Switch version tested
Samurai Aces is the third game I am reviewing from NIS America as part of the Psikyo Shooting Stars Bravo collection. This is my first time playing this shmup so I’m looking forward to it. I’m still not sick of reviewing shmups so keep them coming! This vertical scrolling shoot ‘em up was originally released back in 1993 by Psikyo in the arcades. It later came to the Playstation 2 in 2004, and is now available on Switch in this wonderful collection.
Whether you’re a professional or amateur in the genre, Psikyo chose to broaden the challenge spectrum for all to play. Take your pick of difficulty from one to seven, but I suggest trying a level higher than what you think you’re comfortable with. Get a decent feel of the game and give your skills a chance to shine and grow. Keep in mind when swapping difficulty levels it appears they have the same amount of bullets and same patterns, but enemies health is scaled respectively. Take a quick look and pick one of six fighters to begin. Characters to choose from do not show names nor do they tell their statistics. Learn and burn your favourite fighter pilot into your memory and stack that local leaderboard. Initially, the massive eye-browed fellow is my favourite pilot but through playing them all I’ve ended on the tie fighter looking ship. It has a parallel double shot that is surrounded by lightning bolts on either side once upgraded.
Immediately the first feature I notice is the head bobbing, Asian inspired music. In order to fully appreciate the experience I was forced to adjust the sound settings in the pause menu so be advised. The vibe changes per level, for example, the second level has more of a tense and typical arcade sound that fits well. Music continues to differ per stage and keeps the action from becoming stale. Visuals also keep to the Asian inspired theme with enemies such as ninjas throwing stars and oni tanks. Backgrounds varying from green fields to mountainous ranges to cherry blossom-filled lands with Japanese arches.
Psikyo sadly kept to a similar format with Samurai Aces as their other games. Levels begin with small enemies, a mini-boss appears, the large boss appears, then a map is shown and the level completed is marked off the map and the character makes a remark. This boring repeat feature may not be an issue for most but I’ve put some hours into their games so it bothers me. I’m well aware these are all old titles brought back for our entertainment but even then, didn’t people think the same thing I’m saying?
The local leaderboard does not distinguish between difficulty levels which is a massive bummer, nor can it be seen from the main menu. I find the high scores to be relatively useless because of the lack of information. Other games in Psikyo’s collections that have one leaderboard will state the difficulty level per score or even separate leaderboards by difficulty level. High scores bring replayability and lacking that aspect will lower the value in the end.
Jumping back into the graphics I want to compliment the backgrounds that have layer after layer. Flying in the sky showcasing the large boss hovering over a huge landmass, surrounded by tons of clouds. These stacking backgrounds create depth that makes the game feel bigger and looks great. An early favourite level that showcases this well is the cherry blossom stage. A Japanese arch with descending steps covered in cherry blossoms leading down to a farming town. It’s just beautiful! I love this level and it’s a wonderful display of the development teams skills. Many shoot ‘em ups today pale in comparison to Samurai Aces, along with similar titles from this team.
Gameplay remains fast and hectic despite the chosen difficulty. Each pilot has their own movement speed, shot type, and bomb. All are enjoyable to play as and following every game over I swap characters to keep things interesting. Dialogue between levels is minimal and forgettable, it barely needs mentioning. Samurai Aces is a fun shmup and overall it’s pretty difficult, calling the player to return for improvement. I love the Japanese theme the most and it’s a good addition to the Bravo collection.