Aeterna Noctis Switch Review
Aeterna Noctis was released at the end of 2021 for next gen consoles. Up until release day, it was coming out on all consoles and PC. As a Metroidvania fan, I was planning on getting it close to release day for PS4. Release day came, the PS4 version was nowhere to be found, and there was no word from the publisher about when we could expect it. I figured I would just get the Switch version then, if it was gonna be exclusive to PS5 for the foreseeable future. It wasn’t available for Switch either. It’s now November 2022, and the Switch version has arrived.
Over the summer, I finally got my hands on a PS5. I played that version of Aeterna Noctis and enjoyed it. COGconnected reviewed that version, and you can read that review here. That review does a good job of summarizing the game, and giving players an idea of what to expect from it. This review will focus on a couple aspects of Aeterna Noctis that weren’t covered in that original review, and discuss how the Switch version differs from the next gen version that has been widely available for the past year.
Aeterna Noctis, gameplay-wise, is a 10/10. It has perfect 2D platforming, excellent combat, and excellent exploration. Some Metroidvania games excel in certain areas, and fall flat in others, but Aeterna Noctis nails them all, especially its platforming. For fans of platform-heavy Metroidvanias like Ori and the Blind Forest, it’s a must-play. It’s also a must-play for fans of precision platform titles like Super Meat Boy, because the platforming is difficult. The challenges require mastery of the controls, and extreme precision, especially on Hard Mode, where the platforming difficulty is dialed-up.
The second extremely strong aspect of Aeterna Noctis is that its areas vary in the types of challenges they present. Most Metroidvania games have different areas that are mainly differentiated by their appearances and enemy types, but Aeterna Noctis takes this a step further by differentiating gameplay focus. There are 16 areas in the game. Some are strewn with more platforming challenges, and some are more combat heavy. But even the combat sections differ. The player has to adapt between faster reflex-driven combat, and patient combat. There are interesting bosses that vary in style, and pattern. All the gameplay variety is what helps Aeterna Noctis rise to the top of a sea of Metroidvania contemporaries.
Aeterna Noctis’ presentation is not as strong as its gameplay. The story is about a god called Chaos, trying to bring equilibrium to existence. It makes the leaders of Light and Darkness immortal, so they can’t get the upper hand against each other. The story starts after the Lord of Darkness has been struck down by the Lord of Light, and is resurrected. It’s all a little too generic. And the idea of Chaos trying to bring order to the world, even if its through unending conflict, is kind of contradictory. The weak world-building and lack of narrative drive is definitely the weakest aspect of Aeterna Noctis.
There are also visual elements I didn’t like. I know these are super subjective, but I’m mentioning them for anyone who might be turned off by them. I love 2D animated cutscenes. And the animated cutscenes in Aeterna Noctis have a visual aesthetic similar to something on the Sega CD, so they get major points for those elements. But the animation itself looks like old jerky flash animation, and the art quality has that digitized early-2000s anime look that hasn’t aged well at all.
Something that I hate in modern 2D videogames is when the camera is zoomed-out really far. Aeterna Noctis’ is pretty far out, and with the way players can move the camera with the right joystick, it seems a little needless. But maybe that’s a visual aspect some people like. It works fine on a big screen 4K TV, so normally this would just be a personal preference issue, but in handheld mode on the Switch, it’s a problem at times. The sprites are just too small. And the main draw of Metroidvanias on Switch is that they can be played portably.
The other issue with the Switch version is that the framerate is too choppy. The visuals are jerky all the time. It doesn’t ruin gameplay, but it’s extremely noticeable, and a little jarring at first. Some players will loathe it on the difficult platforming sections. I’m from the NES platforming generation, and was able to adapt to it without issue, but many would say they shouldn’t have to adapt to framerates in this day and age, and they are kind of right.
If the only console you own is a Switch, then Aeterna Noctis is a very good Metroidvania. I’d put it a tier lower than the best of the best in the genre, but still better than most, because of its excellent gameplay. If you own a PS5, Xbox, or PC, then the Switch should be the last version you play. The camera is too zoomed-out for handheld mode, and the framerate is very choppy compared to the other smooth versions. I wish I could also report on how the PS4 and Xbox One versions compared to the next gen versions. They were all planned for the same release day, and ended up taking another year to become available, so I would assume they are all downgrades that had to be quality compromised.
***Switch code provided by the publisher***
- Precision controls
- Gameplay variety
- Optional platforming difficulty
- Choppy framerate
- Too zoomed out for handheld mode
- Poor cutscene quality