Otaku USA Magazine
Air Twister is a Short But Sweet Arcade Treat from Shenmue Creator Yu Suzuki

air twister

When the folks at Apple Arcade approached game creator Yu Suzuki (Shenmue, Virtua Fighter) and YSNET about making a game for their platform, they gave the industry legend a relatively straightforward task. They wanted a simple game that evoked the arcade classics of yore, so Suzuki decided to mine the coin-op depths and came up with something that takes heaps of inspiration from iconic forward-scrolling shoot ’em up Space Harrier, which he worked on way back in 1985. Throw in some aesthetic and gameplay nods to the Panzer Dragoon series and a soundtrack that’s impossible to ignore and you get Air Twister, a short but memorable flight through a truly unique world.

Air Twister is a rail shooter that previously launched as an Apple Arcade title but is now officially available on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox, Nintendo Switch and PC. The gameplay is as simple as can be, even if its visual stylings and world design are anything but. Players take to the skies as Princess Arch, who is tasked with defending her home world of AIR from the invading Vanguard. In addition to flying on her own, Arch will soar atop the back of swans and other bizarre yet fitting winged mounts. 

No matter how she flies, Arch can either fire off individual blasts or lock onto multiple targets for more efficient killing and scoring. As you dash through an increasingly imaginative world, you’ll earn stars that you can later use to unlock nodes in a rudimentary but nonetheless helpful skill tree. This is one of a few aspects that aims to keep folks playing Air Twister beyond the relatively brief 12 missions at the heart of it all. The missions all play out similarly, as Arch sets out on a predetermined path, destroys a ton of flying enemies while dodging incoming blasts, and eventually faces off against one of the towering and often unusual bosses. There’s everything from giant skeletal dragons to homicidal clock… things. It’s a real trip, to say the least.

That trip is made all the stranger thanks to the soundtrack by Dutch composer Valensia, who belts out Queen-esque prog tunes throughout. According to interviews, Suzuki simply dug Valensia already and wanted to use the musician’s tracks for something. After getting in touch with him, Suzuki merely asked that he change some of the lyrics to better fit the tone and content of Air Twister. The rest, as they say, is pure earworm history. A soundtrack this specific may not be something you want to fully jam to every single time you fire up the game, but it goes a long way to contribute to the overall mood. While I enjoyed my time with Air Twister overall, I can safely say it wouldn’t have had the same hold on me without Valensia’s inimitable sonic contributions. 

Beyond the main game and story mode itself, there are other ways to keep you coming back to Air Twister after your first time through the end credits. There’s a Boss Rush mode, bonus minigames, and the aforementioned skill tree that comes with its own stylistic unlocks beyond health and armor upgrades. Air Twister won’t be for everyone, but it exceeded my expectations and offered up the kind of idiosyncratic experience I’d expect from someone like Yu Suzuki. That’s more than enough for this particular rail shooter. Now, if I could just get some of those damnably ethereal songs out of my head!

Publisher: ININ Games
Developer: YSNET
System(s): PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox, Switch
Rating: E10+
Available: November 10