PC Gaming Reviews

Frontier Hunter Review - Cute Girls; Enjoyable Gameplay

Author Rating

Frontier Hunter: Erza’s Wheel Of Fortune

Developer: IceSitruuna
Publisher: IceSitruuna
Release Date: December 15, 2022
Available as: Digital

Frontier Hunter: Erza’s Wheel Of Fortune enters Early Access as a follow-up to IceSitruuna’s Tower Hunter: Erza’s Trial. Released in 2019, Tower Hunter was a ‘roguelite’ Metroidvania centered around Erza’s ascent towards a tower. The game expected the player to lose, as each death cycle retained some of Erza’s skills earned during each run. While I have not played Frontier Hunter’s predecessor, I am aware of IceSitruuna’s dedication to making Frontier Hunter a more complete game over Tower Hunter. With that in mind, I’ll be treating Frontier Hunter: Erza’s Wheel Of Fortune as its own separate entity. As always, thank you to the developer for allowing me to cover this game.

The game starts off with our protagonist, Erza, live-streaming her voyage on a ship. When I say “live-streaming,” I mean broadcasting herself out to her fans, complete with a NicoNicoDouga-style chatroom. One look at the flying text across the screen will educate players about the kind of game this is. Most profess their love for Erza, some are genuinely interested in the broadcast, and others are into specific requests from her. For lack of a better term, Frontier Hunter is filled with “ecchi” scenes that the player will come across throughout the game.

I'm sure you do, Ciara.

As someone who had given glowing reviews to similar content games including Kandagawa Jet Girls, I think fanservice games are awesome. What better way to convince the player that the characters the developer created and/or designed are good enough to show off than with copious amounts of it? Most of the time, it’s what helps break the mundane. Frontier Hunter has several scenes like this where it’s light-hearted and “cringe,” but inoffensive enough to not deter from the core gameplay.

One example is early on with a ship breach. Seemingly out of nowhere, a girl appears in an attempt to tackle Erza. This is an example of a QTE where failing gives a better “reward” to the player due to the fanservice. Would I have not minded if this scene wasn’t in the game? I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have cared. But to me, scenes like these help give characters like Erza and Ciara personalities outside of “two different characters with different fighting styles.”

The first time around, you'll fail this prompt from how sudden it happens.

One thing to note is the various voice actors that worked on this project. I was surprised to find a specific name tied to voicing the main character. Erza's voice actor is Shizuka Ito, best known for her roles as female Byleth in Fire Emblem Three Houses and Yotsuyu goe Brutus in Final Fantasy 14 Stormblood. While I'm unsure who voiced the other characters, all three are unique to each other in various ways.

Each character can utilize unique weapons, Erza defaulting to spears, katanas, rapiers, and other similar blades. Once unlocked, Ciara uses boots to kick with as well as a large firearm as her heavy attacks. These are separated into burst weapons for large direct projectiles and Gatling guns for sustained fire. Frontier Hunter’s gameplay is a hack and slash, as pressing the attack button initiates a combo. Each weapon has a special move that has a designated input, but accessing these moves are earned through finding books in the wild.


These books are usually hidden in chests, secret rooms, and seemingly “out-of-bounds” areas. Exploration is key in any Metroidvania title and it’s even more important here as these rewards increase your efficiency in combat. Every character has their strengths and weakness. Sometimes, using Ciara is better than Erza due to her cannon, but Erza has a wider arc with her sword strikes. There is also a third character who has two different spellings, Nia and Niel. For the sake of how they are introduced in Frontier Hunter, I'll stick with Niel.

My first impression of this character, with their hood and mask, is that they came straight out of Code Vein. Fighting-wise, they use dual blades and their fists, but by the time you unlike Niel, you would have found enough skill scrolls between Erza and Ciara to cover their bases. Erza has a skill where she parries an attack with her sword and the counterattack covers almost the entire screen. Niel has the same skill but it's only useful at close range.

They have their niche however as a third health bar which was good enough to survive the later bosses that hit hard. Niel is best at utility in ensuring you have an extra person on standby should you run out of Angel Tears to revive your heavy hitters. Of course, there is an obvious reason behind the Niel/Nia confusion and the achievements for this game kinda spoil it by identifying them as one of the said names. While I won't mention the reason for spoilers, I gotta say I liked their design when you first meet them overall.

Players will go through various environments starting from the ship and into the forest of an unknown planet. I can even appreciate the scenes that break the monotony of “Metroidvania” games with one scene having the player shoot asteroids with a ship gunner. The gameplay is decent, the music is good, and the physics aren’t as fluid and smooth.

This isn’t a negative for me as it is easy to take advantage of the game’s engine for simple tech. Climbing up ladders can be done in seconds by canceling jump animations and dash canceling can increase speed than merely walking. It’s the type of technique that speedrunners would implement, making the game's pace go faster than usual.

One major core element unique to Frontier Hunter are Magic Cores. Upon defeating enemies, they will sometimes drop cores which are the essences of the defeated foes. Each core grants stats and unique buffs as they are slotted into weapons, with each shape unique to a specific grid. It's similar to the Atelier series in that each "essence" fits into a specific piece. This can turn rather basic weapons into a customizable powerhouse that's tailor suited for a player's specific need.

There is one elephant in the room I must mention that I understand was 100% my fault. I must mention it so that others won’t go through the same trap as I did. As with almost all games of this genre, there are “restrooms” where you can restore your health to full. It is also the room where you can craft food and give momentary buffs. In literally every single Metroidvania-style game I’ve played, touching a rest point automatically saves your game. Not so in Frontier Hunter — It merely gives you the option to save your game.

