Review: Alwa’s Legacy (Switch)

This latest installment in the Alwa’s series is a Metroidvania for the ages.

By Robert Marrujo. Posted 11/05/2020 17:04 Comment on this     ShareThis
The Final Grade
Editor's Choice
grade/score info
1-Up Mushroom for...
Presentation is astounding, boasting some of the best pixel art and sound design on the console; story is designed to utilize familiar tropes in order to firmly tie the game to classic titles of the past; dungeons are clever and fun to explore; ditto for the overworld
Poison Mushroom for...
Some might bemoan the game's length

Developer Elden Pixels first introduced Switch players to the world of Alwa back in 2018. Alwa’s Awakening was an 8-bit Metroidvania title that utilized tight jumps, death spikes, and environmental puzzles to great success. While Alwa’s Awakening did a solid job of replicating the look and feel of an NES game, Alwa’s Legacy ups the ante in virtually every way and is a much stronger game for it. With sensational visual design, improved mechanics and controls, and a delightful soundtrack, Alwa’s Legacy is a brilliant addition to Switch’s library.

Alwa’s Legacy starts off its story with one of the most cliché of video game tropes: an amnesiac hero. That might sound like a bad thing at first, but in reality it’s Elden Pixels firmly planting its flag into the history of the medium. Zoe, our memoryless protagonist, has just awoken after a conflict with Awakening’s villain, Vicar. Speaking to the elderly Saga, Zoe is directed to recover the three missing Gemstones with the help of the Book of Terra Incognita. Again, fairly rote stuff, but Alwa’s Legacy is intentionally playing with these familiar trappings. This is a game meant to evoke the classics of the past.

Not that standing on the shoulders of giants is the easiest thing to do, but Elden Pixels manages to do so with relative ease. The narrative might be on the slight side, but that hasn’t stopped Elden Pixels from stuffing the overworld with a range of interesting characters to interact with. These personalities crop up throughout the player’s time in Alwa, and although they’re never really meaningfully injected into the proceedings, they’re memorable and fun regardless. All of these different members of the cast help to make Alwa feel fleshed out and lived in.

Further helping establish Alwa as a place is the amazing art direction. Awakening did its best to mimic the visuals of the 8-bit era, but Alwa’s Legacy takes things to a factor of ten. This is some genuinely gorgeous pixel art to soak in. There are details galore, blooming sunsets, excellent character animations—it’s a virtually endless menagerie of sights to gawk at. The sound design is especially brilliant. The music was produced by veteran Atlanta, Georgia composer RushJet1, who has produced an excellent soundtrack. The tunes are catchy and memorable, and would be right at home on any of the classic consoles of the 1990s. Equally as impressive are the sound effects. Creaks and cracks are all incredibly rich and visceral. It’s not every day that the noises in a game stand out, but Elden Pixels has done a wonderful job absorbing the player into Alwa via their ears as much as their eyes.

As a Metroidvania, Alwa’s Legacy isn’t the largest map that players will ever explore, but that shouldn’t stop anyone from wanting to traverse every inch of it. Alwa’s Legacy boasts a more serviceable map than Awakening, which makes it much easier to get around. What’s more, the game is never heavy handed in how it guides the player from objective to objective. Elden Pixels wants the player to stray from the beaten path and poke around the beautiful world it has created. Actually maneuvering round the map requires a mix of puzzle solving and combat. Zoe has a strong suite of skills and attacks to utilize, which provides for some truly creative fights and traps to take on. The game slowly unlocks new abilities and upgrades to old ones, so Zoe progressively becomes more powerful as the game goes on.

The dungeons in Alwa’s Legacy are where the real meat of the game’s challenge lies. The mix of environmental puzzles and enemy combat is at its most robust here. Some of the boss encounters are wildly innovative, tasking players to combine abilities in order to survive. Even more pleasing is that Zoe’s powers are an ever-present part of Alwa’s Legacy. They’re organically integrated and ever-evolving, which in turn mirrors Zoe’s own growth. These dungeons aren’t quite at the level of, say, The Legend of Zelda, but they’re pretty dang close.

Short but sweet, Alwa’s Legacy is a must for both retro fans and fans of quality, exciting Metroidvanias. The visuals tout some of the best pixel art on Switch and are joined with a killer soundtrack and sound design. With clever dungeons to explore and an intricate overworld to travel, Alwa’s Legacy will have players ensnared from the beginning to end. Having played Alwa’s Awakening adds some extra nuance to the adventure, but starting fresh with Alwa’s Legacy won’t leave players in a lurch, as it does plenty to solidify this as its own distinct game. Don’t sleep on this one; Elden Pixels has created a 2D platformer for the ages.

Nintendojo was provided a copy of this game for review by a third party, though that does not affect our recommendation. For every review, Nintendojo uses a standard criteria.

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