Air Twister is A Daft Video Game

A brilliant music album wrapped in an awful nostalgia play

Alex Rowe


Air Twister’s silent protagonist flies towards some mushrooms.
Nintendo Switch screenshot taken by the author.

While I was busy being a wee baby, now-famous game developer Yu Suzuki was working on Space Harrier. This arcade classic codified the rail shooter genre, and pushed sprite scaling graphics technology to its limit in 1985. It blended fast action and state of the art visuals with a catchy soundtrack, and its fluid gameplay warranted ports and sequels on dozens of different platforms over the last forty years.

Now, Yu Suzuki has come back to the genre he helped create with Air Twister. This definitely-legally-distinct-from-Space-Harrier project first launched on Apple Arcade over a year ago, and now it’s out on all modern consoles and PC for twenty five bucks, no subscription or iOS device needed.

When it was first announced, I figured it would come to a platform with real controls and buttons eventually, but I didn’t think it would take this long. Still, I somehow avoided all info about the game other than “new Space Harrier from Yu Suzuki,” and excitedly bought a Switch copy for myself this morning.

I made a big mistake.

Air Twister’s protagonist flies towards some flat islands and ships.
Nintendo Switch screenshot taken by the author.

Air Twister is a weird disaster. It’s a game that boldly asks “can you make a nostalgia bait game without the actual IP that people are nostalgic for?” It’s full of bad free-to-play mobile game design choices that haven’t been eased up for console customers. It shamelessly steals from years of other games Sega produced while simultaneously misunderstanding what made those games fun.

And it has one of the best soundtracks I’ve ever heard in a video game. Wait, what?

The core gameplay in Air Twister is a meandering attempt at classic rail shooter fare. There’s twelve stages and two bonus areas to blast through as a flying lady named Princess Arch who has a magic crossbow. You can hammer the fire button to shoot regular shots, or glide past enemies to lock on and fire weaker blasts, Panzer Dragoon-style. The standard enemies look just like the weird ships from Space Harrier, complete with the twisting oval-shaped projectiles that formed a…