With muscle memory taking over, I played innocuous for about two hours, using the rest point each time assuming that my game was being saved. After dying, I was instantly warped not to the last rest point I used, which is also a staple in “Metroidvania” titles, but I was sent to the last save point which was near the beginning of the forest. Hours of progression were suddenly wiped all because I assumed the rest spots were autosave instead of giving me a prompt.

As this game is in early access, I can recommend to the developer of getting rid of save prompts and instead make rest spots an auto-save mechanic. This was the first game of such a type to take this approach and it was frustrating to replay everything. If I wasn’t attracted to this game’s charm, I wouldn’t have bothered and I’d end this review right here. As mentioned before, Frontier Hunter has a lot of personality and I was curious to see more of Erza, Ciara, Erza’s sentient hairpin Diablo, and others. So, I sucked it up and continued.

UPDATE: It seems that at some point during last playing this game before its release and after its release in Early Access, it's now possible for the game to auto-save as entering a rest spot is greeted with a "Saved!" confirmation. This update alone means that the developer is at least learning from a design flaw that was working against them. Kudos.

As of right now I am still playing this game and making up for lost time, but as of current opinions, Frontier Hunter: Erza’s Wheel Of Fortune is a solid experience that is actively being worked on. As the kinks get ironed out, much like the autosave functionality, the game will blossom into a grand experience. Stay tuned for updates on this ongoing review! Alright, the show goes on! One thing that I will mention about the game is the pacing is wild and sporadic.

One example of this includes the girls fighting a giant Salamander as a boss in the forest. There's a cutscene that plays with Erza and Ciara observing the Salamander. Suddenly the fight begins and the Salamander is tackling you to the ground. You can't keep your eyes away from the screen even during cutscenes because enemy jumpscares will happen. There's no transition between cutscene and gameplay, everything is nearly instant.

Another thing is that abilities are slowly made available to you. You won't know you have access to said abilities, of course, unless you get a prompt telling you to do so. While a minor example, things like changing your outfit or adding a monster core aren't shown to you unless you take time to look at the prompt telling you to do so. Using the same boss as an example, you're deep in the fighting pit and the platforms are way too high for a normal jump. Up until this point, you may have been teased that double jumping exists yet it's not telling you when you'd unlock it.

Usually, in Metroid or similar games, it will tell you "You unlocked the ability to roll! To double jump!" Frontier Hunter assumes you'd know that killing the boss now unlocks a double jump. It'll tell you a hint that states "Don't forget to double jump and reach higher places!" Thanks, game, for letting me know I unlocked the one thing I never knew to be on the lookout for.

I'm aware this is majorly me "nitpicking," but giving player information like this is inconsistent. I knew about a door handle and artifacts to open doors before I would know abilities unlocked outside of learning combat skills. An example shown later in the game after I defeated a boss is this movement skill cutscene, letting me know that I unlocked a cool wall climb ability. Whether this was added after EA release or not, this is an example of properly letting a player know "Hey you unlocked that cool ability!"

As I mentioned before, there are out-of-reach locations and pathways gated by locked doors that entice the player to return, as with most games of its type. Going out of your way to return to a previously inaccessible location is key to finding rare items that would give the player an advantage. Movement as expressed earlier never felt like a chore to return to familiar territory. It was at this point that, despite some complaints, Frontier Hunter resonated with me. It was a "Metroidvania" that wasn't perfect but delivered on the notes that make it a worthwhile experience.

At first, I thought I was giving Frontier Hunter a hard time but sure enough, the pacing starts getting weird as moments after we arrive back at camp, the ship is attacked by monsters. The game decides to switch genres again, rather than shooting asteroids we're now playing Plants VS Zombies. Tower defense action! Except it's the most convoluted TD gameplay I've ever experienced. You can switch between Erza, who is on a turret, and Ciara, who is fighting monsters on the ground.

The issue is you can't control both, so the CPU Ciara will run into things with her face. You can't let this happen obviously as if she dies it's Game Over. But if too many enemies get through, you also lose, so it's this weird back-and-forth dance. I'll give the developer props for being unique but I wish the game remained as "Metroidvania" than being experimental.

By the time I reached the Rock Forest, the challenge began to ramp up and it felt more like a "Metroidvania" I'm used to. It even includes the "shortcut to the main hub to make progression easier" room which I was very grateful of. It's hard for me to recommend Frontier Hunter: Erza's Wheel Of Fortune if it was priced at say $30.

As a follow-up, I did spend the weekend finishing as much of Frontier Hunter: Erza's Wheel Of Fortune as I can. I'm aware of the game being Early Access, and as such, the game is incomplete at the moment. The way it ends is just, like, BAM! a door shut in your face. You're told straight up that you can't go further in Early Access so that's that. I would say now would be a time to go back and discover all the places you couldn't without double jumping, wall climbing, and swimming (there is a swimming ability, yes). The problem is, I've already done so.

So, is the game the most frustrating thing in the world? Of course not. Like most Metroid-style games, there's a moment when the game stops being difficult and instead the tables turn to you owning everything out there. The final map shows promise in enemies ramping up in resistance but just because they hit harder, they still tend to fall quickly. By the time I was finished I had 98% map completion (I don't know how to get the upper section of the base camp) so that would also explain my power spike.

The current discounted price of $17.99 seems like a fair price as it's not a terrible game. For every positive I have to say, there's a negative that soon follows. Almost 50/50. The pros outweigh the cons for a cheap indie fanservice-y Metroidvania and I recommend it for that reason. Underneath is a solid core that will take a few hours of your time to complete surprisingly, making this a fair Holiday gift for yourself. For what it's worth, I had my enjoyment and if a "3 out of 5," or a "7/10" is what I can give for first impressions on an Early Access build, I see good things for Frontier Hunter: Erza's Wheel Of Fortune.


Frontier Hunter: Erza’s Wheel Of Fortune is now available via Early Access on Steam.

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