Among the many memorable games that we looked at throughout PAX East 2018 was Carlos Gonzalez’s Faeland, a 2D platformer RPG title, picked up by the Square Enix Collective and featured at the PAX Rising booth throughout the weekend. Upon first glance in person or in a trailer, the game has a charming look. Carlos’ hand crafted pixel art boasts a serene personality with vibrancy and mesmerizing motion, something akin to a lost game adaptation of Jim Henson’s The Dark Crystal.
Faeland is an ambitious one man project by Gonzalez, who emigrated from Cuba to Miami only five years ago to pursue a dream of games programming, and upon doing so absorbed himself with all the resource and software never at his disposal before, and set off on a journey to build an RPG that was uniquely based in his own memories of gaming history. For Carlos, that memory was the crushingly brutal games of the NES era, as most will note, the likes of the original Castlevania games and Zelda II.
When we say that, we’re not joking. This could be Castlevania III ½. I admittedly even struggled with jumping up platforms on my first try of the game, prior to understanding that Faeland is not challenging, necessarily, for all kinds of flashy reasons that one may expect from a modern indie game. It is a pixel perfect platformer. This is a game that hearkens back to the era of platforming that was unforgivably specific. To be charmed for a moment by a backdrop could mean certain death in Faeland, as jumping and hitbox animations are a challenge that build pinpoint accuracy and muscle memory to pass through a stage with flying colors, if you’re skilled enough.
Truthfully, this is the kind of throwback that is fun to see, simply based on the design fundamentals. Certainly there are plenty of modern games inspired by the NES era, but most of them pull only the visual elements, and if they do decide to add challenge, it is with modern design methods, creating challenge not even possible to generate on 4 megabyte game cards. These indies missed the personality of a game made out of adversity and limitation. In the 80’s and 90’s these RPGs were not hard because they threw a million enemies at the screen. It was a very different, more methodical pace to play, and that kept people coming back over and over, because that taste of success was so visibly close to attainment, and those little victories are what created a sense of reward to a player. Based on what we played, those looking for classic challenge of the 8-bit era may find something to like in Faeland in a way people found such a drive in completing Shovel Knight.
Below you can find our interview with some insight into Carlos’ current build of the game. Faeland’s Kickstarter launches this Tuesday, April 17th. Please be sure to check it out when it launches on www.talegames.com
Evan Griffin: How was it that you got published with Square Enix Collective?
Carlos Gonzalez: SEC is an independent venture from Square Enix; they, every Monday release a new indie game. It’s a selective process you have to apply your indie game to there and it runs for 4 weeks, gathering information on how it’s doing at this early point in development. It finished just last week and ended with 93 percent of approval. And the following question now is, “Would you help crowdfund this game?” — that’s basically the question that is posed by SEC on every project.
Evan: I absolutely adore the aesthetics. Is the design origins similar or different than the gameplay? It feels very classic, very NES in the way that the gameplay is built.
Carlos: Yeah. The graphics are also a tribute, the gameplay as well but it has some new mechanics. The way it plays just feels… it’s classic, but at the same time it’s something new. The same with the graphics and music, everything is trying to do this enhanced 18-bit, 16-bit style.
Evan: What’s one of the things about building this game that you’re most excited about showing people?
Carlos: To me, it’s unique. Even though there are many new platformers coming out these days, this game is more an immersive RPG, where you go to towns, take quests, talk to people, do different activities and have to collect many items — you don’t see this much in a platformer. Metroidvanias are mostly very science-fiction, maybe, but this is very fantasy — like Game of Thrones, it is very medieval and at the same time there are creatures and dragons!
Evan: I’ve shown the trailers to a couple of people and the reaction is one I’m sure you hear a lot, that it looks like Zelda 2. Is that your favorite Zelda title?
Carlos: Exactly! I used to play that one and Faxanadu, another NES game from that time. I was very young when I play these and they always stick in my mind. It also helped that, since I was so young, it helped me fantasize a lot of these kinds of stories. You don’t see this kind of RPG in platformers, even from the Super Nintendo, I played Secret of Mana or Illusion of Gaia, they were top down, they kind of abandoned the platformer for RPGs. Even today, I wanted to play this kind of game, and I didn’t have it. That was really what forced me to do it.
Evan: Is that something that you think a lot of RPG games are missing these days? Those platforming aspects? Especially now that they’re action, real time, turn based, etc.
Carlos: And that’s why it’s so important to me, to remember that, this is unique. It’s my dream game. I’ve been working on this by myself for three years. At this point, I’m becoming more excited because every step ahead is a step closer a final release. I still thrive for it so much, even after all of this time.
Evan: You did all the pixel art on this yourself?
Carlos: Yes, and also the programming.
Evan: It has such a serene feel to it, like classic fantasy, or a Jim Henson film even. What were your challenges in building this game so far?
Carlos: The challenges were to have everything in the same style. By now I already have that in place, but it just took a lot of trial and error to get right.
Evan: It’s got an old school mechanic difficulty, too.
Carlos: Yeah, I started designing the game to have a vertical slice. What you’re playing now on the show floor is actually a more advanced area in the final game. So, I’m happy with the game’s natural difficulty curve, though it is challenging to put someone into this kind of level in 15 minutes at a convention.
Evan: Certainly, this is one of those games that reminded me of my first time playing Castlevania or Ninja Gaiden with that pixel perfect movement and combat challenge. It’s muscle memory gameplay.
Are there any movesets, weapons or items that you’re excited for people to see when they play?
Carlos: You’ll have a range of weapons to use to change the play style, also the damage they do around your enemies, their hit boxes.