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Hit play and unleash the beasts

As a dedicated casual gamer of three decades, my gaming preferences lean towards tranquility rather than intense battles.

While some seek the adrenaline rush of gunfights or battle royales, I find solace in games with rich stories, peaceful settings, and opportunities to form profound connections, whether with creatures or non-playable characters (NPCs).

Among these, the Pokemon franchise has been a constant companion throughout my life, offering comfort amid various changes.

Yet, the monopoly Pokemon holds in the monster-taming role-playing game (RPG) genre can be disheartening, overshadowing other games in the same niche. So when I came across an indie game called Cassette Beasts, a 2.5D pixel art, open world, turn-based RPG creature collector with a heavy ‘80s vibe, I was highly intrigued.

Despite its favourable reviews, the game remains relatively undiscovered, even for avid gamers like me, stumbling upon it in the Nintendo Eshop during a bundle sale. After investing around 50 hours, it’s evident: Cassette Beasts surpasses the realm of Pokemon, offering a unique and enriching experience that sets it apart.

From gameplay dynamics to the rich and intricate lore, Cassette Beasts presents a captivating universe within the mysterious island of New Wirral.

Screenshot of the battling system in Cassette Beasts. PHOTO: WARDI WASIL
Transform into monsters using retro cassette tapes. PHOTO: BYTTEN STUDIO
ABOVE & BELOW: A scene from the game, and some of the characters that you can travel with. PHOTO: BYTTEN STUDIO
PHOTO: BYTTEN STUDIO

Here, the human denizens hail from different realities and timelines, trying to survive, strange and dangerous creatures that can be “captured”, by recording their data through blank cassette tapes.

In Cassette Beasts, players will also confront manifestations of humanity’s vices, ranging from grandeur delusions to extreme consumption.

Despite its initial appearance of being ‘cute and quirky’, this video game delves into profound existential themes related to the human experience.

IT’S A WHOLE NEW WIRRAL

Cassette Beasts feature vast yet compact open world that is just pure eye-candy especially for gamers with an appreciation for the retro.

Utilising a 2.5D art style, playable characters are distinguished by distinctly designed 2D pixel sprites, traversing through a vibrant, three-dimensional world. New Wirral is also home to a number of unique and eccentric environments to dive into, from a ruined mall perched atop a hill where abandoned mascot-costumes shuffle about, their zipper-maws hungry for some unlucky soul, to serene meadows, where soft-hued flowers glide through gentle breezes. Being an open-world adventure, you have the freedom to explore every area right from the beginning.

However, certain locations might demand specific abilities like gliding and swimming, which can be acquired by capturing specific monsters.

You are also not limited to one narrative route, as there are a few story threads that you can pursue in any sequence you prefer. Regardless of the order you choose, these storylines seamlessly intertwine, propelling you toward the grand finale.

You have the route that requires you to challenge the Ranger Captains of New Wirral, reminiscent of the classic Pokemon gym challenge but significantly more demanding.

Each Ranger Captain is a formidable opponent, testing your skills with their individual strategies. These encounters can get intense and it ultimately showcases the game’s unique battle system which centres on chemistry.

From dismantling nests of vampiric real estate agents to collecting song fragments from ethereal beings known as archangels.

Despite their seemingly adorable facade, these narratives delve deep into the intricacies of the human experience, unveiling profound truths beneath their charming exteriors.

Brace yourself for an eclectic mix of tales that touch upon the complex realities of being human.

REEL WARFARE

Now, about the game’s unique battle mechanic – yes, Cassette Beasts does draw parallels with Pokemon in its monster-taming and battling approach.

But here’s the twist: you’re not merely collecting these creatures; you’re becoming them as each monster’s essence is stored in a blank cassette tape, allowing you to transform into them for battles.

What sets this RPG apart as well is the dual health bar system because you’re not just managing one but two health bars – one for your character and another for the transformed beast.

This dynamic allows for strategic gameplay because when one of your creatures is defeated, you can seamlessly switch to another.

However, if your playable character succumbs, they become incapacitated, regardless of how many cassettes you still have in your arsenal. So, every battle becomes a calculated dance of strategy and timing.

What adds another layer of strategy to what is already a lively battle system is the game’s ‘chemistry’ which in Cassette Beasts, refers to its own blend of type effectiveness battle mechanic that you typically see in RPGs.

Each monster embodies a specific elemental type, and every attack corresponds to one elemental category. There are 14 types of beasts, ranging from the traditional RPG elements like fire and water to novel ones such as plastic and glass.

The chemistry system goes beyond simple damage multipliers as type match-ups trigger various status effects, resulting in buffs and debuffs during battles. For instance, using a water-type move on a fire-type monster extinguishes it, diminishing its Melee and Ranged Attack stats.

Prepare for heart-pounding, intense encounters where battles are not just about damage output, but also about strategically managing those buffs and debuffs. Each fight promises to keep you on the edge of your seat, adding an extra layer of excitement and challenge to the gameplay.

There is also a fusion mechanic, but this one needs to be experienced first-hand, its introduction will undoubtedly set your pulse racing, delivering a thrill that words can’t capture.

LORE GALORE

Beneath the surface of Cassette Beasts’ truly ground-breaking gameplay lies a mystery that enriches the world of New Wirral in captivating ways. Delve into the game’s every corner, as it rewards your curiosity with nuggets of lore, unveiling the history of this enigmatic island.

As I mentioned earlier, the inhabitants of New Wirral are a diverse array of people seemingly plucked from different timelines and realities.

None of them comprehend how they arrived there, and for a century, none have been able to escape. You have NPCs grappling with despair, trying to survive the relentless onslaught of monsters while another NPC transformed so frequently that they’ve lost their humanity.

Within this turmoil, cults have also emerged, as pockets of New Wirral’s inhabitants desperately search for purpose and hope in this new world.

It’s a captivating enigma waiting to be unravelled, and every element of this game has been meticulously crafted.

Whether you’re drawn in by the innovative turn-based battle mechanics, the retro-style aesthetic, or the existential mysteries Cassette Beasts unveils, this game is one for the ages as it rejuvenates an often stagnant subgenre, elevating it to unprecedented heights, making it a must-play for gamers of all stripes. – Wardi Wasil

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