Yars Rising brings the best of Atari into a Metroidvania

We check out Yars Rising, which is part-Metroidvania and part celebration of Atari's storied history.

Atari
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WayForward has become one of the foremost developers when it comes to reviving nostalgic properties. It's a team that has worked its magic on Contra, River City Ransom, and Advance Wars, just to name a few classic franchises. For publisher Atari, calling upon them to revive and reimagine the old Yars' Revenge was a no-brainer. Yars Rising doesn't stop at calling back to the Atari 2600 original. It honors a bulk of the Atari legacy. Shacknews recently took a first look during this month's Summer Game Fest.

At first glance, younger players may not even recognize Yars Rising's roots. Revealed during the April 2024 Nintendo Indie World showcase, this game tells the story of a black hat hacker named Emi Kimura. She's hired to infiltrate the omnipresent QoTech corporation, but she's quickly apprehended by its robotic security. Thrown into a prison cell, it isn't long before she needs to hack her way out. However, her hacks into QoTech's systems appear to have a side effect. They begin to affect her DNA and give her powers, which she must then use to make her escape.

Navigating laser traps in Yars Rising

Source: Atari

Yars Rising is a standard Metroidvania on the surface. Emi can leap across the QoTech facility and crawl through small shafts while blasting robots that try to get in her way. Her powers are only so strong, so she'll sometimes have to exercise stealth to sneak past more powerful bots or killer traps. As she gets farther into the QoTech facility, she'll begin to learn about an ancient alien race and that she might be closer to it than she realizes.

Hacking involves a set of mini-games, which those who grew up with the Atari 2600 generation may recognize. Many of these hacking mini-games are based on the original Yars' Revenge, complete with an Atari 2600-style presentation. After navigating the vintage graphics and the primitive audio cues, Emi can unlock doors or even new powers, like flight.

While Emi will primarily face off against security robots and insect-like creatures, it won't be long before she starts coming across bosses. Even these have a distinct Atari feel to them. One of the bosses is a high-level QoTech worker who calls himself the Missile Commander. Those raised in the old Atari days need no further explanation, but for those unfamiliar with the old series, Missile Command was an old arcade shooter that was all about protecting towers from incoming ballistic fire. The Missile Commander follows the old game's cues, firing projectiles from above. If Emi can't intercept them, they'll hit the ground and remove part of it, giving her less space to maneuver.

There's nothing that feels revolutionary about Yars Rising, but WayForward looks to be putting together a solid adventure that makes strong use of Atari's licenses. Whether the new Metroidvania presentation can entice both newcomers and classic Atari fans alike remains to be seen. Those looking to embark on Emi's journey won't have to wait too long. Yars Rising will come to PC, PlayStation, Xbox, Nintendo Switch, and the Atari VCS on Tuesday, September 10.


This preview is based on an early PC demo made for Summer Game Fest 2024. The final product is subject to change.

Senior Editor

Ozzie has been playing video games since picking up his first NES controller at age 5. He has been into games ever since, only briefly stepping away during his college years. But he was pulled back in after spending years in QA circles for both THQ and Activision, mostly spending time helping to push forward the Guitar Hero series at its peak. Ozzie has become a big fan of platformers, puzzle games, shooters, and RPGs, just to name a few genres, but he’s also a huge sucker for anything with a good, compelling narrative behind it. Because what are video games if you can't enjoy a good story with a fresh Cherry Coke?

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