It can be tough to find a game that truly resonates with you on a deep and emotional level, but I’m extremely pleased to say that Spiritfarer does just that. With its enveloping narrative, simple controls, scaling but never frustrating challenges, and characters that really stay with you, it’s a magical little gem that I’m so glad to see grace the Switch.
As a big fan of indie games, I was looking forward to getting my hands on a copy. It’s an emotional adventure through memories, sorrow, loss, and happiness, tied up in a breathtaking package that translates perfectly to Switch. From the intricate details of every scene, to the stunning worldbuilding presented through conversations with NPCs, Spiritfarer offers a level of charm and sincerity that very few titles manage to achieve. I found myself entirely lost in Stella’s world, building strong attachments to the spirits that surround me, which makes it extremely bittersweet when it’s time for them to pass on. It’s comfort food for the soul, and I can see myself returning to this game for many years to come.
The visuals of this game are, needless to say, stunning. Taking inspiration from traditional folklore, it’s hard not to be reminded of Studio Ghibli classics such as Spirited Away. With vivid colours, unique character designs, and gorgeous locations for you to visit, I found myself marvelling at the world around me. It looks crisp and bright in both handheld and docked, allowing you to engage in this magical setting regardless of where you are. I found myself moving from the TV to my bed, continuing to play on the smaller screen late into the night, and felt no loss of the intricacies due to the vivid, stylised art.
The story is, of course, the main draw. As the Spiritfarer, it is your job to aid lost souls, befriending and caring for them before finally releasing them to the afterlife – with the help of your adorable cat, Daffodil (who a second player can control in co-op mode), and the everlight at your side. The relationships you build with the characters are moving and emotional, as you learn their likes, dislikes, fears, and regrets, and help them come to terms with the issues of their past. Whether you’re offering them their favourite food, emotional support, or even a warm hug, it’s so rewarding to see their moods perk up thanks to your hard work. Each spirit is unique and has different requests for you, all of which ultimately help you develop your skills and learn new blueprints and abilities to make your life, and the lives of your passengers, more enriching.
Your boat is your home, and offers a great level of customization. You gain access to blueprints through various means, be it through upgrades or quests, and watch as your potential expands with each new building. Islands are often small, some with secrets initially inaccessible until you access new abilities, but there is always something to do as you travel. Whether you’re cutting logs at the sawmill, tending to your gardens and sheep, cooking up new recipes to tantalise the taste buds of your companions, or kicking back to engage in some fishing, not a moment of your time is wasted.
The relationships you build with the characters are moving and emotional.
The mini games and challenges are easy to pick up and understand, but scale with difficulty as you continue. Tasks like cutting logs, weaving fabrics, playing music to your crops, and smelting bars each have their own unique playstyle. Most are effectively quick-time events, but vary in approach, and the responsiveness of the joy cons makes them feel fair and easy enough to adjust to, even if some require a little time to perfect. Of course, certain spirits aid you in various ways if you keep them happy, which makes your engagement with them feel all the more rewarding.
The scaling requests of the spirits continue to challenge you throughout your journey. Whether they’re requesting upgrades to their cabins or more intricate and tricky to find food combinations, all of them keep you on your toes. But there’s no linear way to play Spiritfarer – you’re welcome to spend as little or as much time with each spirit as you see fit, and you can travel between islands at your own pace. You, of course, do reach some road blocks such as walls of ice and jagged rocks, which you can only pass by gathering materials and upgrading your ship. But there’s no time limit, and the leisurely pace lends itself well to the Switch. Backtracking is common throughout the story, and sometimes tasks may feel a little repetitive, but it didn’t impact much on my enjoyment.
The music is gorgeous, and really compliments the emotional journey. Additionally, hearing the gentle snores or hums of your spirits as they wander about the boat emphasises your connection to them even further. But, despite it flagging the occasional event, sound is not required, so if you’re playing handheld and don’t have your headphones, it shouldn’t cause any problems.
Overall, Spiritfarer is a gorgeous title that makes a perfect addition to the growing roster of Switch games. Tackling difficult and heavy topics with tact and respect, while also building a world full of beauty and emotion, this experience is going to stay with me for a long time. No game is perfect, but for me, personally, this feels about as close as it can get.