We revealed a little about Air Twister last month and while we mentioned a few games developed by the infamous Yu Suzuki, one we intentionally left out was Space Harrier, a retro classic that’s well remembered even by people who weren’t alive when it was released in 1985, but during this review you’ll hear the Sega classic mentioned a lot and with good reason, because Air Twister is the Space Harrier successor we’ve always dreamed of.
Over the last 30 years, Arcade games have been on a steady decline, games are no longer designed for quick, brutal sessions with a sole purpose to put another coin in the slot to pay and play more, gamers generally want hours of gameplay for the pound/dollars they used to throw into an arcade machine in 20 minutes, and many arcade games have moved away from short and sharp gameplay switching to entirely different genre’s, meaning many retro classics have been left in the dust.
Air Twister spins away from this trend, and rather than trying to evolve an arcade experience, it’s built on it, levels are quick with boss battles sometimes taking as long as the main stage, giving you a pure arcade experience through gameplay, but even though you could technically complete the main story in half an hour or so, there’s a slight roguelike mix, with plenty of extras to keep you coming back for hours and hours beyond a single playthrough.
Air Twister hands you control of our female protagonist, Princess Arch, who, like her Space Harrier counterpart has the ability to float through the air, while handling a giant weapon to shoot at any incoming enemies. If you’ve ever played or even seen Space Harrier you’ll know exactly what to expect. You’ll take a pre-destined route through the map with swarms of enemies appearing, who, if left a few seconds, will start to fire towards you, you have the freedom of a 2D plane, allowing you to move up and down and across the screen to help avoid the incoming projectiles, while firing back to take down the enemies.
Most projectiles will take a second to reach you, so keeping moving constantly will help avoid more incoming fire, but failure to take down the enemies quickly means more bullets to dodge and things can get pretty hairy, especially when some groups of enemies can easily fill the screen with firepower.
Thankfully you’ve got a pretty trusty bow that fires strings of light, that allows fairly quick fire on the tap, but if you float over an enemy’s path, you can lock on to about half a dozen targets and take them all down with a single shot.
Your first playthrough is likely to end prematurely, I reached world 8 of the total 12, but next time round things will be a little easier. Those enemy waves are split up into formations, for every formation you complete you’ll get bonus points, as will surviving a level without damage and the overall time, combined with stars awarded periodically. You’ll then be able to head to the adventure world from the main menu. Here you’ll find a large world map split into sections, selecting each spot will reward you with a slight boost for future playthroughs, yellow stars are your health, then there’s news weapons, the ability to slow down time for a few seconds, various shields to protect against enemy fire, boss fire and collisions as well as extra lock-on slots, so you’ll soon be able to lock onto a dozen or more enemies at once.
The action is seamless, fluent and feels great to play, while remaining both challenging and fair, at least until you’ve unlocked some more health and weapons when things do get considerably easier in the main mode.
The additional weapons are welcome options, ultimately more powerful than the base bow, but some will have a slight delay or timed bursts to master, but after a few full play throughs, you’ll find completing the main game pretty straightforward, but there’s still plenty to do after these first 3-4 hours of gameplay.
As you’ll see from the screenshots, Princess Arch has a wide range of customisation options, most unlocked through the adventure world, with a few behind events (quests) and one of the extra modes which we’ll touch on later.
There are various outfits, each with a wide range of predefined colour options, new face options, such as markings, make-up and a few masks, hair styles and a few hats, again with various colour options, noneof these effect the overall gameplay or how many enemies you’ll vanquish, but at least they make you look better while doing so.
The other additions are new game modes, maintaining the same arcade approach, these are all short blasts, but each offer a slight variation and a little extra gameplay to an already packed arcade experience, we covered each of the modes here, and while I’ve spent a good few hours checking out each one, none offered the same bang as the main game, as the powerups and even cosmetics you unlock are all ignored as you’re forced into default settings for most of the extra modes.
Moving on, to the graphical performance of Air Twister, and I don’t usually expect much from what is essentially the roots of a 30-year-old arcade game, but Air Twister impresses with a constant 60fps, no noticeable framerate drops and some pretty well-done visuals throughout, sure the water effects, grass and rock textures could have been better, but for the split-second you’ll have to take in a scene, everything looks fine in this fantastical world.
The most important thing is clarity, when moving around the screen constantly you need to still be able to see what you’re doing and after a dozen hours of gameplay, I can’t remember a single occasion when I didn’t see an enemy, sure I’d get hit by a stray bullet I hadn’t noticed, but this was more down to taking a little too long and dealing with a little too many shots, to be able to track each one perfectly,
Overall, the graphical performance is very good, if not great, if we walked into an amusement arcade today and saw Air Twister, we definitely wouldn’t be complaining.
The high-class presentation continues with the audio, which is a double-edged sword, the soundtrack is from Dutch singer Valensia, who’s known for over 3 decades of bringing the rock and opera heritage of the fantastic Queen. The second I heard the first song I thought it was Queen for a second, and while it soon becomes evident it’s not, it’s almost up to those standards.
The downside is, the rock-opera theme of the music, just didn’t feel like the best fit for a pretty all-out action on-rails shooter,
Sure, the music is very high quality, and while it does match the 80’s roots of the genre, it felt more like music I’d hear my parents playing in the background, rather than a thumping beat that immersed me further into the gameplay.
Finally, it’s time to look at value, an area that’s often debated with arcade games. As mentioned earlier, it’s likely to take 3-4 hours before your first completion, but Air Twister offers enough to extend the enjoyment considerably, sure it feels a little repetitive, but I’d been playing for well over 10 hours before I started to tire, and that’s in a single day.
Long term, I can see myself returning to handle Princess Arch time and time again for a quick blast of arcade nostalgia, but it’s probably around the 12-hour mark when you’ll run out of additional things to do, launching at $24.99 (About £22) it’s a fair price, to be honest if it’d been below the £20 mark, I’d be saying it’s a must-buy, so $24.99 feels fair, and if anyone doesn’t pick it up at launch, it’s definitely something you need to consider as soon as you see it on sale. Beyond that first 12 hours, the entire world map, all cosmetic and a good portion of the achievements will all be done, with only some ludicrous achievements such as play 50 and 100 hours and playing 10 times at certain times of the day (3-6am anyone). this makes it less desirable for achievement hunters, but anyone looking for a modern-day Space Harrier will not be disappointed with this fantastic arcade hit.
anyone looking for a modern-day Space Harrier will not be disappointed with this fantastic arcade hit.