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Arzette The Jewel of Faramore review – old-school charm and quirks

Arzette: The Jewel of Faramore aims to bring the charm of retro classics back to modern gamers on the Switch and other platforms. Here's our full review.

Screenshot from Arzette: The Jewel of Faramore with mountains in the background as she's standing in the middle of the screen

Our Verdict

Arzette: The Jewel of Faramore captures the intended retro charm with expert authenticity, warts and all. There's a great deal of energetic personality here, and the gameplay is straightforward fun, though the experience is slightly undermined by a lack of polish... but perhaps that's the whole point.

Before I take the time to talk about Arzette: The Jewel of Faramore, you’re going to want a bit of context. The new game, out now on Switch and across other platforms, is developed by Seedy Eye Software as a tribute to the infamously hated CD-i Zelda games from the early nineties (Seedy Eye sounds like CD-i, geddit?). Everything in the game, from the art style to the voice actors, is drawn directly from inspiration from these awful, awful Zelda games.

Obviously, the goal with Arzette: The Jewel of Crown isn’t to make something comparably diabolical. It’s to take the CD-i Zelda games as a starting block to build up from to create something that’s actually good. That means keeping the aesthetics, tone, and some gameplay mechanics, but in a new world with new characters, culminating in a retro throwback that you can enjoy today, in 2024. In lots of ways, Arzette: The Jewel of Faramore excels in this, and in others, not so much.

With a charming art style (some of the background landscapes are really wonderful), nice music, and fun animations, Arzette is a 2D platformer where you play as the princess Arzette aiming to save her kingdom against the threat of the ghoulish villain Daimur in a hack-and-slash adventure. You jump, duck, climb, swing swords, and throw bombs through a range of levels taking you right across the land of Faramore. These mechanics are defined by their simplicity, and the difficulty comes when trying to navigate the terrain where evil enemies lie in wait: timing your jumps to avoid a flying creature coming straight at you, for example. As you get used to the variety of enemies, you’ll take a lot of damage.

But it’s not just foes you’ll encounter on your journey though, there are some friends too. As you meet these new faces, and as the story progresses, you’ll be interrupted by extended animated cutscenes. These cutscenes are where the game shows off its personality: the choppy animation is so distinctly of the ‘80s/’90s period, and the all-in voice acting brings a ton of energy and enthusiasm to the story. Unfortunately, there are quite a lot of them, and they tend to go on and on… and on. If you’re either not used to these retro sensibilities (or don’t enjoy them) the cutscenes will probably end up feeling irritating and tedious. But, if you’re in on the joke, you’ll enjoy them.

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That, really, is the best way to describe Arzette: The Jewel of Faramore: an in-joke that you have to be aware of in order to get the most out of it. Because, otherwise, outside of the broader context, Arzette can be a little frustrating. The hit-boxes on enemies aren’t precise, some levels are inexplicably harder than others, you’re never quite certain if you’re on the right path, and the experience of abruptly dying and quickly respawning is one you’ll get very used to. In short, it can be surprisingly tricky, and not always in an entirely satisfying way.

But, judged another way, the game is a total success. Take my mild annoyance with the unpredictable hitboxes: it really does feel like a game from a time capsule to a long-gone era of gaming, which is exactly the intention. The little quirks and moments of frustration are part of the plan. It wouldn’t feel like an early ‘90s sidescroller if they were absent.

Screenshot from Arzette: The Jewel of Faramore with the character climbing up a tree with enemies on

Because my experience with the CD-i Zelda games is only very limited, the game I was actually most reminded of was 1994’s Super Star Wars: Return of The Jedi on the SNES (not the best Star Wars game, admittedly). This is a game I played on a SNES emulator on the PC in the early 2000s (I wasn’t born for its release, and was a latecomer to it). My memories of it now are of a platformer that I found incredibly punishing and somewhat confusing, but fun: I saw it as a curious mystery, both enthralling and inaccessible. That’s how I imagine a kid would feel playing Arzette: The Jewel of Faramore. It feels like a retro gem from the past, for bad and good. It might not be for everyone, and I’m not entirely sure it’s for me, but the game is an absolute success judged against its own aims.

For more Switch fun, check out our speculative article on what you should expect from the Switch 2 and see our picks for the best Nintendo Switch games. Or, if you want to stick with Arzette’s Zelda inspiration learn what we know about the new Zelda game, and read our Tears of the Kingdom review.