Aer: Memories of Old is essentially a love letter to The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, utilising the same formula which made the sixteenth edition to the Zelda franchise so successful. On a cluster of islands floating in the sky we meet our protagonist, Auk, a shape shifter who can transform into a bird to traverse the various shrines and temples scattered amongst the clouds.
The opening scenes see Auk (no doubt named after the diving seabird) setting off on a pilgrimage to the Land of The Gods. The entire world laid before Auk is built with a beautiful minimalistic art style, rounded out with block colours and ombré transitions to lend depth to the environment. As the game progresses and the story begins to unravel we’re introduced to a variety of settlements and environments above the clouds, and each of these is beautifully shaded and developed with the same amount of intricate detail.
The soundtrack is equal parts soothing and melodic. It grabs your attention and flows alongside the story amidst the voiceless text dialogue. The music changes urgency based on your actions. Taking flight will engage a more uplifting soundtrack which mirrors the stirring mood of the game. In temples and during grounded exploration, a more relaxing tune follows Auk; a progression of simple notes which bob up and down alongside the peaceful gameplay.
The story is a simple one and there are no time constraints, leading me to spend hours charting out each individual island and discovering the secrets and trophies that they contained. You’ll spend most of your travels alone, only revisiting the Settlement (the central hub of Aer) to discover the whereabouts of the next temple. Although secondary characters don’t play much of a role beyond hinting at your next location, their presence is reassuring and adds a sense of life to the settlements. Exploring temples is also a fun part of the game. The puzzles in these temples aren’t particularly challenging, but they add a welcome problem-solving element to Aer. They range from using your lantern to unlock doors, timing jumps and solving simple sequences to unlock deeper sections of the temple to progress.
Upon your travels Auk will encounter shards of light, frozen in the air. When approached whilst holding a lantern they will light up, revealing people, spirit animals and battles lost in the past. Whilst the interactions don’t add to the storyline, they’re intriguing and I was always drawn to islands with clusters of these bright lights. These mysterious lights fill the temples and, although it’s clear the interactions are supposed to shed light on the complicated backstory, I found myself having a hard time trying to fit the events depicted into the already confusing timeline.
In fact, the backstory of Aer is often over complicated and left me confused. Talking to inhabitants of the Settlement sets them off rambling about gods, rituals and the pilgrimage Auk must undertake. For a shorter game I found this bombardment of information to be a little overwhelming and spent most of the game trying to piece it together yet only formulating a weak string of possibilities to explain the history. It’s also difficult to enjoy the game as an original enterprise as there are so many references to the Zelda franchise that, at times, you feel as though you are replaying Skyward Sword.
Ultimately though, it’s hard to find serious faults with Aer. The story is relatively short (only taking around three hours for a player to complete Auk’s pilgrimage) but it’s a very peaceful and enjoyable adventure, one which stayed with me hours after the credits had rolled.