[Review] Ara Fell: Enhanced Edition – Nintendo Switch

Written by Thomas Haroldsen
  • Developer: Stego Soft
  • Publisher: DANGEN Entertainment
  • Release Date: 26/03/2020
  • Price: £16.19 / $14.99
  • Review code provided by DANGEN Entertainment

Introducing: Ara Fell: Enhanced Edition Review

I’m always on the lookout for another fantastic JRPG. Becoming engulfed in a memorable story with incredible gameplay and a magical world is easier hoped than found. When I stumbled across Ara Fell, it had beautiful 16-bit graphics and fantastic sprites. It looked pleasing enough but I didn’t expect the game to grip me beyond a budget RPG to pass the time until the next big one. How wrong I was. Continue reading to see why I feel like Ara Fell can easily contend with past 16-bit juggernauts as it stands on its own merit.

Keepers of the Stones

Ara Fell sheds the typical tropes found in many role-playing games. Though a few parts were predictable, there was still enough surprise accompanied with plenty of heart and soul to keep me entranced for hours at a time. Not only was the main narrative wonderfully crafted, but the individual dialogue is packed with emotion. Love, humor, and heartache are abound in the world of Ara Fell and the creative team set the bar with their delivery and presentation. The characters are believable and lack the campy over-the-top annoyances common in the genre.

The main heroine, Lita, is no ordinary girl. She’s incredibly skilled with a bow and can shut down short jokes like no other. Fate didn’t predetermine her course, rather she accidentally falls into becoming the unexpected hero of the world. Little did she know, an ordinary ring would take her on a treacherous journey. I know that sounds like a familiar setting but it really isn’t. Lita and her team struggle across their floating island to break an ancient curse which turned all the elves to stone. They are plagued by vampires, traps and countless unspeakable horrors along the way. When the credits rolled, I wished for more. Luckily, an epilogue offered me a sampling of where Lita’s story can go and I hope to see it on my Switch in the near future.

Artifacts of Power

Not only did Ara Fell boast a gripping story with a lovable cast, but the gameplay equally shined. Outside of combat there’s a huge world to explore. Lita can crawl into tight spaces, dive for coins or blast hidden walls with bombs. Secrets are everywhere. Secluded items, hidden doors and hard-to-reach areas are waiting to be uncovered by a persistent player with a keen eye. A world laden with flora, ores and elements begs to be explored. These ingredients can be harvested for a simplified, yet satisfying crafting system.

The combat in Ara Fell is turn-based. Most all of the skills are unlocked from the start but progression does allow for making them stronger. The battles were fluid and fun with a variety of enemies to engage. Though the fighting hardly invented anything new, it did keep the process streamlined. My one gripe is that the combat animations took a little time to play out. They were stunning for sure, and didn’t bother me during my normal playthrough. However, when it came time to grind, it would have been nice to speed up the process. The other combat related issue I ran into was on a few rare battles. There are some specific encounters where enemies on the screen are hidden by the character portraits or UI in the corner. This was a bit of a nuisance, as I couldn’t see their details or easily gauge my opponents strength.

Overall, the combat was engaging. Your health and magic replenish at the end of each match so it’s easy to manage your party and get right back to the quest. The exploration kept me entertained and drove me to trekking all over the floating land. Ara Fell did a great job creating a magnificent place to visit and I’m truly sad my stay is over.

Heroes of the Land

As I mentioned above, Ara Fell uses 16-bit graphics for its presentation. They are gorgeously rendered and even more than that, the animated sprites move with purpose and are beautifully authentic. Right down to Lita plugging her nose before diving underwater for a single coin. The character portraits have the same polish as the rest of the game. Even the NPCs who dot the landscape are uniquely drawn with colorful personalities. The world is vibrant and feels alive. Animals scurry about and bugs zip around. More than once I stopped my journey just to enjoy the scenery and snap a photo.

The music is just as beautiful as the art. The soundtrack is easy to hum along to and would echo between my ears long after I turned off the game. The songs take note of your surroundings and play appropriate melodies for the mood on screen. The sound effects with the tweeting birds and rushing wind tied the package together for a seamless world with credible tones.

Dwellers in the Dark

Other than the scurrying bugs in the world of Ara Fell, there were no glitches or technical hiccups. Though not a technical issue, I did run into a few scenes that took place in darker areas. While playing docked, this wasn’t a problem. However, Ara Fell is perfectly suited for on-the-go gaming. A feature that I took full advantage of as I primarily played on my Switch Lite. When I was out and about, I had to turn up my brightness all the way and even then it did little to alleviate these dark corners across the land. Again, these instances were few and far between but they did cause me to squint and even stop playing until I was in a more conducive setting.

Final Wrap

Ara Fell: Enhanced Edition was a pleasant surprise. I knew I would get sucked into island life this month. Little did I know it would be a floating island with the company of Lita and her pals. The resounding story will be in my thoughts long after the epilogue and I’ll yearn to visit Ara Fell again. For its asking price, this should not only be added to every role-playing gamer’s library, but fully enjoyed before settling into a backlog of “one day I’ll play.” Ara Fell isn’t without flaws, but those gripes with the combat pacing shrink to near microscopic with the rest of the experience is touchingly polished. I can’t recommend Ara Fell: Enhanced Edition for the Nintendo Switch enough.

Pros

  • Masterfully Crafted Retro RPG
  • Enticing World and Characters
  • Wonderfully Written

Cons

  • Slow Combat Grind

Verdict
Ara Fell: Enhanced Edition is masterfully made for modern audiences, infused with nostalgia and retro spirit.
4.5/5

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