As a result I’ve deliberately been a latecomer to the new generation of consoles, which gave me a bit of time to see what my friends bought and what exclusives were coming for each platform. Eventually the inexorable lust for New Things crept in, and when Black Friday rolled around PS4s were shifting for £300 with goodies on top, which was enough incentive to take the plunge. Street Fighter V’s exclusivity, announced a couple of weeks later, removed any pangs of buyer’s remorse I might have had at the time.
Then I had a bright idea – I’ll tell the story of the difficulties of new console ownership! As it turns out, there weren’t any worth speaking about. Getting it up and running for the first time was trivial – just hook it up to your network, sign in to PSN, answer a couple of questions and then you’re away, and by “away” I mean “stuck in update purgatory”. My biggest problem was that I didn’t know where the eject button was.
I picked up a really solid lineup of games with the PS4 – Grand Theft Auto V, Wolfenstein: The Last Order, Diablo III and Driveclub as well as the free copy of Plants vs Zombies: Garden Warfare that was given away as part of the Playstation 20th Anniversary celebration. Despite this, thanks to Playstation Plus, I’ve been playing none of those; instead, I fired up Dust: An Elysian Tail while waiting for other stuff to download and for reasons I cannot fathom, have been completely unable to put it down.
Dust looks and feels like a Sega Megadrive game that you remember fondly from 20 years ago, nostalgia bridging the gap between how you remember the 16-bit days and how they actually looked. Part platformer, part fighter, part Metroidvania, it really evokes an era where all you needed were some areas to explore and bad guys to kill. Also, a time when anthropomorphic animals were all the rage. Dust is an inconceivable bear/dog hybrid; Fidget, your flying companion is a flying cat/bat, and the main antagonist of this game is a dog with a beard. How does that even work? You are already covered in fur stop it
In motion it is beautiful, seeing you carve through swathes of enemies against fantastical backdrops. On the other hand, character portraits come straight out of a teenager’s shoddy collection of Goof Troop fanart. Combat is satisfying, allowing you free rein to knock enemy units about; later, additional moves are added to your repertoire to give you more freedom over your combos. This comes to a head towards the end of the game where the average enemy stops just being a bump in the road, and actually starts fighting back.
The script, on the other hand, isn’t much to write home about – Dust has amnesia! Also, he carries a talking sword that knows allllllll about his past. However, An Elysian Tail isn’t afraid to poke fun at itself – for instance, one sidequest has you rounding up escaped sheep. To do so, you must stand in front of one like any other item and press up to collect it, which despite the sheep’s size, results in it being placed in your inventory like any other item, much to Fidget’s bewilderment.
There are a few moments where dialogue is so far wide of the mark as to be unintentionally hilarious, such as an interaction between Dust and a young member of an underground-dwelling race, who is grieving the recent death of his father. Crucially it is completely impossible to take seriously, as the underground dweller bears an uncanny resemblance to a potato.
All joking aside, there was just something special about Dust that kept me hooked, over and above the fact that it is full of bunnies. It’s unapologetically a product that feels like it was conceived twenty years ago and has only just come to light. A journey starting in a grassy expanse, taking you through various geographically-unrelated areas before a final showdown with the big bad. There’s even a snow level.
As for the PS4 itself? The pad is nice (even the touchpad is pretty good), and being able to charge it whilst the PS4 is on standby is a godsend. Easy access to screenshots and streaming is probably not getting the attention it deserves; Remote Play using a Vita is fine for games that don’t become unplayable when input lag is introduced, so will be a great way to play Persona 5 in bed when it eventually comes out.
Basically, just buy a Megadrive yeah?