F.I.S.T.: Forged In Shadow Torch was one of my favorite releases of 2021, so getting the chance to hop back into this Metroidvania on Switch was a no-brainer. At this point in the console hybrid’s history, I think we can admit that ports to Switch aren’t going to be what you’ve seen on more powerful platforms. However, the quality of this port favors performance over visuals.
F.I.S.T.: Forged In Shadow Torch introduces an ex-soldier who just so happens to look like a bunny, enjoying a life of brooding with old friends. However, an altercation between a friend and the Iron Dogs who control the city gets Rayton to pick up his mechanical fist once again and save the people closest to him. However, that’s only the match that lights the flame, there are others who are fighting against the invading Iron Dogs, and Rayton finds himself in the middle of it all.
His reasonings for fighting are discovered over time, but when we first meet this unique character he has pretty much checked out of the idea to fight. We learn more about his backstory along with the introduction of a few resistance fighters who provide intel and additional insights into the state of the world. Further, there are some antagonist characters who arise and act as the fuel to conclude the game.
The various cast lends their various skills to the cause such as upgrading Rayton’s loadout with new skills and various buffs. Given the Metroidvania nature of the game, these skills are needed to reach new areas and take down enemies. Sadly not all of them get the same amount of screen time, however, they each have an introduction that explains their reasons.
Many of the design choices return, for better or for worse. The HUB town is still a maze that begs to be accessible through a simple menu while in town. However, in later parts of the game exploration becomes faster with dashes and abilities that zoom you across the stage.
What I love most about F.I.S.T. is how well the attacks are tied so heavily into progression. While you have access to three main weapons, these weapons can be upgraded further by using coins from downed enemies and mods. Tying actions together will get you to secret areas while also extending your combos. It’s a synergy that makes combat in the game so refreshing. By tying in the additional skills that use EP for moves such as counter or healing, you have a ton of ways to approach situations.
For an added layer of challenge, there are skill-based platforming sections that require an understanding of Rayton’s moveset. These usually contain rewards that will increase HP, SP, and EP, all of which are needed to survive the late-game difficulty. However, from the first set of dungeons, this game pulls no punches and you’re forced to use every bit of Rayton’s moveset to survive waves of enemies, mini-bosses, and large scare boss encounters. Thankfully, there’s a gracious auto-save system that will never send you too far back.
Given that I played F.I.S.T. to completion on PS5, this review was mostly to check out the performance of the game on Switch. I’ve got to say, in terms of response from the controller, the action holds up quite well but at the cost of some muggy textures. The vibrant world of Torch City has been reduced to an out-of-focus landscape of greys and browns while our furry friends’ expressions come off as lifeless and unrecognizable.
These graphical oddities are even more evident in handheld mode, which I don’t recommend playing unless you’re prepared to stress your eyes to see what’s going on. Exploration is more than manageable, but when you enter a fight, you’ll be hard-pressed to even see enemy projectiles and attacks come your way. Regardless, the action is consistent with dock mode showing little signs of frame rate issues outside of its lengthy load screens. It’s the trade-off you have to make if you wish to play this game on the go. So, I’d say that if you’re planning on playing in docked mode exclusively, get the PC or other versions.
F.I.S.T.: Forged In Shadow Torch is a great game no matter which console you play it on. It’s a gorgeously fine-tuned Metroidvania that focuses on skill-based combat with an extensive map that begs to be explored. The Switch version is held back by its graphics and load times, but the performance holds up to deliver the action that players will be coming back to time and time again.
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