Review – Air Twister

Shenmue III was a bitter pill to swallow for people waiting for that damn game to come out for the previous decade and a half, but also an even harder pill to swallow for its creator, Yu Suzuki. After more than a decade outside of the gaming industry, the once revolutionary developer was now standing out as a dinosaur behind the times. Where would he go next? Another Shenmue was clearly out of the picture, and he wasn’t ready to retire just yet. The logical conclusion would be reverting back to doing what he was best known for: arcade-like experiences. Not only that, but also taking advantage of one of the most potent forces in nature: nostalgia. I am pretty sure this is how and why he ended up creating Air Twister, and despite its fair share of issues, I’m really glad he did so.

Air Twister Space Harrier

“Welcome… to the fantasy zone!”

Before talking about Air Twister proper, I want to remind you of two particular rail shooters released by Sega in the 80s and 90s: Space Harrier and Panzer Dragoon. The former was one of the first (pseudo) 3D rail shooters, with a third-person perspective, in which a flying dude had to shoot incoming “shapes”, whilst avoiding enemy fire. Panzer Dragoon, on the other hand, felt like Sega’s answer to Star Fox, retaining that game’s gameplay loop, with an added emphasis on lock-on, homing shots, as well as impressive visuals and sound for their time. Air Twister, in short, is “Space Harrier meets Panzer Dragoon“.

From Space Harrier, Air Twister retains the perspective, specific kinds of enemies you’re forced to fight against (some are blatant carbon copies of some older foes from the 1986 classic), and the fact you’re a human nonsensically floating onscreen, avoiding enemy fire with telekinesis or whatnot. From Panzer Dragoon, comes the fact you’re supposed to ride on huge flying beasts during boss battles, the grandiose of the locales you’ll explore, and the huge emphasis on locking on and shooting enemies with homing attacks.

Air Twister Panzer

Boss battles reminded me a lot of Panzer Dragoon.

Mechanically-speaking, Air Twister is as shallow as a freaking puddle, but oddly enough, the combination of these two rail shooter styles works surprisingly well. In essence, you are playing a Space Harrier spiritual sequel that just so happens to drop rows of enemies at once, enemies which can be easily taken care of with your automatic lock-on mechanic. Keep doing so until you die or the game itself ends. It’s not particularly long, nor challenging (at least if you’re used to playing old-school Sega arcade games), so it doesn’t outstay its welcome, either.

What does outstay its welcome, however, is the sheer amount of unnecessary cutscenes trying to tell a story you simply won’t care about. The trippy imagery is amusing at first (I mean, the game starts off with an army of laser-wielding soldiers riding gigantic swans in a world full of mushrooms), but the plot itself couldn’t have been more forgettable. I don’t care about the protagonist, the dying swan in front of her, or the reason why she’s going from level to level, mowing down hordes of enemies with her nonsensical flying abilities. In true old-school Sega arcade fashion, I am just here to be entertained.

Air Twister bosses

Control a giant swan unleashing homing laser attacks onto a giant centipede-dragon hybrid on a watery planet full of shrooms. Basic stuff.

You also need to take into account that Air Twister is, in fact, a game developed with mobile hardware in mind. It was originally released on Apple Arcade, meaning it wasn’t created with sucking your wallet dry with MT schemes, but it wasn’t supposed to push audiovisual boundaries, either. With that being said, it does not look that bad on a big screen, either. It has some impressive environments and the occasionally creative boss design. Just not exactly a bonafide masterpiece in terms of visuals. It also runs at a rock-solid 60fps, with no issues, at least on PS5.

Air Twister cutscenes

There are lots of cutscenes in Air Twister. You won’t care about a single one of them.

The sound design is… weird. Once again, it’s not bad, but it’s something you will need to get used to. Yu Suzuki decided to hire one of his favorite personal artists, a Dutch New Age musician from the 90s called Valensia, to compose Air Twister‘s soundtrack. New Age isn’t exactly bad music, and I cannot say the tracks included in Air Twister are unpleasant, but this is an acquired taste. It is clear that Yu Suzuki decided to draft that artist because of personal preferences, as the music itself doesn’t exactly fit in with the imagery of laser-wielding soldiers riding giant ducks fighting against killer robots. Then again, I doubt anything does.

Air Twister trippy

Are you sure these shrooms aren’t filled with… specific substances?

I had a pretty good time with Air Twister, even though it did feature a myriad of shortcomings, from its boring plot to its short duration. It’s a somewhat limited game in terms of scope, but it’s Yu Suzuki at his best: this is pure arcade fun, the kind he used to churn out with gusto back in the 80s and 90s. If you grew up playing Sega arcade games at your local arcade parlor, or have grown to love those titles by spending countless hours at the Club Sega in the Yakuza games, then Air Twister is the game for you. This is the Space Harrier revival you’ve been asking for the past two decades.


Graphics: 7.0

It looks impressive for a game originally crafted with mobile hardware in mind, with some impressive lighting effects and creative locales. Not mind-blowing, but impressive nonetheless.

Gameplay: 8.0

It’s the control scheme from Space Harrier with the lock-on emphasis from Panzer Dragoon. It’s as shallow as a puddle, but those two mechanics work surprisingly well together.

Sound: 7.0

A soothing, but equally bizarre New Age soundtrack stemming from one of Yu Suzuki’s favorite artists. It’s not bad music, but it’s not exactly the easiest of listens.

Fun Factor: 7.0

If you are looking for a game that retains that iconic Sega arcade feel from the 90s, look no further. Just understand it’s short, and it has a lot of cutscenes you won’t care about.

Final Verdict: 7.5

Air Twister is available now on PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, PC, Nintendo Switch, and iOS.

Reviewed on PS5.

A copy of Air Twister was provided by the publisher.