Alwa’s Legacy – Nintendo Switch
Developed By: Elden Pixels
Published By: Elden Pixels
Category: Adventure, Platforming, Metroidvania
Release Date: September 29, 2020
The Alwa franchise is in its infancy but is moving fast. It has taken an almost generational leap in only a few years going from the original Alwa’s Awakening, which delivered a pure 8-bit experience to Switch gamers back in 2018 (so pure in fact, that a NES release is being prepared), to the second entry Alwa’s Legacy which has made the move to 16-bit in 2020.
Alwa’s Legacy is from a small group of Swedish developers named Elden Pixels who released the prequel while they were each still working elsewhere, but for the sequel they decided to quit their day jobs and go it alone using Kickstarter to help fund the development completion.
You play Zoe, a mage who wakes up in the land of Alwa with a convenient plot device: no memory. You start your exploration in this platforming adventure but soon after in classic metroidvania style you lose your staff, which provides you with most of your abilities. It’s not long before you’re reunited, and as you progress you acquire new attacking and traversal abilities.
The land of Alwa is a 2D open world which allows you to go anywhere you choose. The map fills out as you explore with locations you’ve been with the option to see the main item locations which is helpful. Unfortunately there’s no way to put your own markers on the map to help you remember things you come across that you want to come back to later. But it shows you where you have laid down warp points, which are an essential means to quickly travel across Alwa’s large map and can be activated so long as you have collected enough tears collectibles.
Some areas are unreachable until you acquire certain abilities through either finding them or unlocking them by collecting enough orbs which are scattered throughout. Orbs can be slotted into a customisable skill tree to acquire certain skills and taken back out and rearranged to remove skills to get other skills. It’s quite a smart system however the downside is there’s only one place in Alwa which you need to travel back to each time you want to rearrange existing orbs to change your existing skills or use new orbs to unlock new skills.
The other smorgasbord of abilities are separate from the skill tree, which you get to keep once you find them. But each of these abilities can only be used once before it needs recharged to use again. Recharging can be done manually or by going to another screen to automatically recharge. This feels a bit clunky, particularly as it takes a bit of time to recharge when done manually. Controls for switching between both sets of abilities also feels cumbersome at times, particularly if you’re trying to do something quickly.
The land of Alwa has a Zelda feel to it with traversal sections between towns and dungeon sections. It feels alive and full of life, with birds pecking the ground for worms then flying off when you approach and mice sneaking around in the background of the Catacombs, moving from crevice to crevice. Outside of the main quest there are some side quests which add variety including one with a humorous alternative take of Rapunzel.
The dungeons follow a similar structure seen before with a boss at the end of each, including one which aims to bring back the torment of the Zelda OOT Water Temple. Block and lever puzzles are the bread and butter inside and outside dungeons, but there are some inventive puzzles which challenge you to put into practice what you’ve learned using your abilities. The boss enemy designs are some of the most impressive visuals in the game, with nice nods to the 16-bit greats. Each tends to have a range of set routines however they still present a challenge even after figuring out how to take them down. Occasionally though there are short unskippable cutscenes before a boss fight which also play during retries which could be done without.
The writing is filled with charm and humour which combine to create a world filled with warm and eccentric characters, including two brothers who are the familiarly named Dale and Tucker, and the odd talking animal here and there that will last longer in the memory than the story will. The small pool of enemy characters are comparatively by the numbers. Most lumber around in loops and pose a mild threat, mostly due to them often being in your way more than anything else. This ties into Alwa’s Legacy’s Pacifist mode which challenges you to complete the game without defeating any enemies, unlocked by collecting all the petal collectibles in the game, which also extend your life bar after every four you collect.
Alwa’s Legacy is a well crafted platforming adventure with metroidvania and Zelda-like elements. It pays tribute to some of the great adventures of the past through its look and feel which combine to create a world full of varied locations and faces which will live in the memory even if the story may not. Some control issues aside, this is unmissable for genre fans and shows the series is continuing on an upward trajectory.