I remember having a talk with someone long ago how if they could make a procedurally generated Metroid, they’d be a coding genius. Well, if that’s the case, Matt Bitner is officially a genius, because that’s exactly what A Robot Named Fight is. And I absolutely love it.
GENRE: Metroidvania Roguelite
(Also available on Nintendo Switch)
A Robot Named Fight is a game I was very lucky to experience. I say lucky because I feel like I could have easily missed it, had I not seen it on the upcoming game list on Steam at the time and went “Huh, what’s this?” When I saw the trailer, I thought “Okay you know what? This looks neat, and it comes out soon, let’s try it.” And I am so, so glad that’s what happened, because this is truly a hidden gem in what is an admittedly saturated Indie market on Steam. And frankly this game deserves more love, so I’m hoping maybe this look at the game will help with that. For the record, this game is one I like so much I double dipped, getting both the PC and Switch versions. That should say something.
ARNF is essentially Super Metroid, but every run is a randomly designed map with randomly chosen items and bosses. If you haven’t played Super Metroid, I’ll try to sum it up for you as concise as I can. It’s a 2D platforming and shooting hybrid where you explore a hostile alien world, blasting anything that looks at you funny while finding upgrades to both make you better at blasting everything. You also find upgrades that allow you to reach new areas, so you can explore those areas for even MORE upgrades, and maybe even get some you couldn’t reach before in old areas. Repeat process until final boss is dead.
Matt Bitner took this idea and combined it with roguelite gameplay where every run is random, and reaching certain progression milestones unlocks more content like new areas and items. The result is, to put it mildly? Addictive as heck.
The premise is a bit of a twist though, as this game takes place on an Earth where robots are now the dominant lifeform, not humans. Unfortunately, a massive world devouring horror known as the Megabeast is now raining down flesh monsters from the sky. Your job as a combat robot is to fight your way through the hordes and become strong enough to defeat the Megabeast.
Every run, you start out with minimal health, weapon energy, and only a basic bolt gun (which thankfully doesn’t use the weapon energy, that’s for special weapons). Your goal in each run is the same: Explore an area, find upgrades to let you reach the boss of that area and kill it. Use the upgrade from that boss to reach the next area, and repeat the process until you can reach and confront the dreaded Megabeast. You’ll find new weapons to get past various obstacles, as well as traversal upgrades to let you reach new areas you couldn’t otherwise.
What makes ARNF shine in the Roguelite genre is the fact it blends multiple gameplay types together, and it does it in a way that feels natural and incredibly fun to play. This is a game where your skills at platforming are just as key as your ability to blast away enemies while avoiding the attacks they fling at you. But it rarely feels unfair due to a forgiving setup where it’s quite possible to farm enemies for resources if you really need them, so you’ll rarely be in a situation where you’re at 1 health and feel like you have no way to survive the next room or boss battle.
Now, usually a roguelite’s level design can be one of two things: Completely random design, or made up of premade chunks that are arranged in various ways. ARNF goes for the latter approach, and in a game like this, I’d argue that’s practically a necessity. It does mean you will begin to recognize rooms after a few runs, but I don’t think that hurts the experience. If anything, it just means you get to practice certain things, and will feel better prepared for them in future runs. The hand designed aspect also keeps every room fair, as you won’t run into some deviously impossible room full of unavoidable traps because the RNG felt like making it that way. And with all the different kinds of items you can find in each run, things always feel fresh even when you’ve seen a particular room layout before.
The shooting aspect of ARNF is something I particularly love, because it basically takes the best elements of Super Metroid’s shooting. That game gives you 8-way shooting, as does this one. And it does it in a way where aiming is quick, snappy, and does what it needs to do: Kill fleshbeasts dead. You can shoot fast enough and adjust your aim fast enough that you don’t need to worry about being precise or making every shot count, you just need to be capable of pointing in the general direction of the thing you want dead and firing. That said, it helps that this game has a ton of weapons and various ways they can behave based on what items you’ve found.
Your primary bolt gun in particular may start out as a peashooter, but a run will typically offer you multiple items to augment it. Adding things like homing functionality, three way shots, the ability to pierce through multiple foes, explode on contact, split into fragments on impact…There’s a LOT this gun can do. And it’s just your starting weapon! You may also come across various special weapons that cost energy to fire, but offer very satisfying results. How about a railgun that pierces through enemies and terrain alike? A laser that keeps shooting as long as you have energy? Buzzsaws that bounce off surfaces and cut through anything they hit? If there’s one thing you won’t be lacking in this game, it’s firepower. And given how many things you need to kill? You’ll be glad you have these toys. Did I mention some of the bolt gun upgrades also work with special weapons? Why fire one buzzsaw when you can fire three? Lovely.
