Review – Shikhondo: Soul Eater

Ah, bullet hell shooters. Easily one of my favorite genres out there, I don’t ask for much from a game like these in order to enjoy it. All I want is a nonsensical amount of enemies onscreen, tons of projectiles to constantly avoid, decent enemy design, and weapons that pack a punch and make me feel powerful. The newest addition to the catalogue is Shikhondo: Soul Eater, a Korean bullet hell brought to the West by the folks at Digerati.

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The wheel enemies from Nioh make a comeback to make my life a living hell once again…

Shikhondo is a shooter that borrows a lot from two of the best games in the genre: Radiant Silvergun and the eternal classic Ikaruga. This vertical resolution shooter isn’t focused on power-ups or varied weaponry. All you have is one type of main spell and a couple of special moves, as well as a bagillion enemies to blast off. The main focus is to avoid the barrage of bullets onscreen by finding a pattern and using that against your opponents. It’s a simple premise for a simple game that manages to do a handful of things right and a handful of things wrong.

Let’s start with the controls. Controlling your flying person/magician/whatever is as simple as a shooter should be for the most part. Your main focus is to kill enemies, collect their souls to fill in a gauge, and unleash said souls in a momentary invincibility powerup in order to kill even more enemies. It’s not the hardest of bullet hell shooters, since the shooting patterns are easy to notice and exploit. This is definitely no Ikaruga, and that can either be a sigh of relief for newcomers or a concern for veterans.

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You look so serene, ma’am.

While the controls are simple and responsive, I found it really weird that I had to press two buttons together in order to fire my shots in a straight line. If I just press the fire button by itself, my beams are shot in a wider and weaker fashion. Shikhondo doesn’t use that many buttons to begin with, so I have no idea why the heck this design choice was accepted.

While the gameplay is functional and enjoyable for the most part, I have mixed feelings when it comes to the game’s visuals and sound design.

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This is less intimidating than it looks.

I love Shikhondo‘s art style, as its backgrounds are comprised of gorgeous hand-drawn Japanese paintings. They are far from the jaw-dropping art you could find in Okami, but they’re still pretty in their own right. Sadly, the same can’t be said about the game’s characters. While some of them have unusual designs, they all feel cheap due to very poor animations. The fact the enemy variety isn’t exactly diverse only contributes to rub salt in the wound.

The same can be said about the sound design. You would expect a game like Shikhondo to feature classic Asian music like Okami or Nioh, but it instead opts for a soundtrack comprised of upbeat electronic music. To be fair, it’s not a bad soundtrack, even though it doesn’t fit with the game’s setting at all. The sound effects are disappointing mostly because they’re barely audible. It’s so frustrating to watch a colossal amount of beams being shot by your character without a single sound effect accompanying them.

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Taste the rainbow.

I had a good time playing Shikhondo despite its lackluster visual and sound presentations. It might seem intimidating at first glance, but it’s actually a somewhat forgiving bullet hell that can be beaten with a lot less effort than its more famous peers. Given the apparent lack of shooter like this one on the PS4 library, I’d say grab it if you’re looking for more arcade fun on the console. You could do a lot worse.


Graphics: 6.0

The hand-drawn backgrounds are beautiful to look at, but the game retains a very cheap overall visual style, especially when you look at the characters.

Gameplay: 8.0

While the controls are responsive and the overally gameplay is very simple to learn, the game features some questionable button placements.

Sound: 6.5

The electronic soundtrack is actually very good, but the sound effects leave a lot to be desired.

Fun Factor: 7.0

It’s a very fun bullet hell shooter, even if it’s a bit too short and actually quite easy when compared to its peers. It’s good for occasional short runs.

Final Verdict: 7.0

Reviewed on PS4.
Shikhondo: Soul Eater is available now on PS4, Xbox One, PC and Switch.
A copy of Shikhondo: Soul Eater was provided by the publisher.