First Impression: Arietta of Spirits (Switch) ~ Being Bound

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Family traditions are such a big part of families. One of the biggest family traditions in my family is that at least one person goes to the seaside each and every year. It’s a tradition I don’t want to see end since it brings back so many memories, and it’s also where my love for collecting games started. The amount of garage sales and flea markets I did at the seaside, I can’t count on two hands. Anyway, today I want to talk about a game that means a lot to me currently and also talks about family traditions. And that’s Arietta of Spirits. A little indie game by Third Spirit Games and Red Art Games. It caught my attention since it looked like an interesting Zelda-ish clone, and it reminded me of games like Blossom Tales. But is this game as good as that one? Let’s find out together, shall we? But before we start, feel free to leave a comment in the comment section down below with your thoughts and/or opinions on the game and/or the content of this article.

Being bound

In this game, you take on the role of Arietta. After the passing of her grandmother, here family takes a trip to her house on the island. Now, it doesn’t take a long time before Arietta discovers that she has a special ability when she meets a mysterious friend. She can see and talk to the spirits on the island. And not only that, she can help them move on.

Currently, I’m midway in the story and while this game has a good setting, writing and atmosphere, I feel that’s something is missing. The story is currently a bit “loose”. There is not really an overarching reason to move the story forward. If you asked me to explain what happens in the story of this game, I can talk about the characters you meet and their stories but the reason why you meet these characters and what Arietta’s end goal is… I can’t tell. Of course, there is a line in the story that “explains” it, but it’s so generic…

Now, this doesn’t mean that this game has a weak story. Far from it. The character development and writing in this game is pretty nice. But, there is a lot of wasted potential because this game is rather short. There is so much more that can be done with the story and idea, but the game is over when it really gets started.

There is no real voice acting in this game apart from some grunts by our main character. So, if you don’t like that, this isn’t the game for you. Yet, the dialogues are somewhat fast-paced and flow pretty nicely. One of the taglines of this game is that this game doesn’t have a lot of filler moments and this is quite true. This game has some side quests but barely any filler at all. Yet, I felt that some moments might have left a bigger impact if the story didn’t go on such a break neck speed.

Entry level Zelda game

If you have played games like Blossom Tales or any 2D Zelda game, you’ll feel right at home. This game is your typical 2D Zelda game where you go from dungeon to dungeon and defeat bosses. Well, they aren’t really dungeons, it is more themed area’s, but explaining that would spoil parts of the story. But, there are some unique mechanics in this game.

For example, there are two types of enemies. The first type are your normal overworld enemies. And sadly, they are your “generic” bee/bats. But, they have interesting movement patterns and learning and avoiding them is quite fun. Apart from maybe dropping a health pick-up, these enemies aren’t anything to write home about.

The other type of enemies are the “spirit” enemies. These are trickier to defeat, and after defeating these, you’ll earn crystals. Earn enough crystals to fill up a demon core, and Arietta grows stronger. It’s quite easy to farm these crystals, since enemies respawn when you leave and re-enter the area. But, I dislike the fact that when a certain core is filled, you can’t pick up any more crystals. Well, you can pick them up, but it doesn’t raise your total.

So, when you have enough crystals to power up your Roamer Cores, power it up right away. Otherwise, you’ll lose various crystals and have to grind for them. You can power your core up in the inventory menu under “Roamer Cores”.

Speaking of the inventory menu, why are there two menus in the Switch version? You have a pause menu and an inventory menu. The pause menu is opened with the “+” button and the inventory menu with the “-” button. It trips me up. Then again, I totally understand why this is the case in how the menus are designed. That’s why I call the “-” the inventory menu since it’s really the menu where you can see the inventory, your goals, your achievements… While the pause menu is more of an options menu.

A bit higher, you can see the inventory menu. From that screenshot, you can also see the various other mechanics. Like, the tasks where you have to find hidden items and the amount of hidden spirit cubs you have found. Now, you might think that you’ll need the item’s menu often, but alas. The opposite is true.

There aren’t a lot of puzzles in this game. I’m even having a hard time saying there are puzzles in this game. Maybe the fact that you need to figure out how to defeat the bosses most optimally but other than, that… There aren’t really any puzzles in this game. And if there are, they aren’t cryptic or challenging enough to matter.

