Thanks to Wayforward for the review code
Title: RWBY Arrowfell
System: Nintendo Switch (eShop)
Release Date: 11/15/2022
In this action platformer adventure, you take control of team RWBY during a period in Volume 7 of the show. What does that mean if you’re a total newcomer to the series like myself? Well, not much, though the game does a decent enough job of showing each character’s personality traits, the plot here isn’t all that interesting nor explains much of the series’ backstory all that well. Terms will fly right over your head with little explanation, but the main gist seems to be that team RWBY have accomplished the title of Huntresses, and now must rid the land of an evil force known as Grimm, while dealing with a rival group known as BRIR along the way.
The last licensed Wayforward game I dabbled with was The Mummy Demastered, which was a metroidvania based off another IP I had next to no prior knowledge of, and fell deep in love with despite some bumps in the road that game had, mainly due to an excellent art style and outstanding soundtrack.
Well, RWBY Arrowfell doesn’t impress all that well in comparison, since this game is a 2.5D action platformer, using 3D models that look OK at best. Despite staying near a locked 30FPS here on switch, everything looks sluggish, with incredibly bland environments that led to me mixing up which stage I was in when loading the game up after a month of not playing it. Turns out no, there just are two snowfield areas that look almost the exact same. The game does eventually gain different environments and enemies as you progress, but even the cool looking city loses appeal after a while, especially when you fight samey looking enemies and do your bajillionth fetch quest… More on that later.
The game does break things up now and then, with 3D cutscenes that match the nature of the show. These look way better than the core game, and at first I was even fooled into thinking it was something wild in-engine before realizing that no, RWBY is a 3D animated cartoon. Think the CGI sections of Code Lyoko, but less uncanny and a lot better looking. These segments have full voice acting that’s fine, with the voice actors fitting their roles well, but it ultimately leads to the main game feeling so jarringly budget in comparison when you’re back to text box conversations with the main characters barely uttering words.
The music on the other hand… Oh boy, the music. Well, it’s generic, incredibly so. I don’t know if it’s based off the BGM of the show or not, but in stages the songs you hear are incredibly generic and dull, really feeling more like background noise rather than epic tracks to fight to, even during boss battles. Considering how legendarily awesome some Wayforward soundtracks are, this was an immense disappointment. You do get a vocal theme to kick off the game’s first stage however, and maybe it’s my own age showing, but it is godawful and incredibly cheesy, and I do not recommend you look it up.
RWBY Arrowfell is structured a bit like Shantae: Half Genie Hero, tasking the player with going stage by stage, exploring mini metroidvania like areas and battling with enemies. Where it differs from Shantae comes from the fun factor and how progression is done. While the combat is decent, with each of the four characters having their own melee and ranged attack, along with a special skill that uses up an energy bar, they all feel pretty darn similar, especially with the ranged attacks. I ultimately just stuck to Weiss and Ruby, mainly due to Weiss having a multi-hit melee attack with Ruby having a longer range scythe, with the other two really only coming into play when I needed their skill for a puzzle.
They all share the same health and energy bar, so you can’t strategically shift between them, and when the energy bar is empty taking damage will decrease their heart count by one, leading to a game over if you lose them all. Still, you can find some optional things here and there, from currency that can buy handy health and skill point upgrades, or health and skill point upgrades in the stages themselves. Or quest items, which there are way, way too many of, to the point the game slowly reveals itself to be Fetch Quest: The Videogame mere minutes after the prologue stage.
See, you may think the skill points would be used to gain cool new skills to open new areas or do fun optional things, but they really don’t seem to do much at all. I gathered enough skill points to fully max out one of my character’s features very quickly, with Weiss having max physical attack… And all it did was give her extra points of damage. No new weapon, no cool combo, just the same three pokes as she had before, but with extra numbers. Thus, it made switching to the other girls utterly pointless for combat, since I could do way more damage with her attack than anyone else. Likewise, you can bump up other stats, but these all feel way less satisfying than finding an extra heart, making the skill points feel superfluous.
So what did I mean by fetch quests? Well, you usually reach new stages by being tasked with finding X item someone has lost or is seeking. You go to the area to look around, with none of these stages having in-game maps of any sort, (leading to me getting lost at one point due to a square-like loop being part of an early stage) find the item, then trade it for another item that an NPC in a stage may need, which leads to them giving you another item, thus leading to a trading sidequest that feels it never ends until you open up the boss area, where there’s finally some semblance of a decent stage to play. Then the chapter ended, I started the next one, raring to explore more areas… Only to be tasked with more fetch quests that opened areas, repeating the dreaded cycle once again. Yeah, this game is pretty much fetch-quest driven, an immensely disappointing ordeal that led to this game being incredibly boring after a while, to the point I honestly lost interest in playing the game, even if I got used to taking out enemies along the way and the stages themselves weren’t too underwhelming.
In conclusion, RWBY Arrowfell feels like part of the Half Genie Hero template slapped onto the RWBY IP, and while the character switching is cool, there really wasn’t much incentive for me to switch from my main favorite outside of needing the special ability of the other team members, especially with the skill point system outright being a bore. The combat is boring and repetitive, the exploration aspects are very light at best, and the game just feels like it meets the bare minimum in some aspects. The stage by stage gameplay is alright, and if you’re hoping for a fun compliment to the series I suppose it may be a decent romp for fans, but as a platformer, especially one by Wayforward standards, Arrowfell could have been so much more interesting, rather than feeling pretty milquetoast and fetch quest heavy.
For a whopping $30 pricepoint, I honestly cannot recommend this title at all, especially considering Wayforward’s other licensed game, Mummy Demastered is way more engaging and cleverly designed at a lower pricepoint, and not even cheesy vocal themes or decent voice acting in cutscenes is enough to push this game above an average experience. Still solidly made with a few hours of fun to kill if you don’t mind the excessive fetch quests, but nothing that’ll impress fans of platformers or help get non-fans like me into the series.
I give RWBY Arrowfell a 5 out of 10.