My experience echoes AvernOffset’s above.
I had just come off getting through Nightmare mode on Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon, which I loved every second of. The NES was before my time, but Castlevania 3 has always been a favorite of mine and I’ve preferred it to the later exploration-based Castlevanias. I don’t have any history with Ninja Gaiden, but I was excited at the prospect another skill-based NES-style platformer, and the prospect of a juicy twist halfway through sounded too good to pass up. This lead me to purchase The Messenger over Dead Cells and Hollow Knight, games I feared might hew too close to “Metroidvania” to be what I want.
Things started great as the music was good, the aesthetics were solid, and the mechanics just got more and more engaging. I feel the criticism the early part of the game for easy is a bit off, as I was trying to get every one of the seals I came across, which I feel was a trick cribbed from Mario to add additional difficulty early on for those who want it. Fast forward to the graphical switch, however and my patience was beginning to wear. I had discovered early on that the shopkeeper would leap to the front of my “Worst Characters of 2018 List”, as I found myself torn between wanting to suss out whatever storytelling the game had to offer and wanting to avoid another of his dull “stories”. (This feeling would crystallize in the Tower of Time when a character quoting “Jordan the Wise” told me to “sort myself out”. Y I K E S) It became hard to shake these feelings, as the game stopped providing thrill of progression that had belied its worse elements. Simply put, the game doesn’t benefit from being a roguelike. As AO said above, there’s nothing left to discover by the time the game becomes about exploration.
Overall, it’s still fun to cloudstep and float around, but I can’t help but think the remaining small discoveries and challenges would be better served as being a part of the layered linear stages of game’s first half. That way, perhaps I wouldn’t feel like the game was filled with busywork, seperating me from the excitement. However, the music did remain great in the second half, so maybe that will bouy me to the finish.
Other than this, the only thing I can think of is how Spore gets worse the farther you progress into the game.