Yu Suzuki is the name that practically launched this website, with games like Hang On, Virtua Fighter, Shenmue, and Space Harrier, these are games that shaped us and drew the writers of this site together. Now Yu Suzuki is back with a spiritual successor to Space Harrier and we would be daft not to have a look, join us in the Fantasy Zone.
Air Twister sees the main character Princess Arch as she has to defend the world of AIR against an evil force. There is quite a bit more lore available to unlock throughout the game painting quite a narrative but during actual gameplay, the story is kept to the bare minimum which is traditionally how things are done in Shmup/Rail Shooters. Bonus points for having quite extensive lore available to players presented in a way that it’s there for those that choose to find it over it being force-fed or essential.
Visually Air Twister has quite a varied art direction, spanning from the traditional alien worlds as seen in Space Harrier to high fantasy lands like Panzer Dragoon and even some Alice in Wonderland-inspired areas. Giant swans, flying elephants, and futuristic cityscapes are just a few of the things you’ll fly by in your quest to stop evil and free AIR.
Sadly not all that glitters is gold with Air Twister and that is in relation to the actual graphics, whereas the game has a fantastic art direction it has the graphics of an early 2000s CGI game, like the ones seen in films and shows to represent a video game or used in those cheap VR arcade experiences that litter British seaside resorts. It has a stiff almost plastic look to it, especially in the main character models, and for every good enemy design you have stuff like an actual shape being an enemy, it’s a bizarre mix of actually original and looking cheap and phoned in at points, almost like it’s at odds with itself.
The music is performed by Dutch Composer Valencia and has a heavy lean on Rock Opera, it gave me shades of Darius with how out there the music was, and couldn’t help but be entertained by it, personally I’m all in for quirky OSTs in the genre and this is equal parts quirky and well composed, bravo.
Performance was fine both docked and undocked on the Nintendo Switch with it running at 30fps and no noticeable frame drops.
The gameplay in Air Twister is that of a traditional on-the-rails shooter, think Panzer Dragoon or Starfox only with fewer movement options on the latter, you fly through the stages fighting popcorn enemies until the boss fight where you’re joined by a mount that doesn’t add anything, wash, rinse and repeat until the credits roll.
The game has a major focus on lock-on attacks which are done simply by flying in the path of enemies and firing, there is no screen-clearing bomb and while you can shoot without the lock-on, it’s not the most reliable due to the perspective, the danger of genre I guess!
It doesn’t do anything to further the genre and as a creation by the same guy who made Space Harrier expectations were high. Sadly the game feels cumbersome and slow, compared to the high-octane exploits in the fantasy zone this game lacks any exciting set pieces or the sheer speed of anything faster than a Children’s amusement ride.
Air Twister has a load of extra content, a map where you can use stars you have earned in the game to unlock lore and cosmetics as well as in-game items to help you see the credits of the game’s story mode. There is an Arcade Mode, Score Attack, Boss Rush, Fluffy Mode which takes inspiration from Flappy Bird, and even more ways to play the game, it’s just a shame the core game didn’t click in the way I needed it to keep me invested.
If the game clicks with you, between the many modes and daily tasks ala Live Service you’ll have a damn good time with Air Twister, sadly it just didn’t land the way I needed it to and despite having a lot of content and character it just didn’t quite make the high score leaderboard.