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Ocean’s Heart Review: A Wave Of Retro Nostalgia

A top-down RPG in the style of Zelda, Ocean’s Heart is a must for fans and newbies who weren’t ‘there’ the first time.

Ocean's Heart Review
Source: Screen capture

Let us begin this Ocean’s Heart review with a bit of a cliche: it’s a love letter to the 16-bit top-down RPG adventure. I’m not the biggest fan of using ‘love letter’, but really, it is.

It’s not the first time I’ve swooned about this game from Max Mraz and Nordcurrent, having played the preview before release. If you’re a fan old classic RPGs such as The Legend of Zelda: A Link To The Past, which this reminded me of, you’re in luck.

Even if you’re not a fan of the genre, which I would say applies to me a little, have a more in-depth look into this and read some other reviews as jumping the gun, Ocean’s Heart is marvellous.

Ocean’s Heart Review

You play Tilia. When her father joins the voluntary navy to combat pirates, he goes missing. So, she signs up too, leaving her older sister behind to run the family tavern.

On a quest to find out what happened to him, six months after he left, she slowly befriends the locals of numerous towns, completing favours in return for information on her father.

Ocean's Heart - Fountain of Youth
Fountain of… Heron? Source: Screen capture

The main thread focuses on a pirate group hounding the lands, but you’ll encounter various lore, myths and deities along the way using conventional attacks as well as magic. Expect a large scale adventure that features a bit of backtracking as you receive new skills and abilities.

Play That Funky Music

A soundtrack shouldn’t define a game, but as music is my true passion, I can’t ignore how good it is here. It was mentioned in the preview piece about lingering in a scene to listen to the tunes, and, spoiler: it’s a highlight.

Don’t expect some banging tunes or The Lord of the Rings level opus, but the score truly is a delight, shifting with every location without any repeated assets, or anthems as such. In contrast to Yaga, also with fantastic music, the Ocean’s Heart score doesn’t overpower and fuses with the gameplay.

…the score truly is a delight, shifting with every location without any repeated assets, or anthems as such

The production is superb. A couple of times I had to remove my cans to see if it was coming from my speakers, only I don’t have any. The cries of Tilia falling into a hole or the ocean (again), as well as deflected arrow shots, were fantastic.

A Side Dish Of Quest

Clues are crucial in the game as you’ll be doing quite a few side quests in Ocean’s Heart. However, the incentive (other than the enjoyment of playing the game) is to acquire gear mostly.

Clues are crucial in the game as you’ll be doing quite a few side quests in Ocean’s Heart. However, the incentive (other than the enjoyment of playing the game) is to acquire gear mostly.

Ocean's Heart - Guard
On guard. Source: Screen capture

Unlike a traditional RPG that most of us are accustomed to, there’s no XP in the game, though there are stats to improve upon. Enemies respawn when you return to an area, but there’s no point in grinding as other than a few item drops, they do nothing to improve your status.

Item drops can be used to craft potions – and there’s a fair deal here, but you can also sell them on to buy upgrades. The best path for developing Tilia in Ocean’s Heart is to explore. Simple as that. 

Earning money isn’t that difficult so that you can pay a blacksmith or similar for adjustments to your sword and bow strength, even your armour. However, you need materials, and they’re in the wild, along with runes and health increments.

I Got The Power

Health is represented by hearts in the top left of the screen. When you die, it has to be one of the most forgiving processes as you have the option to save and continue. There are no lives to worry about, and it costs nothing.

While you won’t lose any of your gear, if you use any potions, consumable weapons like bombs, or simple plant extracts, they won’t be there when you continue. For that reason, I recommended letting Tilia die, unless you’re up against a boss, in which case: stay alive!

When you die, it has to be one of the most forgiving processes as you have the option to save and continue.

Other than her default sword for melee and bow for ranged attacks, Tilia can also equip bombs, and alternative melee and ranged weapons in addition to her sword. Note that you only have two slots, and this applies to the use of magic too.

Magic functions like any ranged attack, only it consumes mana, which you can of course restore. Combat, in broad terms, is brilliant. Regardless of the weapons you implement, they’re responsive, and despite the old school approach, the animation is fluid and accurate to boot.

The World Is Your Oyster

The gaming world of Ocean’s Heart seems quite large in scale when you look at it from the map view, but it’s relatively easy to navigate on foot. Well, not ‘easy’, but it’s not Witcher 3 epic.

That said, the variety of terrains and enemies are excellent, and for the most part, you can explore the world early on without too much restriction. Still, you’ll note a few blocked paths that disappear when you earn skills such as lifting heavy objects, for example, and of course, the main story.

Ocean's Heart - Gulls
Gulls. Source: Screen capture

Pixel art isn’t usually at the top of my list, but the visuals here are great. Perhaps it’s more nostalgia, referring back to the earlier SNES games, but it’s not without a few problems where it’s a little hard to decipher where to go.

Some of the graphical elements can merge. Sometimes, experimenting will reveal a doorway that isn’t supposed to be hidden, but it is hard to decipher due to the pixel aesthetic. Thankfully this is rare and only occurs in the villages, more than anything.

Ocean’s Heart Review Summary

Whether you’re a fan of the genre or not, Ocean’s Heart is a must. There’s an innocence to it void of any cynicism. Tilia is a strong, likeable character – a natural hero, but more importantly, a joy to play and explore her vivid fantasy world. I forgot I was reviewing it. Here you go; it’s on Steam.

The score totals a 8.5 out of 10

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