Something that’s extremely puzzling is the fact that there is no world map of any kind to speak off. Thankfully, this isn’t a huge game, but the lack of a world map really hurts sometimes. Especially when I want to explore an area to complete a task. It adds so much more time roaming around. You could also argue that it makes the game a bit more realistic since when you are exploring an island, you don’t have a map either… But you can either make one or have a map printed out from the internet.

Once you get the hang of the responsive and easy to master controls, this game isn’t too challenging at all. This game really feels like it’s an entry level adventure game. And you can look at this in two ways. It can be either a relaxing time to enjoy the story, but it can be boring since it’s not “engaging” or challenging.

Thankfully, this game has difficulty options. I started on the normal difficulty and found it too easy. So, after getting halfway in the game, I wanted a bit more challenge. So, I had to use the dodge, shield mechanics more to defeat enemies and not rely on health drops from cutting down bushes. I wanted to start a new save file on extreme, and I learned I wasn’t able to skip cutscenes. I sighed, and I continued playing my “normal difficulty” save file. I can totally understand that when you play through a game for this first time you are unable to skip cutscenes, but the fact you can unlock an additional difficulty after beating the game and the fact I can’t skip cutscenes worries me a bit. But, maybe you have that option then…

Joyful lost

So, because this game doesn’t have a world map… I have to admit that I got lost a few times. But, it didn’t matter too much. I really enjoyed being able to explore the island. Especially since the pixel art and design of this game is gorgeous. I really love the visual presentation of this game. I also love the animation quite a lot.

The animation makes the game a lot more immersive, but it makes the game also easier. Since the enemies telegraph their attacks so bluntly, it makes it easier to avoid. Now, there is this small mechanic that I really like.

At first, I wanted to talk about how when you have low health in this game, you barely get any feedback from the game. But then, I noticed something. My joycons vibrated in a heart beat whenever I was on low health. This is genius. The only small touch I would add is a bit more visual feedback on the screen since when you are fighting, you might miss that rumbling, especially since you are quite focused on dodging enemies and such.

Something I also quite like in this game is how the roll is handled. You can roll around to get faster to your destination, but you have stamina. The more you roll, the more fatigued Arietta gets and the shorter her rolls are. You can see how tired Arietta is by the amount of sweat dripping down her face. This really makes me think what the most optimal way is to roll and go fast. Since, there is no sprint button.

Sometimes, I got lost in area’s with a lot of enemies. The first time I got a game over, I was quite worried where I was going to respawn. But, this game is quite forgiving in that. You respawn at the start of the screen you died at. When you die at a boss, you start right at the beginning of the battle. It’s quite nice to get directly back into the action and not have to go through the whole dialogue of the boss again or having lost a lot of progress. The game auto-saves every time you change in a screen.

The final thing I want to talk about is the audiovisual presentation of this game. Let’s start with the sound effects. These are amazing. The sound effects really help you to prepare yourself for the upcoming map and to take the right actions in combat. For example, the flying bat screeches before it flies at you, so when you hear it… You know that it’s time to dodge. But, the sound effects can be helpful too to find cubs. When you get close to one, you hear it shouting. It has a distinct sound effect that really helped me find the more hidden ones.

This brings me to the music of this game. The calm vibe and atmosphere of the game really comes through in the music. The soundtrack mostly feels like lounge and relaxing music. But, it can be quite tense when it needs to. Especially the battle music. But it fits the game like a glove.

Now, what do I think overall of this game? I haven’t beaten it yet, but what is my conclusion after getting past the midway point of this game? The charm and love of this game is something quite unique. This game does have some flaws like no overworld map, more puzzles, being able to skip cutscenes…

But, what bothers me the most is that the potential of this story and setting isn’t used to its full potential in this short game. Yet, like I said earlier, the charm of this game makes up for quite a lot of it. I can totally understand that some people might not really like this game or get bored with it, but this game really got its hooks in me. For me, this game is an easy recommendation if you are looking for a nice and relaxing game to spend an afternoon or two.

What this game proves to me is that I’m going to keep an eye out for further projects from the developers, since I really think they have a lot of potential. I’m curious what they are going to do next. If they are going to make a sequel to this game, you can be sure I’m going to buy it. The charm and love of this game is infectious.

I really enjoyed playing through this game and I can’t wait to see how this game ends. It’s really a relaxing game, and it comes at the right moment in my life when I need something to calm me down after busy work days. This game is really a case of the positives outweighing the negatives for me. But, I’m repeating myself. So, it’s time to close off this article by saying my usual:

Thank you so much for reading my article, and I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to be able to welcome you in another one, but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care!