NAVE (which is “ship” in Spanish) is a survival-space shooter game created by a small team of developers from Argentina called Videogamo. What started out as a way to learn about and experiment with the classic space-shooter genre, eventually turned into a full game designed for an arcade cabinet. NAVE was developed over time as a hobby for its creators, Máximo Balestrini and Hernán Sáez. They wished to grow it piece by piece and really fine tune what they were crafting, all the while learning about video game development. Simplicity was always the idea behind the game and this influenced both gameplay and graphics.
NAVE‘s graphics in particular are instantly eye-catching, with a wonderfully stark monochrome pixel art style that gives it a very unique appearance. This was done on purpose in order to give the game the right look for its genre. In addition, it allowed Videogamo to focus their efforts on making the gameplay as tight and fun as possible. The low-res graphics would easily allow NAVE to blend in at any arcade from the 1980′s, and the artwork evokes plenty of memories of games like Metroid II. Make no mistake, though, this is a modern game with a design philosophy and technology to match.
The game was created with Adobe Flash, but you wouldn’t notice it at first glance. It emulates shoot ‘em up games from the past, including the addicting gameplay that had players all over asking their moms for more quarters. Basing NAVE on this classic genre was a conscious decision. The developers didn’t want to reinvent the wheel, instead they set their sights on experimenting with what had been done before and adding their own unique twist. Players control a tiny spaceship and must survive–or “resist”– against an ever growing threat of enemy ships and asteroids to rack up points. They must dodge enemy fire, grab power-ups, use “Turbo Mode” to control difficulty, and “grow” their spaceship.
This is one of NAVE‘s most defining characteristics. Players begin each game with a tiny ship that can easily become lost in the fray, but as they play it becomes larger and larger. Eventually, the ship grows to such an immense size that almost the entire screen is covered up by the highly detailed artwork. This sense of scale is both visually striking and reminds me of the wonder that games would instill in me as a child. Overall, the gameplay looks to be intense, difficult and stay true to its roots. But why build NAVE for an arcade cabinet when most people these days just stay at home to play? Videogamo had three reasons.
First off, playing on an arcade is a very different experience than playing on a console. The player is standing up, more alert, and is right next to the screen. This level of engagement is very important to playing games like NAVE. Secondly, the developers believe that playing like this allows the game to become “more physical, stronger, and the player can discharge all the tension on the machine.” Finally, this setup is ideal for playing games in short bursts. Those who are waiting around the player for their turn can also watch what he’s doing and learn new strategies.
Bringing an old arcade machine back to life and completing NAVE itself was an arduous process that took many long hours for Videogamo. Now their goal is simply to share their creation with the world by taking it everywhere they can. From parties to gaming conventions, they want players all over to experience something which was, at one time, the height of gaming. To accomplish this, they’re taking the cabinet on the road and are currently doing a NAVE Arcade Tour. Right now it’s only touring in Argentina, but the developers want to bring it to other countries as well.
NAVE is not only a wonderful looking game, but its overall concept and design really make it an interactive work of art. It’s yet another excellent example of what talented developers can pull off with enough dedication and skill. Hopefully the game will eventually visit the rest of the world, so gamers like myself can indulge in an experience that’s pretty hard to get these days.
For more information regarding the NAVE arcade cabinet and its creators Videogamo, check out their official website.