A New NES Game
Built like a new original 8-bit NES game, Alwa’s Awakening is an indie Metroidvania that prides itself on its old school visuals and gameplay techniques. Using nostalgia as one of the main bullet points, this RPG platformer features some appealing gameplay gimmicks but also stumbles a bit by the time the credits roll of this 10 hour adventure.
Playing as a purple hooded stranger, the hero is magically warped into the land of Alwa and tasked with saving it. Before long, the player will obtain a magic wand that is used for attacking and summoning objects to help navigate the expansive map. Just like any Metroid game, the player will obtain abilities to reach new areas, some involving some puzzle solving, some involving some secrets, and others involving boss battles. Using a green cube to reach new heights and way to eventually transverse water and having the ability to summon bubbles for vertical traversal is cool but sometimes level design gets in the way. Spikes and pits are often cheap one-hit kills and forces the player to retreat to a save point several screens back. Luckily, there is an option to turn on the assist mode in which the player will be revived at the beginning of that specific screen instead of the checkpoint. Unless you enjoy punishment, it is recommended to activate this feature. There are times, however, where the player will get stuck as the stage design doesn’t always account for instant restarts so it isn’t a perfect system. Backtracking is also commonplace in the second half of the game but there are optional items to find if completionists feel the need to scout every corner and earn the Platinum trophy.
The map is also important in finding the next objective but never features enough information. Having dots to indicate an item is helpful but lacks the color coordinated system of say, Metroid, to be worthwhile. In a way, the screen-by-screen navigation almost feels more Mega Man than Metroid. Also, I found myself checking the map screen constantly making me which for some type of dual screen set up found on the 3DS.
Although it definitely looks like an 8-bit title with the tile-based sprites, the lack of animation is disappointing. Other than small water waves and mindless enemies that move back and forth, everything is eerily static and seems like a miss opportunity. The chip tune soundtrack is easily one of the game’s highlighting features and can surely stand on its own though.
Alwa’s Awakening is a new old-school game but could have benefitted from incorporating a few more modern game design techniques. It is not bad and worth your time for fans of the genre but it isn’t a must play especially with the indie scene being swarmed with Metroidvania type games.
Also available on Nintendo Switch.
Better Than: Ravva and the Cyclops Curse (PC)
Also Try: the NES Classic
Wait For It: the Shovel Knight amiibos