Arietta Of Spirits: A Spirited Effort
Xbox, PS4, Switch, PC
Zelda-likes are a dime a dozen these days. The legendary Nintendo franchise has inspired more than its fair share of developers over the decades, and that trend won’t likely stop anytime soon. One of the more recent by-products of this inspiration is Arietta Of Spirits, from Third Spirit Games. This quaint little tale is far smaller in scale than any Zelda game in the past but leverages some of those Zelda qualities, pairs them with a heartwarming narrative to create a title that while not of the quality of the franchise that inspired it, is still worth checking out, albeit not worth rushing out for.
Arietta Of Spirits sees you assuming the role of Arietta, a young girl who has travelled with her family to a familiar part of the world, an old home once owned by her grandmother. Sadly her grandmother died, and this is the family’s first trip back to the home, so emotions are running high for everyone involved. While her parents are sorting through the contents, and trying to get their affairs in order, Arietta is off exploring. Eventually, through highly unusual circumstances she finds that her life has become entwined with a spirit realm, as a “Bound”, and accompanied by new Spirit ally Arco, Arietta journeys out to restore peace and order to a broken realm. The game can lay it on pretty heavily in exposition at times, consequently the temptation is constantly there to mash through the masses of dialogue that can sometimes cascade from the cast. Despite the heightened levels of exposition, Arietta’s story carries emotional heft that will undoubtedly strike a chord with most.
Taking a lot of influence from the likes of Zelda, Arietta once equipped with her handy wooden sword (which later upgrades), navigates a broad, interconnected world, journeys out to best the ‘Roamers’ that threaten the stability of the world. The world design is a bit basic, with many reused assets and unnecessary directional branches that lead to the same point, but the environment itself is still quite striking to look upon, and fun to navigate. The combat sequences are well crafted, the bosses smartly designed, but there’s little to hold your interest beyond that. There are a small handful of collectibles to track down, but they’re so poorly signposted that most players will be eager to push through the story and ignore these entirely.
Arietta Of Spirits lifts a lot from GBA-era Zelda, you can see the influence of The Minish Cap and other Nintendo designs on the mechanical side of the game, but despite drawing so heavily upon those titles, the game ends up feeling lifeless and uninspired because it simply has nothing of its own to show us. It doesn’t blend mechanics together in a unique way, nor does it bring anything new to the table, it just exists to be played through. You will find yourself doing that because the story is the star of the show here, but it could have been a lot more had there been more innovations made in the gameplay space.
The GBA-era comparisons continue on the presentational side as well. Graphically the game looks the part, with the vibrant colours popping off the screen wonderfully despite the repetitious use of most assets. The soundtrack on the other hand is strong and boasts its own personality contrary to the bulk of the experience.
Though hardly original, Arietta Of Spirits features a heart-wrenching, and compelling plot, mechanics, and world design that whilst lacking in originality, are nonetheless excellently designed and implemented, and a musical score that picks up some of that slack. It’s brief, making some of those aspects more palatable, so grab a warm hot chocolate, rug up for a 3-4 hours and enjoy a simple, yet impactful adventure.