- Steam PC on an AMD Ryzen 9 7950x3D and RTX 3080 with 64gb 5600 DDR5 RAM
- Nintendo Switch
Thank you to ININ Games and PR Hound for the pre-release code.
With the move back to an Arcade style title Yu Suzuki should be in his element with all his history behind him. So…. Is Air Twister a return to arcade style glory or a flash in the pan that fades away just as quickly as my 50p’s used to when playing Out-Run as a kid? Let’s find out!
For those of you unfamiliar with Yu Suzuki’s arcade roots read this article here for a short trip down memory lane!
Air Twister originally released on Apple Arcade in June 2022 as a one-year timed exclusive. However, it was always intended to come to consoles, and it’s now available on all platforms, spanning previous and current generation consoles, as well as PC. Having played the Apple TV version upon its 2022 release, the PC version feels like an instant upgrade, boasting a locked 60FPS performance throughout. One surprising omission, though, is the locked resolution at a maximum of 1080p on PC. While not a major issue, more resolution options would have been preferred.
Air Twister features an overarching story. You assume the role of Princess Arch, dedicated to protecting her world from invading forces. To start proceedings you are shown a short cutscene of the invasion before being thrown into the action, via a short tutorial.
The game’s objective is straightforward: blast your way through each level and confront a boss at the end. As you progress, levels become more challenging, with more foes, faster speeds, increased shots, and tougher bosses. Air Twister stays true to its 1980s arcade roots, which is its primary strength. The control system revolves around swift movement, shooting, and locking on for multiple enemy takedowns. If this aspect were lacking, the entire game would become unsatisfying and frustrating. Fortunately, everything works seamlessly, showcasing Yu Suzuki’s deep understanding of arcade gaming.
With the smooth controls and easy to pick-up but difficult to master gameplay each level, each enemy brought down brings a sense of satisfaction, each bullet dodged a brings a wry smile as you progress towards the end… if you make it that far!
As you play, you begin to work out the patterns of the enemies having to think several steps ahead in terms of their screen position and yours, anticipating where to move to in order to avoid their fire but also to make sure you manage to take them down with yours. At the end of each level you will encounter a boss (with individual cut-scenes too) who you have to fight to progress to the next level. Later bosses have several phases to work through in order to defeat them fully with there being suitable variety in each to ensure they do not feel repetitive.
Pictured: Air Twister in action. Is that Princess Arch flying a Swan?
What Air Twister does really well is ease you into the chaos that will follow. You have a small tutorial to begin with which introduces the basic systems and controls before throwing you into the first level which is dealt with at a leisurely pace. This is very much a false sense of security as in later levels the speeds and amount of enemies on screen increases dramatically, ensuring you will need all of your guile and skill to ensure you survive to make the next level. However, the difficulty in this game scales nicely but doesn’t frustrate, while encouraging you to come back having honed your skills after an untimely death.
Are those flying fish?
After your inevitable demise (you have two continues if you choose), you’ll find yourself in a more extensive menu with various modes and options to explore. The menus function adequately but could benefit from a cleaner design and improved accessibility options. An example being that it isn’t always immediately obvious how to equip new gear or change some settings within the menus themselves. An additional point to note is that on PC the controls mapping was working for the keyboard and mouse set-up but not if you were using a controller. There was no option to remap the controls in game despite having the controller active – though this might be addressed by the time of release.
Pictured: Main Menu
The main menu offers several options. The Adventure Map allows you to spend the stars you collected in your last run to expand your health, purchase better weapons, unlock new levels for Fluffy and Stardust mode, or buy new clothing and hairstyles. Within the Adventure Map there is also the option to unlock lore and story surrounding the Air Twister world. You could argue that there was no real need for this given the type of title but these segments are surprisingly rich in detail with explanations of each area, character and enemy you will encounter.
The Equipment section allows you to view and assign your newly acquired items. The Events section showcases daily, weekly, and timed events that offer stars as rewards, and the Challenge mode offers various mini-games to enjoy.
Pictured: Challenge Menu
Fluffy is side-scroller mode where you collect stars of varying values until you reach the end. You can unlock more of these through the Adventure Map and Events. The initial level you are presented with is tough and probably could have been presented in terms of difficulty scaling more like the main game. However, the mode itself is fun and adds replay value to the title.
Tap breaker is a game where you take down numbered boxes in order as fast as you can. Unfortunately this doesn’t translate as well to use with a controller and can feel a little laborious when playing. Using a touch screen would seem more natural here and you can definitely see the games mobile roots with this mini-game.
Pictured: Tap Breaker
Additionally, you can unlock a Boss Rush Mode, Turbo Mode for added replayability, and bonus stages where you face the clock and tougher enemies. For the bravest players, One Hit Death mode takes you through the entire game, restarting if you get hit. Take that on if you dare!!!
The mainline presentation of this game is very much stylised but feels fresh in nature. In the era of photo-realistic graphics presenting a game like this is very much a break from the norms of gaming today and could leave things open to criticism in some circles. This is unjustified in this reviewers eyes. Games are art and should be presented in a variety of different ways for consumers to enjoy. Sure, some will think the graphic presentation is basic in some aspects but the art style and presentation lend itself to this sort of title and give it a character that some games drastically lack – and that’s without going into the flying elephants you encounter. What Yu Suzuki has done here is identify a particular way he wants this game to look and go all in on it.
The levels are beautifully crafted, the enemies drawing on arcade titles of the past while showing originality.
