One of the first review opportunities I was given when starting out as a small time YouTube reviewer was Alwa’s Awakening from developer Elden Pixels. Alwa’s Awakening was a 2017 indie metroidvania release with very NES faithful graphics and sound, so faithful that they even released the soundtrack on an NES cartridge.
The game overall was a fun, good looking and challenging Metroidvania that didn’t drag on too long. However I had my issues with some strange things about the design such as instant death spikes, invisible walls and lack of incentive for collectibles. I said two years ago that if they corrected some of these issues in a sequel that they would have something special. Well, I didn’t expect it this soon, but the sequel to Alwa’s Awakening is now out. Alwa’s Legacy is the successor to Alwa’s Awakening, and I figured for old time’s sake I’d do a review of this new game for PC and Switch.
8-Bit to 16-Bit
If Alwa’s Awakening was an NES inspired 8-bit game, then Legacy can only be described as an SNES inspired 16-bit game. It retains much of the visual style of the original but brought into the next generation with more complex music, sprites, environments and animations. It feels like a huge step forward for the developer. Areas in Legacy are just breathtaking to look at at times, this is an example of some of the best pixel art I’ve ever seen.
The game takes place in the land of Alwa just like its predecessor except this time Zoe appears to have conveniently lost her memories of the entire previous game. In this game, Zoe has her same magic wand with different powers you can unlock including creating green blocks that can be pushed around, creating bubbles to lift you into the air and shooting lightning bolts from your wand. Alwa’s Legacy utilizes these powers for getting to new areas, fighting the many unique enemies you will encounter and for solving some of the rather tricky puzzles found throughout the game.
Later in the game, you unlock new powers not seen before, and the game throws challenges and puzzles at you that require you to use all of your skills at once.
This Game Could Be a Classic
Alwa’s Awakening has the makings of one of the finest Metroidvania experiences in modern day. And I mean that.
The first game was held back by floatier jump mechanics which have now been corrected. Zoe feels great to control and running around the map is quick and immersive. Additionally the combat is very fun. Especially the way you can use Zoe’s various abilities with each other to get an edge.
Additionally, the player has so much choice. You’re tasked with defeating several bosses before getting to the final boss, Vicar, and some of these bosses and challenges can be tackled out of order. The game’s design, however, accommodates this, and you’ll always find yourself going in the right direction when exploring by thinking to yourself where you haven’t been yet.
An important part of Alwa’s Legacy that the game doesn’t really tell you is mandatory is the collection of blue orbs. These orbs were very optional in the first game however in Legacy they are required for upgrading Zoe’s abilities.
She could create bubbles that never pop and take her upwards infinitely, create blocks that float in water and power up her lightning bolt to be even more destructive. Additionally you can remove and add upgrades from different skill trees at will meaning you don’t have to gather every single orb in the whole game to get to certain areas. I imagine if someone were playing this game they would not get lost easily as exploring the whole map is the main objective.
By the end of the game you will have been everywhere. Additionally there are a lot of NPCs in the world and in the hub town which is where you go to upgrade your abilities. These NPCs are varied across the land. Some offer useful advice and services, while others are there just to give you someone to talk to every now and then.
Because the world is so big you’re going to want to fast travel around and the interesting thing about the game is that you create your own fast travel points using green “tears” which you can occasionally find. Zoe typically hits a torch to create a save point and heal herself and by dropping a tear on one of these save points you can create a warp point. Because the tears are limited, you have to really think about which points would be the most convenient for you to use one.
Expert Design by Design Experts
The exploration in Alwa’s Awakening is nothing short of expertly designed and I give Elden Pixels credit for improving what was already a very good game. The boss dungeons have a lot of very fun puzzles that test your reaction speed, knowledge of the game mechanics and logical reasoning skills and the bosses provide a satisfying challenge that will make you feel accomplished upon beating them. They all have a pattern that takes a while to figure out but when you do, they can prove to be easy enough to beat. The game overall is challenging but still very fair and very fun with a lot of platforming to avoid enemies and using the various attacks you’ve learned to traverse the levels often being a necessity. Additionally certain elements that I did not like about Awakening such as the instant death spikes and mandatory invisible walls are no longer in this game making it much less frustrating.
Alwa’s Awakening has the makings of a Metroidvania masterpiece, it is among the best of the genre. It blends challenging platforming with great exploration based gameplay to create a unique feeling Metroidvania that still feels familiar in a way. A great looking, fun, challenging game with awesome music, it is a must play for fans of Metroidvania and retro styled games. You do not want to miss this one.