Known for developing titles such as Out Run, Afterburner, and Shenmue, Yu Suzuki’s latest release, Air Twister, plays like a direct successor to Space Harrier right down the speed of gameplay, constantly looking at the playable character’s keester, and rainbow-colored oblong laser blasts. It is an on-rails gallery-style shooter loaded with extras that was originally released on Apple Arcade.

You play as Princess Arch who is doing her best impression of Zero Suit Samus only instead of being a space bounty hunter, she can float through the air and ride wild animals not limited to geese and elephants. Apparently, it is her job to save the planet by blasting the snot out of all sorts of incoming enemies. The strangest part are the environmental set pieces. One stage features a large mushroom landscape, another takes place in a futuristic metallic setting, and another has literal clocks flying at the player. If these wildly different environments are supposed to take place on a single planet, I would never want to visit it.

Gameplay involves little more than one analog stick and one shoot button. Tapping shoot releases single bullets into the screen but rarely hit their target due to the fast speed of gameplay and enemy movement. Which means you’ll need to rely on the hold-down-the-button-and-paint-over-the-targets to activate the homing attack option most of the time, retaining the simplified approach from the mobile environment. Taking out a group of enemies will reward the player with a star, currency used to unlock a wealth of content in the main menu. The player gets graded at the end of each stage too, but due to the unfair difficulty and cheap enemy tactics, it is virtually impossible to receive the best rank or clear stages unscathed. 

It might only take a half hour to clear the dozen stages, but this won’t be possible until the player has spent enough time unlocking stat enhancing perks and learning specific attack patterns of the common enemy and bosses. There is a steep difficulty spike right around stage five and six so expect to grind for a while before being able to clear this halfway point.

In addition to unlocking 100s of cosmetic pieces and upgrades, there are numerous side missions and optional content to explore. Challenge games, mini games, a few difficulty settings, and even a boss rush mode are all available. While there is no shortage of content, most of this feels repetitive and like it was placed in the game to artificially increase gameplay time. Even the Achievements are pretentious, asking the player to play for 50 and 100 hours while clearing stages with perfection.

Visually, in addition to the previously mentioned outstanding set pieces, everything looks a little stiff and generic. Once you realize this is because it was ported from a mobile game, it is understandable. Unfortunately, the screen can often be littered with action, making it nearly impossible to track incoming bullets and hazards. This is especially apparent in the last few stages; I felt like I was taking damage constantly and my only hope of clearing a stage is to survive long enough by increasing the health meter from the map of unlockables. Princess Arch also fills half the screen and enemy bullets take up ¼ of the screen, demanding near perfect play to clear. The balancing issues are frustrating and fear many players will give up well before seeing the credits roll. 

As crazy as the visuals are, it has nothing on the absurdly out-of-place soundtrack. The main menu theme song is so similar to Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody, I am shocked there isn’t copyright infringement.  It also gets annoying quickly because it restarts from the beginning each time you access the main menu. Since there are many options to select from this menu, I actually had to turn off the volume on my TV just to tolerate it. For a game about blasting the crap out of weird space aliens from the back of a goose, hearing Queen inspired vocals doesn’t make any sense and made me not want to explore the many extras found in the main menu.

Air Twister doesn’t do anything different in the rail shooter genre. It also doesn’t do anything particularly well.  The number of unlockables and extra modes are admirable, but it doesn’t mean much if it is a struggle to enjoy the main game. If anything, playing Air Twister made me just made me want to play Sin and Punishment: Star Successor and wish for a new Star Fox.

SCORE: 5.5/10

Not As Good As: Sin and Punishment Star Successor

Don’t Forget About: Panzer Dragoon

Wait For It: Star Fox 3

By: Zachary Gasiorowski, Editor in Chief

Twitter: @ZackGaz

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