We’ll be working on a review for Astalon: Tears of the Earth, so I got in touch with Matt Kap, and Jon Lepage of LABS Works to talk a bit about the game. Come check it out!
PS4Blog: Good morning! Welcome. Before we get started, can you please introduce yourselves to our readers?
Jon: Hi! I’m Jon Lepage, I’m a Game Programmer, and I’ve been making video games for the past ten years now. I’m the Lead Developer on Astalon, the technical side of the project, the one responsible for making every weird idea we come up with work in the game!
Matt: Hello, I’m Matt Kap, the designer, lead artist, and composer of Astalon! I am a crazy guy.
PS4B: Speaking of which, Astalon: Tears of the Earth is now out on PS4 and Nintendo Switch. How would you describe the game to someone who’s never heard about it?
Jon: Astalon is a Mega Man-like game with a bigger emphasis on exploration and discovering a world full of lore. It’s a game that you can play and discover at your own pace. It has the main ideas of Metroidvania games – the exploration, the unlockable movement abilities, the character development, the wide range of enemies, the big map full of secrets – as well as the room-by-room action of a Shovel Knight or a Mega Man. A player once told us that it was “a game that could have been if the NES was still around and had evolved with modern technology,” and I think that’s a good way to describe it. You’ll have the surprise of a very modern and responsive gameplay style along with the retro look of old games.
Matt: You play as three heroes, who are searching for the source of a poison leaking into the river and killing people in their village. Their search leads them to an evil tower that seems to be exuding the poison! The game takes place in that tower, and without giving too much away, the tower is full of monsters, traps, secrets, and surprises.
I would say that it has some elements of games like Castlevania or Metroid, but it feels different than a lot of those kinds of games! Despite there being a mechanic in which you can upgrade your characters after each death, the game doesn’t really have any randomly generated elements either. The tower in which the game takes place was lovingly designed, room-by-room!
PS4B: What are some of the old-school games that inspired you to work on a retro-styled 8-bit 2D action platformer?
Jon: There are definitely some Zelda II: The Adventure of Link and Mega Man vibes to the game. And, of course, a bunch of Castlevania inspiration. What I wanted to do was to make a game that would make me feel as I did back when I was a kid, and Matt is such a talented pixel artist that I immediately fell in love with the sprites and characters he was designing.
Thankfully, if we did our job properly, the controls and gameplay of the game are tighter and more responsive than NES games used to be. But it’s a bit of a dream come true to do a retro game. You keep saying to yourself, “I used to play those games, and now I’m the one making them. How awesome is this?”
Matt: With this game, I really wanted to change some of the conventions established in similar games in this genre. Instead of taking Castlevania or Metroid as the main inspiration, I was more inspired by games like “Little Samson,” “Kickmaster,” and “Faxanadu.” The Nier series also inspired me a lot when it came to thinking outside the established box. With the future of the Astalon series, I want to make things even more strange in terms of story elements as well as gameplay mechanics!
PS4B: How did Ryusuke Mita end up working on the character design for Astalon: Tears of the Earth?
Matt: I think more than anything, it ended up just being good timing! I had been in touch with him as a fan at first (he was one of the reasons I got into drawing in the first place), and around the time that we started working on Astalon, he was able to help us out. That was several years ago (even while I was working on an early prototype by myself), but the character designs didn’t really change from that point until now. It was such a pleasure to have the opportunity to work with someone who you respect so greatly.
Also, for those unfamiliar with his work, the kind of contrast between cute characters and scary/grotesque monsters is something I had in mind for the game, and his work really embodies that, especially in his comic series “Dark Hair Captured.” The styles worked really well together, and it couldn’t have been more of a good fit to have Ryusuke on board!
PS4B: Any chance of the game getting a physical release on PlayStation 4 or Nintendo Switch like back in the day?
Jon: Maybe… There’s always a chance! We would absolutely love to have a physical version of Astalon. We can’t talk about it yet, though!
Matt: It’s something we ABSOLUTELY want to do, and we’re exploring the ways that we can make it happen. But of course, that kind of thing is facilitated when there’s more demand, so if you’re reading this and want a physical version, let the physical publishers know that you want Astalon next :D.
PS4B: And now it’s time for us to go. Is there something else you’d like to add?
Jon: Thank you for having us here, and we hope that you’ll all enjoy the game as much as we’ve enjoyed making it!
Matt: Yes, thanks so much for having us! We’re currently working on polishing the game as much as possible. Thanks to everyone who is playing! Follow us on Twitter to make sure you don’t miss any news. Enjoy the game!