Ary and the Secret of Seasons review for Nintendo Switch, PS4, Xbox One

Platform: Nintendo Switch
Also on: PC, PS4, Xbox One
Publisher: Modus Games
Developer: eXiin
Medium: Digital
Players: 1
Online: No
ESRB: E10+

It feels like we?ve had quite a few 3D Zelda-like games come out in the last few months. Maybe it?s just me and my weird proclivity for games that borrow heavily from Nintendo?s franchise without actually being it, but just off the top of my head, in recent months we?ve seen Summer in Mara, Windbound, Oceanhorn 2 (the review for which we?ll have up soon!), and, as you?ve probably deduced, Ary and the Secret of Seasons.

The good news about Ary and the Secret of Seasons is that when it works, it?s substantially better than either Summer in Mara or Windbound. Those games may have borrowed their aesthetic from Zelda, but as far as gameplay went, they were middling at best. By contrast, Ary and the Secret of Seasons is generally pretty fun — again, when it works.

As you can tell, that?s a pretty huge caveat, but it?s also a necessary one, because Ary and the Secret of Seasons is also borderline unplayable at times. The game constantly freezes up, regardless of what?s happening on the screen. It regularly cuts to black for no apparent reason. I died once or twice because I fell off the screen. It?s very easy to get trapped between, under, and inside objects, which forces you to start over from the last save point.

And those are just the obvious technical issues. Ary and the Secret of Seasons is also plagued by a host of other problems, big and small. The camera is brutal at times, and you?re constantly fighting to find an angle that actually shows you where you?re going and isn?t partially obscured by something. The combat is imprecise — though, thankfully, it?s imprecise for you and your enemies alike, so you?ll both find that swinging your weapon doesn?t always connect, even when it cuts straight through the other person/animal. The graphics are also hit-and-miss, and it?s not uncommon for the quality to sudden plummet for no apparent reason. The world may have a fair amount of people in it, but they mostly just stand around, waiting for you to talk to them. Really, I don?t think there?s anything in this game that?s just unquestionably good — it?s all a ?good, but?”

And yet, despite all those issues, I actually kind of enjoyed Ary and the Secret of Seasons. When everything is more or less working, you can see what the developers were going for: a Zelda-like adventure starring a young girl out in the world, trying to rescue her brother/save her town. Even if the world is inhabited by people who just stand around waiting for you to talk to them, it?s still a bright, colourful place. The combat may not always connect but at least it feels kind of fluid. And, most importantly, the story generally moves along at a pretty brisk pace, with an omnipresent yellow arrow on the minimap guiding you to your next goal.

Of course, to get to any of the good parts, it requires that you put up with quite a bit of not-so-good. Personally, I thought Ary and the Secret of Seasons was worth it, but you?d be well within your rights to figure it?s more trouble than it?s worth, and look elsewhere for your Zelda-like needs.

Modus Games provided us with an Ary and the Secret of Seasons Switch code for review purposes.

Grade: B-