The way you explore is definitely one area where Super Metroid had significant influence, and I’m more than okay with that given how much I love that game. A lot of times, the way forward won’t be immediately obvious. In a lot of cases, certain blocks in a room can be destroyed. These blocks will either impede the way forward or hide a shiny upgrade in them that you can make use of. Admittedly, if you haven’t played Super Metroid, this may not be immediately obvious. I have seen some people who never played Super Metroid before struggle to get out of a room because they weren’t aware they could destroy certain walls/ceilings/floors. Given my experience with Super Metroid, this isn’t an issue for me, but it could be for new players. So just remember: When in doubt? Shoot EVERYTHING. That’s not to say you have to blindly shoot everywhere though. There’s usually clues (Either via the map, or being able to see past a destroyable wall, or the wall itself looks different from the rest of the room) to let you know where you need to shoot to get somewhere, so it’s not like the original Metroid where you often did have to blindly fire everywhere to figure out what to do next.
Shooting walls or getting to pre-designated item rooms isn’t the only way you’ll find new stuff. As you explore, you’ll find scrap from killing enemies, as well as rare archaic scrap hidden in each area and carried by rare, powerful foes. Vendors can convert the scrap resources you find into new toys to play with, while Shrines with a proper donation of your resources may yield quite the divine boon from one of the Mechanical Gods that make up the game’s lore.
So, you’re running around, blasting away fleshy monsters and finding various upgrades like stat ups, and eventually come across an item that lets you reach a room where the music suddenly takes a much more menacing, ominous tone. Well congrats, that means you’re about to fight a boss!
Boss fights are important in any good 2D action game, and Robot Named Fight makes sure to keep it interesting by not having one set boss for each area. Instead, one of several possible bosses from a pool will be your opponent in each area, so you’ll always be on your toes. Do you get the one you’re really familiar with and know how to kill in a matter of seconds? Or do you get one that gives you a hard time and could possibly end your run? You won’t know until you go through that boss door. And there’s plenty of variety to be had here. Some bosses are simple, straight up fights. Others may take place in a larger room and require you to focus much more on movement, either to line up a shot or avoid being hit. My only real complaint-And it’s a minor one-is that the particularly engaging bosses don’t show up until the later parts of a run, or the alternate early maps once you’ve unlocked those. But that doesn’t stop even the simpler bosses from being fun to blow up, so it’s nothing I would dock points for if I used a point based review system. Also, there’s one boss in the fourth area that I particularly love. Let’s just say if you played a certain NES game, you Wood recognize him quite easily, I personally think he’s Metal, though some people say I’m full of hot Air…Oh Man.
Now, let’s talk about one of the biggest reasons this game has so much love from me: How much love Matt Bitner has for the game and its playerbase.
Robot Named Fight has gotten several content updates since its initial release. Each one adding new areas, items, and bosses. Frankly, there’s enough content beyond the 1.0 release of the game that said content could have easily been sold as a DLC expansion. And instead every bit of that new content was given to us for free. Alternate biomes for most major areas, a completely revamped endgame area, several new game types, a ton of new items, new bosses. All of it for free! Matt Bitner also runs his own discord for the game, and has taken plenty of feedback into account in order to improve the game and its balance where needed. He’s also just an all around nice guy, and a developer I respect considering this game is almost entirely a solo affair, with his wife mainly contributing via some voice clips and helping with marketing and behind the scenes management. The game was already impressive for one man’s work at launch, the amount of stuff he added over the years considering he handled everything from art, to sound, to music, just further drives home the point this game is an absolute gem and an amazing accomplishment for a solo dev.
At the end of the day, there’s a lot to love about this game. As someone who loves Super Metroid, I love the idea of a re-playable, randomized version of it. And even if you don’t know Super Metroid, there’s still plenty to love in this roguelite that combines platforming, shooting, and exploration to create a game that blends so much, and makes it all work in a very fun, satisfying gameplay loop: Try, die, repeat. Although this is a case where you don’t have to work your way up with various upgrades that last between runs before you can get a win: This is a game where it is possible to win your runs from the outset, and where skill can matter just as much as getting a good build via the items you find. It frankly does everything right in my opinion, being a game that is quite approachable despite its permanent deaths, as each new run can potentially unlock a new item or other content to experience. Every run will provide you with a new toolset to learn and use in order to overcome the challenges you face. And in the end, that is what makes a good roguelite in my opinion. In this case? I’d also argue it’s one of the best available.
If you like Super Metroid, you owe it to yourself to try this. And even if you never tried Super Metroid, you still do. Now go become Fight enough to take on the Megabeast! It won’t kill itself.