One of the genres that has shown up a lot in my recent set of reviews is the 2D action adventure genre. While I have always enjoyed the genre, there have been quite a few interesting games released for the genre recently. Today I am taking a look at Arietta of Spirits which released today on Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One. Outside of generally enjoying action adventure games, I was also kind of intrigued by the game’s story/atmosphere. Arietta of Spirits may not be the most original 2D action adventure game, but it is still quite fun where fans of the genre should still get quite a bit of enjoyment out of it.
In Arietta of Spirits you play as the title character Arietta. A year has passed since Arrieta’s grandmother died, so the family decides to visit the family cabin for the first time since it happened. Things seem normal at first until Arietta is visited by a spirit who tells her that there is a connection between the spirit and human world. Arietta has been chosen to be one of the few humans that can interact with both realms in order to help humans who have passed away move on. A dangerous set of evil spirits threaten everything though as their power begins to grow. Can Arrieta stop the evil spirits and help restful spirits move on?
The gameplay of Arietta of Spirits is very similar to your typical action adventure game. You are given a sword to attack enemies and a dodge to help you avoid enemy attacks. Later in the game you also acquire a shield/barrier that can block enemy attacks. You need to use these abilities in order to fight the enemies that you encounter. You have a limited number of hearts as each hit you take will lose you one of your hearts. When you defeat enemies or destroy various objects in the environment, hearts will sometimes appear restoring your lost hearts. As you progress in the game and defeat certain types of enemies you will acquire energy which can be used to add additional hearts to your total. Should you run out of hearts you will be sent back to the last checkpoint that you reached.
The game takes place all around the island that you arrive on to begin the game. The game features a sort of interconnected over-world with a number of caves which somewhat act like your typical dungeon. You will encounter a number of bosses in your journey which have unique attack patterns and more health than your normal enemies. While the main plotline has you move from target destination to destination, there are a few side quests which have you find hidden objects to give to characters you meet in your journey.
I will admit that Arietta of Spirits is not the most original action adventure game at least as far as gameplay is concerned. I can’t think of a single gameplay mechanic present in the game that I haven’t see used in another game before. The game basically plays like your typical 2D action adventure game. In particular the game reminds me a lot of the 2D Zelda titles with less emphasis on puzzle solving and using various gadgets you acquire throughout the game. Instead the gameplay relies pretty heavily on the combat along with some exploration. You basically swing your sword and try to avoid enemy attacks. If you have ever played a game in this genre before, you likely should already have a strong opinion on whether you will enjoy Arietta of Spirits.
While I wish it had a little more originality, this is not deal breaker for Arietta of Spirits. Despite having played quite a few other games that are quite similar, I still enjoyed my time playing it. The combat is fun as it finds the right balance between button mashing and actually putting some thought into what you are doing. You can go pretty heavy on the attack, but you need to occasionally dodge and use your shield ability to avoid losing a lot of health. The game has a number of different enemy types, and despite being pretty similar they are still fun to defeat. The boss fights add their own little twists to combat as you have to figure out their weaknesses and how to avoid their attacks if you have any hope of surviving. Basically if you generally enjoy these type of action adventure games, I see no reason why that would be any different for Arietta of Spirits.
As for the game’s difficulty I would like to preface by saying that I ended up choosing to play the game on normal difficulty (the middle difficulty for your first playthrough). Having played the game on normal difficulty I would probably recommend playing on the hard difficulty if you have a decent amount of experience with this genre. At the normal difficulty I occasionally took some damage, but rarely was in danger of dying outside of boss fights and a few of the end game sections. This is partially due to if you are thorough with attacking every bush, crate, and other object that you can destroy you will gain enough hearts to make up for any that you end up losing.
I honestly didn’t really have an issue with the game’s difficulty. While I would recommend going with the hard difficulty if you want a challenge, I like when games offer enough difficulty levels that range from hard to easy as it makes the game accessible to more players. Once you beat the game you can also unlock an additional harder difficulty level which is probably hard enough for those who want a real challenge. On top of this even if you end up dying the punishment is pretty small as you just get sent back to the last checkpoint. The checkpoints seem to come up enough that you will rarely get stuck in a position where you will have to do quite a bit of backtracking to get back to your previous location.
As for the story and atmosphere, I thought Arietta of Spirits did a pretty good job. The game utilizes a pixel art style which is pretty good. It won’t suddenly make someone who hates the style change their mind, but the characters and world show a nice level of detail than fans of pixel art games should enjoy. There have been some games and other media that have utilized the human that can interact with the spirit realm to help spirits move on premise before. I still thought the story was pretty good though. The game has an interesting backstory and world in general. Honestly my biggest complaint with the story is just that I wish there was more to it as it feels like more could have happened in the game.
This brings me to the game’s length. Unfortunately I would say that it is on the shorter side. This will depend somewhat on how you approach the game. The game has a couple sidequests which reward you for checking every single pathway including hidden ones. If you choose to try and complete these they will obviously add some time to your playthrough. If you want to rush through and only focus on the main goals the game will be shorter. If I had to make a guess at the game’s average length I would place it somewhere between 3-5 hours. I wish the game was a little longer as I was enjoying it, but the pacing is pretty good as things aren’t drawn out just to make the game take longer to complete.
In many ways Arietta of Spirits is pretty much what you would expect from a 2D action adventure game. You are given a sword and are tasked with defeating all of the creatures that stand in the way of your objective. There are also a number of boss fights that have their own unique attack patterns and weaknesses. I wouldn’t consider the game to be the most original as there really isn’t anything about the gameplay which isn’t present in other games from the genre. While some unique mechanics would have been nice, they aren’t entirely necessary as the game is still quite fun. The combat is fast and yet has enough skill involved where it is satisfying. The game offers quite a range of difficulty levels as well so there should be one that works for all types of players. On top of this the story/atmosphere of working as a human that can interact with the spirit world to help spirits move on is pretty good as well. Probably the game’s biggest problem is just that it is kind of short as most players could probably beat it within 3-5 hours.
My recommendation for Arietta of Spirits basically comes down to your feelings towards the 2D action adventure genre. If you have never really cared for it, I don’t see the game offering anything to change your mind. Fans of the genre that think the premise sounds interesting and don’t mind that it isn’t the most original game, should enjoy Arietta of Spirits and consider picking it up.
We at Geeky Hobbies would like to thank Third Spirit Games, and Red Art Games for the review copy of Arietta of Spirits used for this review. Other than receiving a free copy of the game to review, we at Geeky Hobbies received no other compensation for this review. Receiving the review copy for free had no impact on the content of this review or the final score.