It’s mentioned that imitation is the sincerest type of flattery, and if that’s certainly the case, then Airoheart is likely one of the most sycophantic releases on the Swap at this time. There is definitely no scarcity of ‘Zelda-likes’ obtainable on the console, however this can be a sport that stretches the time period “impressed by” to its absolute limits, because it finds as some ways as doable to be The Legend of Zelda: A Hyperlink to the Previous with out really tempting Nintendo into releasing its famed copyright ninjas for harm management. Consequently, followers of that top-down Zelda type will little question discover a lot to like right here, as Airoheart does an enough job of presenting a large linear action-adventure expertise, however it as a rule feels such as you’re a funhouse mirror reflection moderately than the actual deal.
Airoheart is about within the fantasy land of Engard and follows the story of two feuding teams: the Elmer and the Breton. The Elmer are masters of peaceable types of magic whereas the Breton are proficient in additional offensive and violent magical skills, and there’s been rigidity between the 2 teams for so long as anybody can bear in mind. Your character, a half-Breton named Airoheart who lives among the many Elmer together with his grandpa, is brothers with a Breton chief who’s instigating more and more extra aggressive maneuvers towards the Elmer in what seems to be a prelude to conflict. He appears to be most , nevertheless, in retrieving the fragments of the legendary Draoidhe Stone, a magical MacGuffin that may all however assure a swift Breton victory. Guided by a mysterious disembodied voice, Airoheart thus units out on a quest to retrieve the fragments earlier than the Breton can get their fingers on them.
It isn’t a very involving story, however it does take issues in a deeper, darker course than the everyday ‘save the princess’ narrative. The eponymous hero is supported on his quest by a various solid of characters on either side who assist so as to add some coloration to the slower bits between dungeons, and although we didn’t discover this storyline to be notably memorable, we will recognize the trouble that went into giving the land of Engard a extra nuanced social system that provides extra texture to your dungeoneering.
Gameplay in Airoheart takes closely after A Hyperlink to the Previous, following the identical primary gameplay loop of touring between dungeons, amassing new gadgets and skills, and exploring an overworld full of secrets and techniques to uncover. The principle gameplay innovation right here is the inclusion of Runes, that are selectable spells you may solid utilizing mana that’ll create results like a light-weight heal or a moveable block to assist clear up puzzles. Virtually talking, Runes are only a completely different title for an additional set of things at your disposal, however their makes use of are distinct sufficient to really feel like their differentiation from the usual merchandise pool is warranted.
If you’re not in dungeons, you’ll seemingly busy your self with testing out any new toys to unlock new pathways and caves to discover, or spend a while shopping for or making an attempt on new gear that flippantly mixes up your stats. We didn’t really feel that the gear and stat system right here was sufficient to qualify Airoheart as an RPG, however the little buffs to, say, the harm of your crossbow bolts does make a distinction once in a while. The overworld feels sufficiently dense with worthwhile aims, too. This isn’t the form of sport with an entire lot of nothing between factors of curiosity to offer you a way of scope; each grotto and cave normally has one thing significant to take a look at and you’ll’t go quite a lot of steps in any course with out discovering one thing else fascinating.
Although you’ll spend a lot of your time exploring the overworld, dungeons are the primary draw of the expertise right here, and every one incorporates a potent thematic mixture of appropriately difficult puzzles and enemy encounters which might be satisfying to beat. That mentioned, the shortage of a localized map that will help you navigate seems like an pointless handicap. Checking the map will solely let you know the place you’re within the overworld, which is about as useful as asking somebody the place the lavatory is and having them let you know the town you’re presently in. Dungeon design is streamlined sufficient that you just don’t waste too a lot time looking for the fitting path, and the challenges you face alongside the best way are decently enjoyable, however it’s issues like a nonexistent dungeon map that are likely to take the wind out of Airoheart’s sails. It has potential, and with a couple of modifications it could possibly be nice, however it as a substitute settles with being merely good.
And that is the issue with Airoheart; it’s advantageous, however simply seems like a much less polished copy of a significantly better sport. There’s nothing improper with taking after the method of a well-regarded basic, however merely repackaging the concepts of 1 with solely the subtlest of tweaks right here and there would not makes for a must-play expertise. Even when Nintendo itself returned to the nicely with A Hyperlink Between Worlds, it took care to incorporate huge gameplay improvements, with a extra versatile strategy to the merchandise system together with high quality of life modifications like a refilling magic bar. Airoheart merely feeds in your need to play extra of a 30-year-old sport you already personal and might simply entry on Swap, whereas including no vital new concepts of its personal. It’s the sport model of the member of your group challenge who throws their title on the slideshow with out contributing something of substance to the content material.
Airoheart doesn’t mess up any of the broad strokes of its sport design, however an absence of consideration to the smaller particulars accumulate to make it much less satisfying total. For instance, there’s a merely baffling overuse of an especially loud and sudden gunshot sound impact that always feels misplaced. When bombs go off, it seems like a becoming noise, however it’s far more obnoxious each time you get hit, hearth a crossbow, shut a door, roll over a pit (!?), open a chest, or breathe. You get used to it with time, however it’s such an annoying and admittedly bizarre presence all through that it really drags down the entire sport to a level. Little issues like this aren’t outright damning on their very own, however there are various of them and their presence is sort of a fly in your soup; simply eliminated, however bothersome and unsightly in the event that they’re left in.
We skilled some bugs and glitches, too, a few of which had been form of humorous, most of that are a nuisance. For instance, after dying to the ultimate boss of a dungeon, we had a pair instances the place we respawned at the start of the dungeon with zero well being, which meant that Airoheart simply keeled over once more proper there. We additionally noticed many cases the place traps capturing out timed projectile assaults would glitch and a few of the projectiles would get hung up on the lure’s hitbox. The worst of them was the sport outright crashing again to the Residence Display, necessitating a full reboot and having to retrace our steps to make up for any misplaced knowledge. Hopefully some patches will come, however in its present state, you will nearly actually be operating into some form of glitch or technical hiccup that may impede your journey.
As for its presentation, Airoheart isn’t shy about lifting the visible type of A Hyperlink to the Previous wholesale. All the things from the colour palettes to the character spritework to the form of the rocks you may decide as much as toss at enemies might nearly be mistaken for direct asset rips. Issues get a little extra artistic right here or there, however we might’ve favored to have seen larger effort to distinguish Airoheart and provides it extra of its personal id. Nothing appears unhealthy, however typically that lack of originality offers you the sense you are taking part in a ROM hack.
The music, in the meantime, is much much less memorable, consisting of a sequence of generic and repetitive 16-bit chiptunes which might be simply form of there. On the very least, this soundtrack doesn’t get in the best way of 1’s enjoyment of the gameplay, however it seems like there was a missed alternative right here to combine audio that would elevate and assist form the general expertise to a larger diploma.
Airoheart is a satisfactory sport, however hardly one we might advocate you rush out to purchase until you merely can’t get sufficient of the 2D Zelda method. It follows A Hyperlink to the Previous’s template so carefully that it might by no means be classed as ‘unhealthy’, however in a crowded market of homages, tributes, and variations on the theme, it does little or no to face out. We’d recommend you decide this up solely after you’ve performed by means of A Hyperlink to the Previous, the Hyperlink’s Awakening remake, and each the Blossom Tales video games, and also you nonetheless don’t really feel you’ve gotten sufficient of that particular model of top-down gameplay. Airoheart supplies an enough journey, and for $40 on the time of writing, we merely anticipate extra.