A game reviewer for several years, Tobias reviews games from any decade. They tend to ramble about game design and old media.
Being a port of the 2010 arcade game, it follows the same plot. You play as one of the "Silver Hawks" tasked with the mission to reconnect groups of civilization who were disconnected from each other years before and fight back against the enemy who caused the massacre in the first place.
Standard SciFi affair for a game like this, but is more than appropriate to set the stage for the game. Kill the bad guy and be the hero! Simple, but effective.
For a port of a decade old game, they appear to be touched up a bit and they hold up fine. It isn't anything that will blow you away. But it has some interesting boss designs that I really like. A giant mech space fish. And a giant Mecha turtle are two of my favorite looking designs.
The biggest offender to this is the choice of obscuring most of the play field. The game in the arcades used two monitors connected together in a pseudo ultrawide monitor. The home port puts two large black bars on the top and bottom of the screen which also makes the visible play field very small to the eye. I believe this was done to try and bypass the need for two monitors, without damaging the original aspect ratio of the game. If you have ever set your TV to stretch an older game to fit the entire screen, it is much like that, things stretched or squashed that shouldn't be.
While this works in terms of fitting on the screen. Even including a button to zoom in for more precision. In regular play not zoomed, it tends to make text hard to read and certain projectiles a tad more difficult to see until they are right on you.
There should be an option to allow playing it with the bars removed. But I also see this creating visual problems that I'm sure were considered in development.
None of this is makes the game unplayable by any means. But it definitely lessens the experience.
I'll stick this in my list of games that need physical soundtrack releases that I often mention in my reviews. The soundtrack is great. A great blend of music that really fits the feeling of the high intensity that crops up later.
Really enjoyed the sound effects as well, the weapons sound good, the boss sounds are quite cool and capture the tone fairly well (big bad boss noises) and the beam sounds like it is really making a punch when it hits.
Expect the same things you would usually find in a side scrolling shooter, it is not exactly a bullet hell, but the challenge ramps up pretty quick with plenty of projectiles, enemies, and debris to avoid throughout your adventures.
You have your fire button which can be held down thankfully so you are not mashing the poor thing to death, and various ship types that can be chosen that have different fire methods. The ships do have changes to how they play which is nice, it adds a layer of choice to the game as no ship is created equal.
There is also the ability to flip your ship to point the other way, it was a mechanic I really enjoyed using as it kept you always on your toes. A typical shooter like this would have enemies pour in from the right and you protect from the left, this is a little different. In boss battles for example, you can be charged by the boss and have to flip as you have now switched sides of the screen. It made some of the fighting feel more tense, and I hope to see this more often. (keep in mind I am not a seasoned SHMUP player, but enjoy the genre, so this may not be unique to this game franchise).
A feature that is very important to the gameplay is the "burst" mechanic. Holding down the button fires a beam that does considerable damage to enemies, but will also destroy particular projectiles coming your way as well. I found myself using it when I realized I didn't have time to dodge, so sacrificing some "burst" saved me from some considerable damage.
Boss enemies also have their own "burst" moves, which are essentially one hit kills if you wander into their path. However, if you are able to time your burst as they fire theirs you can counter it creating a much stronger beam of your own that pushes through theirs and causing a massive amount of damage.
In terms of structure the game paces its levels in zones, after going through the area you are presented with a prompt to choose the next zone. Choosing higher zones also means higher difficulty.
Zone A --> Zone B ---> Zone C (difficulty would rise at a slower pace)
Zone A --> Zone D --> Zone J (difficulty would climb quickly, more brutal)
It allows a player to approach the game at their own pace given them a choice on how difficult they want to make their current playthrough, each zone having its own obstacles, enemies, and bosses.
The ability to approach the game from a perspective of being able to choose your zones, which means it also allows you to tune the difficulty is a nice touch. It takes a game that is usually very difficult, and allows you to play it in a way that lets you easily dip your toes into the experience instead of jumping headfirst.
Couple that with the game letting you have infinite lives, it definitely opens to ability for those who wish to learn the game before committing to tougher modes.
I am no expert at this genre, but am definitely a big fan. As someone who doesn't play this genre often, it felt welcoming to have all of the things available to let me approach the difficulty curves and such at a slower and gradual pace.
Being designed as an arcade game and including some extra modes, even one that had missions that were time limited to the arcade, and can now be played any time you want on this port, there is a lot here. But keep in mind it will not be much different than the core gameplay. Shoot things, survive, shoot things, survive.
Allowing 4 players to sit and play together also creates a game that could be a fun game night title.
The game includes leaderboards so if you are a competitive scorer this would be right up your alley.
The game at its core is a very fun arcade port, sadly the choice of the visual presentation really hurts the experience of the game, with the giant bars taking up a huge chunk of the screen, it makes the play field smaller, and on the smaller switch screen it can make the experience less enjoyable.
However, while playing on a bigger screen in docked mode it helps lessen the effect of the problem, but doesn't completely remove it. When you think of games on the switch, you would consider how portable they are. I would perhaps keep this one docked.
Lots of replay value
Game feels too zoomed out
A little barebones
Cool enemy design
Text can be hard to read
Thank you to Strictly Limited Games for providing a key to review this title.
© 2021 Tobias Rieper