The sound design in Air Twister is executed flawlessly, with sound effects reminiscent of Space Harrier. These sounds transport players back to the 1980s arcade experience without technological compromises.
But…. one area that could divide the crowd is the soundtrack used. The Dutch Composer Valensia is the mastermind behind the music for the game – with some songs being made specifically for Air Twister. Each track is unique in nature but they all retain the sound and feel of Queen, from the vocals to the instruments throughout. Some of you might be wondering how this even works in a SHMUP type game (I know I was) but the music works masterfully with the game. While not overpowering the action it adds to the tempo of the levels becoming more epic and dramatic as you hit a boss fight or come into a story cutscene. Without this very iconic sound there is a part of me that wonders if Air Twister would feel a little hollow with just a generic arcade soundtrack.
The Nintendo Switch hosts a rather intriguing port of Air Twister, especially considering its prior availability for over a year on touch screen devices through Apple’s “Apple Arcade” service. How does the Switch port stack up?
After extensive gameplay of Air Twister on an iPhone 13 Pro Max and a 15 Pro Max, it became apparent that the graphics and gameplay were absolutely top-notch. I had already conquered the entire Adventure Map, unlocked all the Fluffy stages and Challenges, and amassed a collection of all available outfits, both from the base game and the limited-time events. However, when I delved into Air Twister’s Hand-held mode on the Switch, I noticed a slight dip in graphical quality. This was somewhat surprising, as I had held the belief that the Switch’s hardware outperformed an Apple iPhone. Nevertheless, this may be a common misconception rooted in playing games on a primarily mobile device compared to a dedicated gaming console. Additionally, the Switch’s screen size is substantially larger than that of an iPhone, potentially amplifying any graphical imperfections. What seems to be occurring on the Switch is Dynamic Resolution Scaling, where elements like Princess Arch, enemies, and the environment seem to transition between different texture resolutions based on the game’s intensity or the player’s distance. This occasionally results in a somewhat muddled appearance. While we lack the tools to confirm this from a technical perspective, it is a visual impression.
Air Twister on Nintendo Switch Hand-held
In the screenshot above, it’s evident that Princess Arch’s clothing texture appears rather low-res during gameplay but increases during cutscenes. Enemies may also exhibit rough, jagged edges. However, as expected, this situation changes when playing Air Twister in docked mode, where the visuals return to the expected level of quality, more in line with my experience on the iPhone. In terms of overall frames per second (FPS), the game maintains a smooth performance both in Hand-held and docked modes. It appears that the graphical alterations between the two modes are necessary to sustain a consistent frame rate when playing in Hand-held mode.
Returning to Hand-held mode, the real brilliance of Air Twister lies in its gameplay. While the game is entirely playable with a controller, the Switch offers a unique experience. Players can control Princess Arch using the left thumbstick while still utilizing the touch screen for targeting and firing, creating a seamless experience. Dodging enemy bullets and attacks while unleashing a barrage of missiles with a swift swipe of a finger across a group of foes feels incredibly fluid. With a controller, Princess Arch must physically move over an enemy to target them, whereas the combination of strokes and taps streamlines the process here.
Touch screen perfection!
For the controls alone, Air Twister truly finds its home on the Nintendo Switch and is my preferred way to experience the game. While the graphical compromise is regrettable, it seems to be a necessary trade-off to sustain the fluid gameplay required for full enjoyment of this fast-paced arcade shooter!
Replayability and Final Thoughts
As with any Arcade (or inspired) title the main concern comes around the replay value. Some gamers are very much locked into a $/£ per hour mindset where longer games = better value. Therefore, arcade type titles like Air Twister are not going to resonate with them but for a certain portion of the gaming community this will be like a trip down memory lane. The feeling of beating your last score, the euphoria of getting one level further, that satisfaction as you nail that boss that has taken you hours to defeat – this is what Air Twister is. A feeling that cannot be replicated in the gaming status quo of today. A memory that will last a lifetime. The anticipation of those watching as you finally defeat that final boss. Sure Air Twister has added mini-games, adventure maps and more to keep you coming back but the main selling point of any arcade title is the gameplay loop that encourages ‘just one more go’. Air Twister excels here and is the single best reason to play this game, be it a quick go before heading out or a ‘quick session’ that turns into 3 hours.
8/10: Air Twister delivers a perfect arcade experience with additional features. While there are minor issues with menu presentation and configuration, they do not detract from the overall experience. This fantastic game takes us back to Yu Suzuki’s roots with a lovingly crafted tribute to the past. Will this lead to Shenmue 4? Who knows, but regardless of that – play this game and enjoy Yu Suzuki making games again!
PC SYSTEM REQUIREMENTS
Requires a 64-bit processor and operating system
OS: Windows 7, 8.1, 10 x64
Processor: AMD FX-4350 / Intel® Core™ i3-3210
Memory: 4 GB RAM
Graphics: AMD Radeon™ R7 260X (2GB VRAM) / NVIDIA® GeForce® GTX 750(2GB VRAM)
Storage: 3 GB available space
Requires a 64-bit processor and operating system
OS: Windows 7, 8.1, 10 x64
Processor: AMD Ryzen 5 3400G / Intel® Core™ i5-8400
Memory: 8 GB RAM
Graphics: AMD Radeon™ RX 590 (8GB VRAM) / NVIDIA® GeForce® GTX 1060(6GB VRAM) Storage: 3 GB available space