14th Jun2019

‘Artifact Adventure Gaiden DX’ Review (Nintendo Switch)

by Britt Roberts

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Artifact Adventure Gaiden DX is an 8-bit style adventure with a strong NES vibe. Originally released on Steam and now ported to Switch with new visuals (the original was more Game Boy than NES) it’s an extremely solid (and ADDICTIVE) throwback with a surprising amount of depth.

I’ve been burned with these 8-bit adventures recently having played a couple that were badly designed mobile games with the pay-wall removed upon their console port, resulting in baffling design architecture that was inherently broken. Artifact Adventure Gaiden DX is clearly designed with love and an appreciation for the more traditional RPGs of the 80’s and early 90’s which shines through in the game itself..

The story tells of a cataclysmic event that will take place in three years’ time. You, as a young adventurer are tasked by the king of the land to explore the world and prepare yourself for this highly likely calamity and are given the option of taking some characters with you to assist. This was the first thing that struck me as different from the norm, out of the characters that were hanging around the castle, I chose an old knight called Roland, a medic and a small dog named Glen, natch. The interesting thing is that these characters act more as ‘assists’ than co-fighters. Roland is assigned to a button and, when fully charged unleashes a devastating screen-filling attack that is a huge boon during the combat. Glen would bark whenever I passed anything interesting and the medic would be constantly raising my health during battles, although all remained off-screen (apart from when you walk the over-world and they trudge behind you, single file).

The combat was also quite different, the game switches to a side-on 2D plain and there is no attack button per-say, although you can ‘jab’ at enemies by leaping or walking towards them. You instead use your buffs, spells, friends and artifacts to defeat the waves of enemies that can either be found by disturbing the numerous portals and spider webs that dot the land and dungeons as well as the roaming monsters on the main map.

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The map design and visuals are purely functional here but the side quests, jaunty chiptune music and simple but effective dialogue really held my interest and the looting and gentle grinding elements always felt satisfying as I levelled up and altered my clothing, items and weaponry. There’s an element of time in the game in that, when you feel that you’ve fully explored the world (which has a handy fast travel function), you can fast-forward time three years to the calamity itself and retrace your steps to see how your actions pre-calamity affected the townsfolk and villages etc. down the line. It’s rarely anything huge but it’s oddly affecting in seeing how that village I suggested re-locate due to a doom-laden prophecy got hacked down in the woods by fiends en-route or how a town I clearly missed the first time around is now deserted because the soldiers and civilians turned on each for a reason that I’ll never know.

It’s the little stories here that add up to an enjoyable whole as opposed to the over-arching and pretty standard main plot itself. There are some issues, some may find the combat repetitive (I found it really enjoyable as it was a bit different to the usual turn-based fayre found in the genre) and the quest log can be extremely vague with locations but I found the game to be charming and fun, if not ground-breaking.

Artifact Adventure Gaiden DX isn’t going to set the world alight but if you have a soft spot for this era of RPG gaming or perhaps fancy dipping back in, this is a great place to start, I’m definitely glad I came across it,a solid example of the 8-bit throwback genre with some modern design sensibilities.

Artifact Adventure Gaiden DX is available on the Nintendo eShop now.

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