Developer: eXiin / Cactus
Publisher: Modus Games
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Version Reviewed: eShop download
Category: Adventure, Action, Role-Playing
No. of Players: 1 player
Release Date: September 01, 2020 (EU & NA)
With development starting in 2017, Ary and the Secret of Seasons started out as the sole property of game studio Exiin and found itself having its debut at Gamescom, where it won the award for Best Unity Game.
In the following year, during Gamescom 2018, Modus Games announced that they themselves would be publishing the game and as it turns out, was actually quite involved with the game as Modus Game producer Bruce Hayles is reported as assisting with the development of Ary and helping to “lift” the team up.
It’s been said there was only ever a small team between 5 and 10 people who worked on Ary full-time, with Fishing Cactus also getting involved and leading an invaluable hand, before the game finally reached its eventual release.
Once upon a time in the world of Valdi, there existed an evil mage and a horrendous struggle. If not for the appearance of a legendary warrior, this story would have been cut short and a different ending attained. Instead, the legendary warrior defeated the mage and imprisoned him for eternity by locking him up in a vault.
To ensure the safety of the lands thereafter, four great sages were called forth to watch over and protect the vault, resulting in the formation of the Guardians of the Seasons.
Fast forward to the present day, events are unfolding and change is coming to Valdi, only this time, a new winter guardian will need to assume her father’s mantle and do what he, his son and all the others could not restore the balance in a world on the brink of chaos.
Sorry Aryelle, (more commonly known as Ary,) but it will take a little more than a haircut and wearing your brother’s old clothes to make you a hero. With the right player behind you though, anything is possible.
The quickest way to sum up Ary and the Secret of Seasons’ gameplay, is to call it a simplistic take on The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword. The two games don’t marry up 1oo% but there a ton of similar features, starting with the fact the land of Valdi is made up of different regions, with each one featuring a different season. (Summer, Spring, Autumn and Winter.)
It’s a 3D action game where a young protagonist must rise up to deal with an impending threat because everyone else is in the game, isn’t quite up to the task. There are plenty of NPCs the world-over who will require your aid with fulfilling their requests and there is also an assortment of items and skill upgrades that can be obtained as you go along, with the majority of them, requiring Ary to purchase them from merchants.
To begin with, Ary is quite restrictive with what she can do and where she can do, but the more you play, the more the game opens up, especially once Ary starts gaining the powers of the seasons and players can go from running around with a wooden sword, to placing helpful season spheres that can unfreeze water, restore life to fruit-bearing trees and even create frozen platforms for jumping on.
Get ready to manipulate the world around you because this power is second only to the player’s imagination and there is plenty of fun to be had when messing around with the game’s ecosystems. It’s just a shame that where this feature shines, combat is lacking.
Don’t get me wrong, the boss battles can be fun, but the encounters against minor enemies, they can swiftly become tedious rather than enjoyable. Heck, I often found myself avoiding a fight rather than engaging in one, purely because fighting seemed to be redundant most of the time and I’d rather focus on discovering secrets and opening chests than killing hyenas over and over for next to no reason at all.
Oh, and don’t worry about dying. Yes, your save file does log the number of times you die, but if you don’t care about that, players can easily pick up from where they left off, or quickly load an earlier save and continue from there.
CONTENT & FEATURES:
The main story aside, like previously states, Ary and the Secret of Seasons, has plenty of side quests to complete, new costumes and masks to procure and plenty of chests to uncover should you wish to buy everything available.
Still, just because you can see and experience everything Ary and the Secret of Seasons under 15 hours, there can be no denying that the environmental puzzles are the star of the show and are such a pleasure to solve. Most can be rather easy and quick to suss out, whereas others taking longer and the feeling of satisfaction that follows is well deserved.
The game might not have enough content to immediately warrant an immediate second playthrough, but it is enjoyable nonetheless. Having said that, Ary does still feel like a game that even with its current content, feels overpriced. More bark and bite would have been nice.
While it is true Ary does feature some voice acting, personally speaking, I would have preferred to have experienced more of it. It’s one of the game’s highlights, but there’s nowhere near enough of it, leaving the game with many instances of dialogue for the player to read through, instead of hearing being brought to life.
As for the rest of Ary, while some of the game’s soundtrack does a decent job of captivating one’s attention and conveying the correct emotions certain scenes and actions are trying to convey, there are others which, at times, fall a little flat.
VISUALS & PERFORMANCE:
Graphically speaking, while the character models and enemies aren’t all they’re cracked up to be, they have a tendency to feel lacking when compared to almost everything else in Ary and the Secret of Seasons.
The variety in locations is pleasing, as are the various buildings, temple/dungeon layouts, golem designs but the most graphically pleasing factor, has to be the game’s season-changing effect. It’s one thing to find yourself in an area that is meant to be left in a never-ending summer, only to be frozen over for winter has come, but seeing the season spheres and their localised effects, are surreal.
Enemies appearances can alter, but the biggest eye-catching difference is how the spheres can change the given season within them, which makes a nice contrast when compared to the overall season that’s affecting the region you’re in.
To retreat back to the buildings, however, for but a short moment, the fictional world of Valdi is influenced by the likes of Asia and Belgium, with the Dome of Seasons structure, being based on the Saint Mary’s Royal Church in Brussels.
Now, while the graphics can be hit and miss, unfortunately, even with an update out to address various issues, the performance is poor. From being able to encounter glitches that will have you fall through the floor in the Summer Temple and descend into nothingness, or having the game crash unexpectedly, even minor things such as the game’s combat can feel sloppy at times and the jumping, I’ll be addressing that in just a few short moments.
As one of the games that I personally got to see for the first time during Gamescom 2019, Ary caught my attention and quickly became a must-have title for my Nintendo Switch. Sadly, perhaps in the year that has passed, I built the game up a little too much in my head as while the game we have now, still looks and feels like the game I saw last year, however, the more I played of the final version, the more underwhelming I found it.
What’s more, there are certain gameplay antics and features that I have come to dislike as well. While the game’s full map can be helpful to the player, the mini-map that is present, is not as helpful as it could have been, due to a lack of clarity.
I also find it annoying there is no in-game option to access the game’s map with the press of a button. Instead, you have to bring up the game’s inventory and then bring up the map, which for a game that could have you checking it quite a bit, especially if you’re interested in seeing and doing everything, is a tedious activity.
The true undoing of Ary and the Secret of Seasons, however, is the game’s camera in combination to jumping. There is nothing worse than dodgy camera angles and jarring movements when you’re trying to jump from one platform to another.
There are so many instances in the game where I have completely missed the platform I was aiming for, or just rolling straight off it due to Ary needing to end her jumps with a roll, resulting in frustration and a nauseating headache. It’s because of this that sadly, I ended up having to resort to short gameplay sessions instead of long sessions as I’d need some time away before I was able to continue.
Whilst Ary and the Secret of Seasons does a good job at trying to feel like a female led Zelda game, complete with an interesting gameplay gimmick that remains engaging, unfortunately, sadly there are a number of features that could have been fleshed out more. The adventure is engaging, but with gameplay faults a plenty, such as an unhelpful map, Ary is a great start, but the finish could have been better.
THE VERDICT: 7/10
*A download key was provided by the Publisher for the purposes of this review
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