One of the more common trends for indie games is to take inspiration from a well-known classic. With all of the innovations that happen between the release of a classic game and the present, there are limitless ways to put a new spin on an old game. Airoheart aims to put a fresh new action RPG spin on the SNES classic: The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past.
The Role You Play
You play as the titular Airoheart. One of the first items you get in the game is a sword that you can use to combat enemies. From there on you can discover a bunch of other items and weapons that help you fight enemies and explore the world. Airoheart can find a staff that can be equipped with different runes. These can provide different effects ranging from shooting fire to healing to protection. He can also find shields, armor, healing potions and many other items to help navigate the world.
For the longest time, there has been a treaty between the Elmer and the Breton. Now, there is a threat of invasion by the Breton into neutral territory and the possibility of war. What’s worse is that this surge of war is being led by Airoheart’s brother, Xanatos. Xanatos is also planning on gathering the remnants of the Draioth stone. He plans to release the ancient demon Carthicus and use his power to destroy the Elmer. It is up to Airoheart and his companions to gather the fragments of the stone first and find a way to destroy them.
The gameplay is a steady mix of action combat and dungeon exploration. The world is littered with enemies that will impede your ability to progress from one point to another. The entire game is filled with a huge variety of enemies and that keeps the combat varied and spontaneous.
There are also several dungeons that you have to progress through during the course of the game. There are many puzzles in each room of the dungeons along with enemies and traps. The constant variation and new elements introduced keep the game fresh and challenging.
The many dungeons in Airoheart are vast and expansive. it takes a long time to progress through them and they can also be a bit difficult to figure out. With a total of 9 dungeons, there is a lot of time spent exploring the dungeons throughout the game.
There is also plenty of time spent exploring the rest of the open world. Throughout the world, there are caves and temples which allow you to find health power-ups, upgrades for your magic meter, new spells, and new pieces of armor just as a few examples. With such a deep world with so many different places to explore, it takes about 15-20 hours to finish.
The music is pretty typical for what you would expect for a 16-bit fantasy-action RPG. It has medieval-style instrumentation with a level of synthetic compression comparable to the SNES games it’s paying homage to. It’s plenty whimsical when you’re out and about exploring the open world, it has a nice calm tone when you reach the towns, and it is dark and tense when you are exploring the dungeons.
The most obvious thing that stands out about Airoheart is that it clearly takes inspiration from The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. What’s weird about this is that whenever you think you know what to expect, you easily get proven wrong. One example is there are a lot more traps in this game. When you step on certain tiles in dungeons, arrows will fly out of the wall very quickly. If you’re not ready for it, and you likely won’t be, you can get hit and killed very quickly. This is also true of enemy projectiles. They shoot fast and accurately so being on your guard is essential. There are tons of other little examples scattered throughout the game which make the whole game feel sort of like a sequel but just enough like its own thing.
The Talking Parts
The dialog in Airoheart is weird, to say the least. Interactions with NPCs can be a bit confusing at first. For most characters, you have to talk with them multiple times in order to fully complete your dialog exchanges. This means that it can be easy to miss crucial information or quests unless you remember to talk to the same character 4 or 5 times.
Aside from that, the regular dialog in the cutscenes during the main story is sloppy. There are a lot of noticeable punctuation errors. On top of that, most of the characters are flat and expressionless. There is little in terms of body language or facial expression that helps with delivering the dialog.
Z…We’ve Reached the End. Anything Else?
One thing that just perpetually bugs me is that there are a lot of terrible design choices in the dungeons. A few of the dungeons are unreasonably dark for no reason (and no, there is no adjustable brightness setting) so it makes it very hard to see anything. A lot of the keys in the dungeons are hidden under pots instead of in chests. Not only does this make them hard to find, but the same dungeons have money in the treasure chests which makes them frustrating to open.
However, the worst offense by far is that there are no maps of the dungeons. This means there is no way to see where you’re going or where you’ve been or haven’t been. It makes it far too easy to get lost, travel in circles and redo things you’ve already done for no reason.
Airoheart is a good answer to the question: “What if Link to the Past was longer and more difficult?” Not every added challenge makes the game better, but it can potentially make completing the challenges more rewarding. If you are looking for a more difficult spiritual successor to The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, Airoheart is a good choice. Probably not the best one, but a good one.