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Review: NAIRI: Tower of Shirin (Nintendo Switch)By Renan At 02.03.2019 15:41

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A citizen of the upper crust, Nairi has always lived a sheltered life. Naturally, her life almost immediately turns upside down and she is forced to live among the common folk, abandoning her privileged lifestyle less than half an hour into the plot. As basic as Nairi's call to action is, there is a surprising amount of tact in regards to themes of class. Of course, Tower of Shirin is admittedly aimed at a general audience, meaning that the script never gets too heavy into the darker details of class, but there is a respectful approach to discussing class struggles, class differences, and class bias. Nairi acts like a real child forced to leave their upper class life behind in favour of something far less accommodating or comfortable.

That said, Nairi is still very much a protagonist in what is inherently a coming of age story, meaning that she has a general positive outlook on life and is driven primarily by curiosity. Although, in this case, Nairi's curiosity is in regards to her missing parents, giving her personal narrative much higher stakes than they would otherwise have. Where the story more or less leaves small nuggets of intrigue all the way from start to finish, the experience is only enhanced by the script's tight approach to characterisation and world building, along with a visual style that ensures any given moment on-screen is aesthetically gorgeous.

While the developer refers to the general art style as "Ghibli" esque, this is actually in disservice to the visuals. NAIRI has such a strong visual identity that to compare it to another style undersells how well thought out the design of the world is. Soft colours with sleek shading give characters an almost cut-out quality without sacrificing realism. There is a fluidity to the general aesthetic. Although the art style is far and away the star of the show, the puzzle and world design are both quite strong. The overworld requires genuine memorisation, refusing to hand hold. Such an approach can be frustrating, but in a generation where most everything is spoon-fed to the player, it is refreshing to see a title expect its audience to pay careful attention, take notes, and digest information.

This approach to world design extends to puzzle design, as well, ensuring that mistakes and oversights are actually punished. Puzzles require an actual knowledge and understanding of the mechanics at play. The difficulty curve isn't too demanding, but making an error does mean needing to understand what went wrong and either moving backwards with said information or powering through. As a result, puzzles will prove to be harmless for those who pay particular attention, while others coasting by will find themselves struggling, especially later on. That said, NAIRI does fall on the short side, roughly four to five hours, meaning that most puzzles won't be outstaying their welcome regardless.

Unfortunately, for as consistently strong the adventure is up until the very end, said very end is incredibly weak. Rather than resolving the arcs and themes at play, the story doesn't so much end as it does stop, setting up the next instalment with an incredibly frustrating cliff-hanger that, with just more time, would have likely brought the story to its natural close. With a short length and a narrative that by no means concludes satisfactorily, it can be difficult to give NAIRI the respect it deserves, but it very much is an adventure worth experiencing. The story might not end well, but the script is well written, the puzzles are well designed, and the world is downright beautiful.

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Final Score
While the journey is more important than the destination, the fact [i]NAIRI[/i] lacks a traditional conclusion - leaving many arcs and themes in a resolution limbo - hurts the narrative considerably. Considering just how much the story focuses on Nairi as a character, a cliff-hanger ending that places emphasis on plot comes off structurally inappropriate at best. That said, the script, atmosphere, and puzzles all warrant at least one playthrough. [i]Tower of Shirin[/i] might fall much flatter than it needed to thanks to a poorly realised ending, but [i]NAIRI[/i], as a whole, is a charming point-and-click with plenty of heart.



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