There have been a ton of quirky games I've played today and I wanted to begin with the least offensive one of the bunch. On the surface, Airoheart has a lot going for it. The game caters to a niche audience craving the times of the older Legend of Zelda games, but similar to A Link To The Past more so than the original. The best way to convey that nostalgia is of course through pixel graphics and with a developer name like Pixel Heart Studio, you'd be expected to deliver on it.
That said, the art style is beautiful at least in handheld mode. It's not the fault of Airoheart but it suffers the "pixel graphics look weird on giant LCD TVs" curse. Well, it's not so much a curse as things meant to be viewed as small look weird when enlarged. I'm most surprised that there aren't any CRT filters or scanline options in the main menu. There are sound and music options as well as Language options. That's about it on the settings, but does it hinder the game itself?
One thing that I praised Tunic for was its unique take on the "Zelda clone experience," featuring the main character who would fit the description of our green-tunic hero Link. What sets it apart is its modernization from other genres of games, including 3D platforming despite its isometric angle. Airoheart sticks to the classics, opting to keep things as close to the original 16-bit era titles as possible.
Our hero, Airoheart, joins in the war between two opposing sides who will decide the fate of the land. What he's actually looking for is his brother, a power-crazed man on a mission to look for a powerful stone. The game is told through narration as the stone "speaks" to us, telling us of our mission. I felt that the plot fell a bit short as there were too many things thrown at once. Not long as we go on our fetch quest for dinner, we are enlisted in the army.
Without very little protest from our "grandpapa" (he seemed a bit too eager to let me go), we run into our childhood friend. Does she also double as a love interest? Regardless no sooner do we have an old sword given to us, we are told to follow the group and explore a cave. Of course, the bridge within the cave breaks and we are separated from the group none the worse for wear. We lose a heart, out of three, but it's alright just a scratch.
Airoheart moves with a bit of floatiness as he is pinned to a direction, similar to the older Zelda games. Eventually, when you get a shield, you can strafe while moving with the shield left and right. Your sword isn't the best weapon but it's enough to fight various kinds of enemies. Slimes, cabbage demons, imps, and many other interesting enemies all seem to make their appearance. The caves you traverse are dark, such as they are. This means things like spring traps and hidden enemies are obstacles to be aware of.
Bombs exist in this game and are used to reveal hidden passages to treasure and key items. The camera panning is also really cool, following Airoheart as he climbs ladders, goes up and down staircases, and the overall flow of movement. Dimly lit rooms cast shadows on the environment as Airoheart passes through and makes his way to reunite with his companions. Overall, this is where the game feels at its best, when it's allowing itself to be an immersive action game.
Unfortunately, the story falls a bit flat. In the opening hour, things felt too cliche and I was told to go here without any reason as to why. NPC dialogue gets exhausted too quickly and you're unsure of who anyone is. For a town filled with others, everything feels lifeless. I feel like Airoheart would be a much better experience if it allowed the player to seamlessly become engrossed in the action rather than the cutscenes. It's an okay game but whether it scratches the nostalgia itch is dependent on how hardcore of a Zelda fan you are.
Airoheart is available on the PC, Nintendo Switch, Sony PlayStation 4, and Xbox One