It is said that imitation is the most sincere form of flattery, and if that is indeed the case, then Airoheart is one of the most sycophantic releases on Switch right now. Definitely not missing ‘Zelda-like‘ is available on consoles, but this is a game that stretches the term “inspired” to its absolute limits, as it finds as many ways as possible to it is in The Legend of Zelda: Link to the Past without really tempting Nintendo to release its famous copyright ninjas for damage control. As a result, fans of that top-down Zelda style are sure to find a lot to love here, as Airoheart does a great job of presenting an extensive, but often non-linear action-adventure experience. It feels like you’re watching a funny house reflect a mirror rather than a real deal.
Airoheart is set in the fantasy land of Engard and follows the story of two hostile groups: Elmer and Breton. The Elmerians were masters of peaceful forms of magic while the Bretons were proficient in offensive and more violent magical abilities, and there has been tension between the two groups for as long as anyone can remember. Your character, a Breton hybrid named Airoheart who lives between Elmer and his grandfather, is the brother of a Breton chief who is instigating increasingly fierce actions against Elmer in what seems as a prelude to war. However, he seems most interested in getting back the shards of the mythical Draoidhe Stone, a magical MacGuffin that will guarantee all but a quick victory by Breton. Guided by a mysterious monstrous voice, Airoheart sets out on a quest to retrieve the shards before Breton can get his hands on them.
It’s not a story involving horror, but it takes things in a deeper, darker dimension than the typical ‘save the princess’ story. The hero of the same name is aided in his quest by a diverse cast of characters on both sides who help add some color to the slower moments between dungeons and though we don’t see this storyline is particularly memorable, we can appreciate that effort that has given the land of Engard a more nuanced social system that adds more texture to your dungeoneering.
Gameplay in Airoheart is gone heavy following A Link to the Past, follows the same basic gameplay loop as traveling between dungeons, collecting new items and abilities, and exploring a world covered with secrets that discover. The main gameplay innovation here is the inclusion of Runes, which are selectable spells that you can cast using energy to create effects like healing light or a moveable block. Switch to help solve the puzzles. Practically speaking, Runes are just another name for another set of items that you can use at your disposal, but their usage is distinct enough to feel like their difference from the standard item group. guaranteed.
When you’re not in a dungeon, you’ll likely be busy testing out any new toys to unlock new paths and caves to explore, or spending your time buying or trying out new gear that could end up in the game. Lightly match your stats. We don’t feel that the gear and stats system here is enough to consider Airoheart a role-playing game, but small buffs, like, the damage of your crossbow pawns sometimes make a difference. separate. The covered world is also dense enough with worthwhile goals. It’s not the kind of game that has a lot of dissimilarity between points of interest to give you a sense of scope; every cave and cave usually has something meaningful to check out, and you can’t go more than a few steps in any direction without finding something else of interest.
While you’ll spend a lot of time exploring the underworld, the dungeons are the heart of the experience here, and each dungeon contains a strong thematic combination of appropriately challenging puzzles and Satisfying enemy encounters to overcome. That said, the lack of a localized map to help you navigate feels like an unnecessary handicap. Checking the map will only tell you where you are in the underworld, which is as useful as asking someone where the bathroom is and having them tell you what city you’re in. The design of the dungeon is streamlined so you don’t waste also It takes a long time trying to figure out the right path, and the challenges you face along the way are fun, but things like a nonexistent dungeon map tend to take Airoheart’s sails with it. It has potential, and with a few changes it could be great, but instead it settles down to being merely good.
And that’s the problem with Airoheart; that is strong, but just feels like a less polished clone of a much better game. There’s nothing wrong with pursuing the formula of a critically acclaimed classic, but simply repackaging the ideas of a work with the slightest tweaks here and there doesn’t make for an experience. must play. Even if Nintendo itself returns to the well with The Connection Between Worlds, it took care to include major gameplay innovations, with a more flexible approach to the item system along with quality-of-life changes like a fully charged magic bar. Airoheart simply fulfills your desire to play more than a 30-year-old game you already own and can easily access on Switch, while adding no significant new ideas of its own. . It’s your team project’s version of the game who put their name on the slide without actually contributing anything to the content.
Airoheart doesn’t mess up any of its game design, but the lack of attention to the smaller details makes it less than satisfying overall. For example, there’s a disconcerting overuse of the extremely loud and abrupt gunfire sound effect that often feels out of place. When bombs explode, it’s like a suitable noise, but it’s much more obnoxious when you’re hit by a bullet, fired a crossbow, closed a door, rolled over a pit (!?), opened a chest, or breathe. You’ll get used to it over time, but it’s very annoying and frankly freak presence throughout that really pulls the whole game down a notch. Little things like this aren’t entirely harmful on their own, but there are many of them and their presence is like a fly in your soup; easily removed, but cause irritation and discomfort if they are left in them.
We also encountered a number of bugs and glitches, some of which were pretty funny, most of which were annoying. For example, after dying to the final boss of a dungeon, we had a few respawns at the top of the dungeon with zero health, that means Airoheart just need to care back right there. We’ve also observed multiple instances where traps that fire bullet-timed attacks would malfunction and some projectiles would hang on the trap’s hitbox. The worst of them all is that the game crashes completely back to the Home screen, requiring a full reboot and having to go through our steps again to make up for any lost data. Hopefully some patch will come, but in its current state you will almost certainly encounter some glitch or technical glitch that will hinder your journey.
As for its presentation, Airoheart isn’t afraid to upgrade the visual style of wholesale A Link to the Past. Everything from the color palette to the character textures to the shape of the rocks you can pick up to throw at enemies can almost be mistaken for direct asset cutting. Everything gets one small more creative in one place or another, but we wanted to make a bigger effort to differentiate Airoheart and give it more of its own identity. Nothing looks badbut sometimes that lack of originality makes you feel like you’re playing a ROM hack.
Meanwhile, music is much less memorable, consisting of a bunch of generic and repetitive 16-bit chiptunes just kind of there. At the very least, this soundtrack doesn’t hinder one’s enjoyment of the game, but it feels like a missed opportunity here for audio integration that can enhance and help shape the overall experience in a game. greater degree.
Airoheart is a pretty decent game, but there’s hardly a game we’d recommend rushing into buying unless you simply can’t get enough of the 2D Zelda recipe. It follows the pattern of A Link to the Past’s so closely that it can never be classed as ‘bad’, but in a crowded market of homage, tribute, and thematic variations, it does There are very few highlights. We recommend just getting this after have you played through A Link to the Past, Link’s Awakening remake and both Blossom Tales game, and you still don’t feel you’ve understood enough about the particular brand of top-down games. Airoheart offers a full adventure, and for $40 at the time of writing, we simply expected more.