Samurai Aces Nintendo Switch Review by SwitchWatch
Developer: Zerodiv (Originally by Psikyo)
Release Date: February 15th 2018
Price as of Article: $7.99 USD, £6.99 GBP
Samurai Aces presented Psikyo’s very first game as a new company in 1993. I was very interested to see the origins of the company since I’d loved just about all of their games that I’d played up to this point. After playing just a few minutes in Samurai Aces, it was all on show, clear as day that this was the game that set out the stall and the framework for most of their games to come.
There is very little story to Samurai Aces, set in a futuristic feudal Japanese world, six pilots journey to defeat the evil inside a floating castle. Each have their own reason for going into the breach but it’s honestly not very important in the grand scheme of things. It’s nice that each of the pilots have some sort of personality, and it does honestly make a big difference compared to the mostly faceless characters in Strikers II that I recently reviewed.
What I enjoyed about this game is, similarly to Gunbird, there’s much more personality with a bit of dialogue between stages and a more fun and interesting ending when the pilot finally defeats the last boss. You actually get a nice funny little cutscene.
In the audio department we have a somewhat slightly less exciting or pumping soundtrack compared to what I’m used to with Psikyo shooters. This one is much more subdued, focusing more on using old traditional Japanese style instruments with deep, infrequent drum beats. It’s far less noticeable compared to what came later so in that regard it’s a slight disappointment.
Visuals & Performance
Visually the game is on par with the rest of the classic Psikyo shooters, even if it’s the first. The sprites are fantastic and the pre-rendered stuff has aged pretty well too. In my opinion it might actually be one of the best of the bunch visually due to its more fantastically old style nature. I much prefer it over the military dullness of Strikers for example, but it doesn’t quite have the same flair that Gunbird has. I do honestly think it’s an appealing looking game and I’m surprised it’s the earliest game in that regard because it doesn’t look like it.
The gameplay is very much in line with most of the Psikyo shooters that followed. Choosing one of six varied crafts you pilot your way through seven bullet hell stages filled with enemy ships and more bosses than you can shake a stick at.
Each of the crafts are unique in their shooting styles and I think in speed too. You’ll definitely want to give all of them a try at least once before deciding on a favourite. I think this may actually be the first time I’ve struggled to come up with who my favourite is. I like Tengai the monk for his power but he’s just a tad too slow which makes picking up power ups difficult. I also like Gen, the gadget guy, who flies a ship that’s totally not a rip off of the X-Wing. He’s really super fast and fairly powerful but his panic bomb just didn’t have the immediate impact that I usually seek. What I’m saying is, I like the fact they each have their strengths and weaknesses. They all offer something and playing with them all is quite fun which is always the sign of a great shooter, plus it offers more replay value in this regard.
As stated, blowing up enemies can grant you power ups which can increase your shot power and it’s width. You’ll want to pick these up as much as possible since being stuck at the first level of power is not great and it’s the worst part about losing a life. If you want to mow down the enemies you need these power ups and you need to stay alive.
Your standard shot is set to auto fire on the Switch’s A button which is great, but if you want to charge up and do a more powerful attack then you’ll need to hold down the Y button for that. The special attack is really very useful as it is incredibly powerful, almost as much as your panic bomb. It can also offer you protection by destroying enemy bullets. It’s so useful in fact that in this game it takes an absolute age to charge up and is incredibly risky to use. When I tried doing it the first time I actually thought that this game didn’t have one because nothing seemed to be happening when I was holding it down. I’m not sure if I liked this to be honest. I would have liked it if it was quicker to charge up, even if it meant making it slightly less powerful.
Then finally you have the panic bomb of which you start with two and can pick up more from destroyed enemies or buildings. This is mapped to the X or B button and should be saved for a rainy day as it will just about annihilate everything in its path. Unlike other games I’m used to, it doesn’t offer universal protection so be warned, you’re still vulnerable from the areas unaffected by the attack.
Even with all the assists I found the end game of Samurai Aces to be one of the most difficult, the final stage is just brutal with boss after boss after boss. This is definitely one for challenge freaks. I love the game, but it’s definitely too difficult for me. It’s probably not one I would recommend to those wanting to enter the genre, even with the seven difficultly levels on offer.
Of course I can’t talk about a vertical shooter on the Switch without talking about using the Switch’s full screen length. It’s obviously glorious and is a fantastic way to play, making the Switch a very unique proposition in the gaming world.
For value, without wanting to repeat myself too much, it just depends how many times you’re going to play it over and over. Mastering Samurai Aces will not be an easy task even for the most hardcore of shooter fans. For the cheap price tag of $7.99 or £6.99, it’s honestly no question for shooter fans even if the game itself is very short. You’re going to want to play this over and over again to master it.
Excellent shooter gameplay
Music isn't the best
Charge shot takes too long