Alwa’s Legacy Review: Rad Retro-Styled Action-Adventuring

by David Sanchez October 7, 2020 @ 1:25 pm

Alwa's Legacy dungeon exploration gameplay.

Reviewed on Switch

It’s easy to see where the inspiration for Alwa’s Legacy comes from. Developer Elden Pixels’ followup to 2017’s Alwa’s Awakening is decidedly retro — from its look and sound to its gameplay. It seems inspired by Zelda 2: The Adventure of Link, but beyond that, there are hints of Metroidvania mechanics and even a little Shovel Knight. Ultimately, though, Alwa’s Awakening infuses its own flair into these mechanics to provide one of the most gratifying 2D action-adventure experiences of the year.

Retro in All the Right Ways

Alwa's Legacy overworld exploration gameplay.

Alwa’s Legacy follows the previous game’s protagonist, Zoe. Having lost her memories, she ventures on a quest to figure out how she got to the land of Alwa. Along the way, she’s entrusted with ridding the land of monsters and helping townsfolk with their woes.

From here, Alwa’s Legacy unravels and lets you explore, battle enemies, and solve puzzles. The game is set in a large, interconnected world. You’ll find yourself visiting areas with unreachable doors and paths, which usually means you’re in the wrong place. You’ll have to visit other areas, typically so you can enter a dungeon, clear out its enemies, and obtain new items and abilities.

Alwa's Legacy boss battle.

This Metroidvania-styled sense of progression is prominent throughout the dungeons themselves, too. Maybe you can’t open a door that’s too deep underwater because Zoe keeps drowning. Or perhaps you don’t know how to trigger a certain color-coded switch. This usually means you’ll need to visit another area in the dungeon to find the proper ability. Thankfully, the map system in Alwa’s Legacy is easy to understand, with icons showing you specific landmarks and the map itself showing you the paths you’ve yet to explore.

Progression may be a callback to the Metroid and Castlevania series, but the action seems more inspired by Zelda 2 and other similar games. Alwa can hack and slash her way through enemies as well as use ranged magic attacks. Combat against smaller, weaker enemies isn’t exactly exciting — especially because you can just jump over them and continue on your way a lot of the time — but boss battles are great. These monsters are giant, and they have a variety of attacks to keep you wary while engaged in these big bouts.

Alwa's Legacy on Nintendo Switch.

Beyond the major encounters, where Alwa’s Legacy shines brightest is in its dungeon and puzzle designs. It’s just so much fun exploring the different areas in the game. Discovering new abilities, stumbling upon secrets, and figuring out the solutions to tricky puzzles will keep you engaged. There are a lot of moments where you’ll get that “aha!” feeling, and exploring the dungeons is really smooth and fluid. You’ll hardly get stuck or frustrated because the game is designed to ensure you’re constantly moving forward. As such, you’re never wasting time going around in circles.

A Zelda and Metroid-Inspired Delight

Alwa’s Legacy looks and sounds great. Creature designs are spooky and lighthearted, with sword-wielding skeletons and monstrous bosses making up the bulk of Zoe’s foes. Each dungeon is also nicely designed, and you’ll visit a variety of areas including an underwater temple, a haunted library, and a grassy dungeon akin to the Forest Temple from the Zelda games. The rich, colorful pixel art also creates some truly detailed and stunning backgrounds.

Alwa's Legacy combat gameplay.

There’s a lot of catchy music in Alwa’s Legacy. The town and dungeon themes are all pretty great — a lot of the music is actually on par with what you’d hear in a 16-bit epic. This attention to creating music that’s not just retro but also has a really good sound is telling of Elden Pixels’ focus on developing an authentic fantasy action-adventure experience.

You’ll spend around 10 hours in the world of Alwa’s Legacy. If you look for all the hidden items and secrets, you can add a couple hours to that. Game time aside, there’s just an undeniable level of quality here. The game moves at a steady pace and is fun throughout. This is easily one of the most entertaining Zelda-inspired titles to come out in 2020. Simply put, Alwa’s Legacy belongs in your indie game collection.

Score: 8.5 out of 10

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