Developed by YS NET and published by ININ Games Air Twister is the new rail shooter designed by Yu Suzuki, who designed the original Space Harrier back in 1985. I bring this up as Air Twister is pretty much Space Harrier brought into the modern age. There aren’t many other rail shooters that I can think of that have the same perspective as Space Harrier except maybe Panzer Dragoon to some extent. So for those who want that gaming challenge that the older games brought to the table, this is an interesting take on that old-style arcade game.
I had to look this up as it is not explained very well but you play as Princess Arch who has to defend her home world called AIR from a Large-scale invasion by Vanguard, who I can only assume is the name of the invaders as a collective. The game does contain a world guide which has some story information but it just seems like a collection of information chunks that you have to try and piece together to try and get some understanding of what anything is.
But this game, and games like this, are not designed for their story as they are based more on their action and gameplay. The game plays with the guile and style of an 80’s classic and it is reinforced by what I thought was a long-lost Queen album with assisted vocals from George Michael. It turns out it was a band called Valensia and the music track found on the main menu sounds like Bohemian Rhapsody with different lyrics – it is uncanny. But as you are thrust into action on a giant swan shooting some alien baddies which are a mixture of prehistoric flying beasts and futuristic metal-shaped weaponry it seems a shame that the great background music is so often drowned out by the constant gunfire. But when there is a pause the 80’s style rock ballads will have you nodding along and tapping your feet.
The controls are just as simple as the Space Harrier predecessor. You move along the screen with your analog stick and you can either fire with the A button or the right trigger. Your weapon can be fired by tapping the button but it is wiser and encouraged to hold the fire button to lock on to enemies and then release the fire button to fire homing bullets at the locked-on enemies whilst they remain in sight. This is easier said than done as the enemies dance around the screen to avoid being locked on whilst also raining down attacks which you have to evade yourself. You are eased into to the game in the earlier levels as the pacing feels quite slow but that does change and ramp up the more you progress. The issue I had with the original Space Harrier is also a problem for me here in that with the perspective you have behind your character it is hard to predict the angle enemy attacks are coming at you. More often than I like I seem to be evading right into danger instead of out of it.
At the end of each level is a boss fight and these are generally quite grand affairs as the enemies are usually large beasts. There are some attack patterns to memorise but usually, if you keep moving and hitting you stand a good chance of surviving, but once again these become much tougher in the later levels. They have tried to create some balance by using the rogue-lite approach to progression. As you kill enemies in their groups you collect stars. Once you have made it as far as you can in the main game before losing your lives and continues, you can then use the stars to buy some upgrades. These upgrades give you some benefits like increasing your health or allowing you to lock onto more targets for your homing attack and even unlock a time slow-down power which can help at tricky times or against the end-level bosses.
They have tried to add some other game-extending modes to add some content in the form of challenge modes. Most are self-explanatory like a boss rush mode or an arcade mode. But there are other challenges like a tap breaker challenge where you have to hit spinning blocks in numerical order but this only very loosely is related to the game as you are not moving your character to hit the spinning blocks. There are other challenge modes like Stardust and Fluffy which I have yet to unlock but it’s not clear what they are. There is an events section where there are daily, weekly and time-limited tasks to complete to earn some extra stars, tickets and character customisations. You can customise your character’s hair, makeup and outfits should you wish and the tickets can be used to exchange for trial weapons to play some of the challenge stages. So they have tried to add in some extra content for replay value which is nice and even better that it is not hidden behind a paywall.
Air Twister is a fun and interesting modernisation of Space Harrier. The music by Valensia although at first seemed out of place suits the 80’s vibe this game exudes with the bright colours and vibrancy. It maintains the tricky increasing gaming difficulty of the older games and throws in some rogue-lite elements to level the playing field and help add some replay value to the game.Become a Patron!
This game was reviewed based on Xbox S|X review code, using an Xbox S|X console. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version. Game provided by publisher.