games that actually makes backtracking enjoyable. The world of this game is a very memorable one and getting to admire the background and take in your surroundings is not an aspect of games that one would normally pay attention to, but Bunny Must Die is one of the few games that makes the world feel very vibrant despite having a simplistic design. As a result, it is actually kind of fun to go back through older areas. It also helps that the music alone is amazing and that you gain abilities that allow you to progress through areas at a quicker rate.
Most of these praises also apply to the second campaign, Chelsea and the 7 Devils. However, there is still enough of a difference between the two campaigns that makes the second one worth playing. First of all, Chelsea functions a lot differently than Bunny. Unlike Bunny, Chelsea always has the same default weapon and can only fire in a straight line in a similar manner to Mega Mans mega buster. Chelsea can also hover while she jumps and the items she collects give her completely different abilities than Bunny. The two characters control and play so differently that they would feel like they would belong in different games, like if you played as Mario in a Mega Man stage when he controls the same way he does in his own games. The key difference though is that the design of the overworld is designed so that it fits both Bunny and Chelsea perfectly. It really shocks me just how much attention to detail this game has. Despite the overworld not being changed at all, it was still designed well enough that it could fit both characters without it feeling like it was meant for one more than the other.
Bunny Must Die: Chelsea and the 7 Devils is an incredible game that handles pretty much every aspect of a platformer perfectly. There are really only two flaws I can think of regarding this experience, and it is debatable whether or not they are really important. The first is that the game is not very original. While it does do some rather subtle aspects differently from some other games, it is also safe to say that if you played Super Metroid than you will know exactly what this game feels like. The second being that this is not an easy game, and there were several points where you needed to look up a guide to continue.
There have been some people who have criticized retro throwbacks as an attempt to take advantage of the nostalgia of older gamers and use authenticity as an excuse to not fix obvious flaws. While the idea of retro throwbacks in general is up for debate, Bunny Must Die is not. Bunny Must Die is a game that operates on the best parts of older games while avoiding the ones that made them archaic. This is a game that does not hold its players hand and expects competence out of the person playing it. At the same time, however, the challenge it offers is fair and anyone who really has the ability to adapt to a games current state should be able to play and enjoy this game. If you are tired of games, nowadays, that are either too easy or that have too much hand holding, then it would be difficult to find a better game to recommend.
Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Product Release: Bunny Must Die: Chelsea and the 7 Devils (US, 09/26/13)
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