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When Breath of the Wild released in 2017, it revolutionized the tried and tired open-world formula. The experience at hand was seamless and everything one could see in the world of Hyrule was reachable – it was truly a boundless world. The sense of freedom offered in its exploration inspired many games after it, and a few upcoming games too. With titles like Windbound, Genshin Impact, Ary and the Secret of Seasons, and Kena: Bridge of Spirits taking inspiration from the title, one cannot overlook the surging demand of Zelda-like adventures lately.

With Ary and the Secret of Seasons, Exiin Games is trying for an open-world game that is quite like a Pixar experience where Zelda meets Mario with a seasonal twist. It may sound like a lot to digest and it sure is. So, let me break it down for you and see what Ary has in store with her seasonal greetings.

The Story of Seasons

The game tells the story of hearty Aryelle, the daughter of the Winter Guardian of Vivaldi – a kingdom having four seasonal regions. Every region has a season guardian. Right from the get-go, we learn that her brother Flynn has been missing and her father isn’t coping with it too well. Things go amiss when corrupted crystal shards fall from the sky causing a seasonal crisis – altering seasons of every region. Ary makes her way to The Dome of Seasons to address these uncanny happenings. Aided by a crystal with the power manipulating seasons, Ary is determined to find her long lost brother and end the seasonal crisis.

Highly Ambitious, Yet Deeply Flawed

As far as the narrative is concerned, the game is highly engaging. I certainly had a fun time delving into Ary’s affairs. Ary makes for a strong protagonist and is supported by a relatively likable cast. The cutscenes are snappy and have a decent amount of voice-acting, and the game’s vibrant Pixar-like animations make the overall experience even more appealing. However, the game tends to be more ambitious than it probably should – lacking in overall polish. It punches far above its weight. There are buggy side missions and broken NPC interactions in some instances that can hinder your experience.

Where the Mario meets the Zelda

Ary’s ability to alter seasons with seasonal spheres is a game-changer. Her season medallion can hold four-season crystals – Summer, Winter, Spring, and Autumn. Summer clears the ice, Winter builds the ice, Spring grows vegetation and Autumn gets rid of them. With her crystal medallion, Ary can cast multiple seasonal spheres, which allows the game to stage some highly intricate puzzles. I especially enjoyed the underwater levels featured in the season’s temples. Every seasonal temple features a series of long puzzles that seem very well-connected.

Boundless Exploration at a Cost

The game feels limitless while exploring – you can jump off the rooftops, climb mountains in a few jumps (watch out Plumber Boy!), and dive deep into oceans. There are all kinds of terrains available for you to explore – from daunting wilderness to lively cityscapes. However, the experience is ultimately underwhelming as there is a significant amount of glitches that you may encounter. You can get trapped inside buildings, sink beneath the ground, or get stuck somewhere. The experience could have been much better if there was more polish to them – it all feels kind of rushed.

Combat-wise, it is familiar to the Nintendo classic – Ocarina of Time. There are melee attacks, dodges, parries, and a range of weapons to choose from. It never feels too overwhelming – thanks to the never-ending inventory of Ary and her upgradable abilities. The seasonal powers help as well in breaking down the enemy’s defenses. She also uses ridiculous taunts like “You son of a Cow”. For the most part, you’d be fighting hyenas and taking on bosses that allow multiple respawns. So there are barely any moments of tedium – quite fitting for the game’s theme if you ask me.

By the Nooks and Crannies

The game is brimming with beautiful low-poly assets similar to what we see in Disney/Pixar Movies. From a visual standpoint, the Cityscapes are the highlight. On a 100% resolution scale, I did not notice any aliasing. The vibrant colors on the assets pop out, close to what we see in HDR these days. However, the shadow detail is not great on the Medium or Low presets – the High preset is a must.

In its current state, the game is technically flawed – overridden with glitches and bugs at several places. I had to reload several times as I couldn’t progress because of the glitches – it’s safe to say that the game is in serious need of patch fixes. From an fps standpoint, my GTX 1050 was holding up an appreciable 40-60 fps at all times with minor stuttering issues.

As for sound design, I certainly liked the background scores. Every season bears its own distinctive melody. The sound effects, on the other hand,  are little more than serviceable.

Real Talk

Ary and The Secret of Seasons‘ childlike whimsicality makes it a jolly experience in a genre crowded by dark, brooding settings. Thanks to its engaging narrative, intricate puzzles, and beautiful vistas I had an enjoyable time. However, it is too ambitious for its own good. It severely lacks in polish due to its abundant technical issues that leave much to be desired. Hopefully, the developers will be able to fix the issues sooner rather than later. For now, I’d recommend you wait for a sale.

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