About time, really.
To appreciate Clockwork Aquario’s journey onto the Nintendo Switch, you need to learn a bit about its origins first. The game was produced way back in the 90s by Westone Bit Entertainment, the team behind the Monster Lair and Wonder Boy games. Sega was set to release it at one point, but it was shelved as arcade business died down, and many feared that Aquario would never see the light of day.
Then came ININ Games (with an assist from Strictly Limited Games), who tracked down some of the game’s original developers, finished up the original code, and are finally giving it a release on Nintendo Switch this week.
Now, you’re about caught up. Even though you may not be a fan of Westone in general, there’s still a lot to appreciate about this arcade romp. It may be short and sweet, but it lives by the mantra “It’s all about the journey, not the destination.”
Simple In Nature and Design
The general goal of the game is simple. You choose from three quirky characters – a dude, a magical girl, and a happy-go-lucky robot – and then set out to defeat mechanical enemies that come your way. You do so either by jumping on their heads or knocking them silly with a punch and then using them as a projectile. The latter is a more effective formula when it comes to building up a high score, as you can hit multiple enemies or floating balloons (scattered for bonus purposes) at the same time.
On occasion, you’ll also deal with boss enemies. They’re fairly easy to figure out once you get their pattern down, but their designs are truly innovative. It’s not every day you see a cute puppy dog driving a tank, after all.
The game is designed as an arcade endeavor, so in-depth definitely doesn’t fit into its description. That said, it’s infinitely replayable, thanks to a simple control scheme, as well as being able to bring in a pal to fight alongside you in a local co-op. It’s a lot of fun in spurts and worth coming back to – just like a majority of Westone’s game releases.
A Gorgeous Blast From the Past
One other treat about Clockwork Aquario is just how easy it is on the eyes. This game looks like an arcade game from the 90s through and through, right down to the simple animations (let each character duck for a minute and you’ll see their fun little characteristics). The level designs are sharp and a lot of fun, and filled with platforming perils to overcome, including those dreaded spike pits. The game definitely smacks of old-school design, and we can’t get enough of it.
Likewise, the music is a real delight. It definitely sounds like a throwback Westone soundtrack, right down to the smooth melody that rewards you for a boss well defeated. It’s limited compared to other games, sure, but what’s here is pleasant. The character voices are a treat too, including the robot’s, as he has a personality all his own. (Again, make him duck.)
Don’t Turn This Clock Off
While its arcade set-up may make some people wonder about its longevity, Clockwork Aquario is a treasure worth uncovering. It’s practically a 90s arcade game reborn again for an era that desperately needs it, packing a cute, satisfying presentation and solid controls. Furthermore, players of all ages can pick it up and enjoy it. If that doesn’t say “holiday treat,” I don’t know what does.
Now if we can just uncover some other unreleased Sega gems for a second chance. Planet Harriers, anyone? (The Dreamcast port, that is.)
Streamer and Cosplay Enthusiast