Review – Psikyo Shooting Stars Bravo

NIS America released Psikyo Shooting Stars Alpha last month, a collection comprised of a handful of excellent shooters (and that one Sol Divide dud) originally crafted by a company I knew little of at the time, Psikyo. It was a collection mainly featuring military and sci-fi shoot ’em ups that played brilliantly and featured tons of customization options to make them as accessible as possible. I really enjoyed those games and was looking forward to NIS America’s next collection, Psikyo Shooting Stars Bravo. Dare I say, this ended up being a bit better than its predecessor.

2020020600052000-A4C2F6563B0F598885201BEDB8988D45

It’s hard to properly describe what’s happening onscreen. All I can say is “oh Japan”.

Four of the games included in Psikyo Shooting Stars Bravo follow the same exact premise as the vast majority of the shooters included in the previous collection. They’re fast-paced, vertical-scrolling, top-down shooters with simple and intuitive controls, one additional bomb attack, and have the option to play them vertically on the Switch when in portable mode. Plus, there are a ton of difficulty settings, ranging from “monkey” (whatever that means) to “very hard”. The thing that differs them from the shooters included in Alpha is that they are lot wackier when it comes to themes and setting.

2020020600155300-A4C2F6563B0F598885201BEDB8988D45

Gunbird’s visuals are pretty decent.

Three of them are part of the Samurai Aces trilogy of games. Samurai Aces Episode I and Episode III are just like the description on the previous paragraph, while Episode II: Tengai is a side-scrolling shooter very similar to Sol Divide, although a lot more polished. These three games are set in a bizarre version of feudal Japan where you can ride on giant, laser-shooting birds while fighting yokai and robots, all while still trying to be “serious”, or at the very least, not overly comedic. Of course there would be robots, it’s Japan after all. Samurai Aces Episode III, with its great boss designs and fast-paced action, is my favorite game of the entire collection.

2020020523542300-A4C2F6563B0F598885201BEDB8988D45

So let’s analyze the screen. You’re a laser-shooting bird mowing down a living breathing Japanese pagoda with legs. Can I hear another “oh Japan”?

Then we have the three games from the Gunbird series, and I have no idea how to properly describe these things. These shooters are completely out of their mind, featuring feudal Japanese backdrops, but also Western witches, pirates, steampunk trains, robots, monkey warriors, magic mirrors, and so on. Gameplay-wise, Gunbird 1 and Gunbird 2 are also classic top-down Psikyo shooters, relying a lot on their nonsensical themes and subtle anime cutscenes. They are a lot less serious than Samurai Aces, even though they basically play the same.

Finally, there’s Gunbarich. Although also a part of the Gunbird series, retaining the same wacky characters and anime tropes, this is a very different game. In fact, it’s not even a shooter. This is actually a Breakout clone, and honestly, not a very good one at that. This might be the only game in the entire collection in which the controls aren’t exactly as responsive as they should be. The visuals are also way too distracting, as you can barely see the little ball you need to keep deflecting. While I do appreciate that this is something different from the rest of the games include in both collections, I really don’t have many good things to say about it.

2020020600094700-A4C2F6563B0F598885201BEDB8988D45

Gunbarich is a Breakout clone, and a mediocre one at that.

The Switch library of bullet-hell shooters just keeps getting better and better. Psikyo Shooting Stars Bravo might play just like its predecessor for the most part, but its visuals and settings are wackier and more enjoyable. It’s a bit better than its predecessor as a result. No matter which collection you decide to pick (I’d honestly grab both if I were you), you’ll be greeted with highly customizable difficulty settings, frantic battles, and fantastic controls. This time around, you can do so by playing as a laser-spitting bird, though.

 

Graphics: 6.5

There are no pre-rendered sprites or Dreamcast-era polygons in here. The games included in Psikyo Shooting Stars Bravo are more artistically creative and pleasant to the eyes than the games featured in its predecessor, even if they’re mostly just 16-bit sprites. Gunbarich‘s visuals are very confusing, though.

Gameplay: 9.5

Fast-paced and responsive, no matter which controller you decide to play these games with.

Sound: 5.0

The soundtracks to these games are mostly uneventful and heavily compressed. There’s also a bit of voice acting in these games, but they are equally underwhelming.

Fun Factor: 9.0

This collection is a tiny bit better than the previous one, which was already excellent, due to its wackier themes. The Breakout clone game on the other hand, isn’t anything special, even though it’s a welcome stand apart from the rest.

Final Verdict: 8.0

Psikyo Shooting Stars Bravo is available now on Switch.

Reviewed on Switch.

A copy of Psikyo Shooting Stars Bravo was provided by the publisher.

Advertisements