How "Ikenfell" Gets Nostalgia Just Right
Analyzing how new indie game Ikenfell can feel nostalgic yet modern at the same time
I am always looking for an indie game that represents the golden era of games from my childhood. For me, it is the NES and Super Nintendo. If you remember blowing on game cartridges, only having two controllers per console, and going to Blockbuster on weekends, you were likely a child within the same era. Something about pixelized sprites doing battle over some perfectly composed chiptune music really brings a sense of childhood wonder. Ikenfell thankfully brings this to bare in spades!
Ikenfell by Happy Ray Games and Humble Games is a turn-based role playing game that takes place in a magical academy for youths. A non-magic user (or “ordinary”) named Maritte heads over to the titular school Ikenfell after her rambunctious sister Safina never comes home for break. She is suddenly thrown into an amazing journey to discover the secrets of the academy, and learn the wonders of magic and friendship to save the day. Also, there’s something about teen adventures at a magic academy that never gets old.
While Ikenfell has spectacular retro art, sound design and composing (done by aivi & surasshu, the main composers of Steven Universe), I want to focus on how the game’s design stays true to its nostalgic roots in this review, and get to the core of how the game is both nostalgic, and a fresh take on the turn-based RPG genre.
The Right Mix
Ikenfell invokes elements from a unique combination of games from the 16-bit era. Most notable is an attack system inspired by games like Super Mario RPG and Paper Mario, where timed hits increase your attack power, and decrease damage taken from enemy hits. This, combined with a 3 x N battle grid reminiscent of both Megaman Battle Network and Fire Emblem, and with spell abilities and quirky monsters vaguely reminiscent of Earthbound, Ikenfell creates the perfect mix of nostalgic gaming from the mid-90’s.
At the same time, they take what works from these genres. Players love story-driven…