If you’ve got a hankering for a top-down Zelda-like title, then you may want to check out Songbringer, a randomly generated offering with a hip art style and cohesive story.
In Songbringer you play as a futuristic man who is just minding his own business riding his air bike when he gets struck by lightning and falls to the ground. When he awakes he’s shirtless and missing the top hat he was previously wearing, showing off what I can only assume is a mohawk. After a brief conversation with his robot sidekick (AKA this game’s Navi from Ocarina of Time), he enters a nearby grave and pulls a humming sword from the ground before setting off on an adventure across an overworld filled with more than eight dungeons.
If you’ve played the original Legend of Zelda then you know what to expect here: a large open overworld map made up of squares with the camera shifting between squares as you exit the screen, along with dungeons that include bosses, an item or two that help power-up your hero, and an extendable amount of health. Songbringer doesn’t vary all that much from that classic formula other than the fact the lead character talks and instead of a boomerang you’re throwing your top hat with the same physics. Oh, and also the game is randomly generated based on six-letter seed words (my playthrough was using the word SUITOR).
Unlike most games that have an element of random generation, Songbringer is surprisingly cohesive. There was very clearly a story being told with multiple characters, and the dungeons were numbered on the mini-map letting you know whether or not you should try to tackle them yet; that said you can do them in almost any order or even skip some, just like in OG Zelda. The game does a good job at piecing the overworld map together into different biomes with varied paths, and everywhere I went I was able to find something to do or collect (and even then I only found 68 per cent of items by the end of my 6+ hour playthrough).
While randomly generated adventures are a big selling point for Songbringer, I didn’t find the urge to replay the game other than to test out the differences a bit. Playing a second time was like playing the optional second quests in some of the earlier Zelda titles where everything is just rearranged or moved a bit—something I also never felt the drive to do. Surely some people will see this as a selling point, however, it just wasn’t something that made me enjoy the game any more or less.
On the technical side of things, Songbringer runs and looks fine, at least if you’re into this kind of pixel art which can sometimes look like a mess at first glance. I personally don’t mind it and appreciate the developer taking a chance on a bold art style instead of just doing basic NES pixel art. There are options to play at higher resolutions and framerates, all of which run smoothly.
One of my only gripes with the game is the soundtrack—it just isn’t for me. It’s made up primarily of a combination of chiptune-like noise that isn’t memorable or fun like the series it is inspired by; instead, it’s unsettling and sometimes a bit annoying. I know one particular track has just random pulsing beeps, which always made me wonder if it was something in the game world making the noise that I should interact with or if it was part of the soundtrack.
Songbringer doesn’t bring a whole lot of anything new to the table, but it’s still a decent top-down Zelda-like. At $20 USD it felt maybe a little steep for someone like myself that only intends to play it one time, so if you’re not the type to replay a game multiple times maybe wait for a sale before you start using your top hat as a weapon.