Release Date: 6/09/2018
Price as of Article: $12,59 USD, £11,33
Game code provided by Digerati for review
There is no story to speak of in this game. Which is a little bit of a shame seeing as how much it’s based on Asian mythology. It would have been nice but, then again, bullet hell games are not massively known for their stories so let’s move onto gameplay.
First of all, there isn’t anything you have not seen before here. The game plays like many bullet hell type games I have played in the past. We have been lucky on the Switch to not only have many of the classic shooters ported over but some great bullet hell games, with one of my favourites being Danmaku Unlimited 3, which is what this game is quite similar to in it’s gameplay systems.
Here you can choose from two characters, one being Grim Reaper and the other called simply The Girl, which I thought was very imaginative! Both are slightly different in how they play and which you prefer will depend on your play style. Grim Reaper’s weapons fill up a lot of the screen, and when you hold one of the trigger buttons she focuses this energy and the bullets being fired become more narrow but more powerful. The disadvantage is that this slows you down. The Girl’s bullets are more focused and her firing arch is not as wide as the Grim Reaper but her advantage is when you focus her weapons two power balls will lock onto enemies and fire bullets directly at them. Even when firing normally some of her bullets home into enemies, but they are not as potent. The key to the game is to keep an eye on the little blue orb within the flying girls and forget everything else. Focusing on bullets not hitting the girls will get you killed quickly, as it’s the little blue orb that needs to be protected at all times by dodging bullets.
Graze bullets by using the outline of your character and you will fill up your Soul bar, once this is done you can activate your Soul Collect Mode which lasts a few seconds but will allow you to destroy everything on screen pretty quickly. If you have a soul token, you can activate it normally to act as a bomb to take out bullets and enemies on screen, which is essential when things get a little too tight for comfort. However, if you activate your Soul Collect Mode and then use your bomb attack it will activate a stronger version of the Soul Collect mode.
Dodging and grazing bullets is the name of the game here and, over the 45 minutes it takes to complete the game, is pretty good fun. These games are never about how quickly you can complete them because in all honesty anyone can complete this in one sitting using the unlimited continues you get. Use a continue though and you forfeit your score so, it’s not about that, it’s about how far you can get without having to use any continues to post that high score on the online leaderboard. The game is hard and enemies spew out thousands of bullets and kunai shaped bullets to take you down. The enemies are inspired by Asian mythology and look really cool but it’s the bosses and their two phases that steal the show here. They are tough but their designs are really cool.
There are only 5 stages to speak of but there are various modes which include Arcade, Hardcore, Boss Rush and Local Co-op. There is even a customisation mode where you can choose whether to fill up the soul bar by grazing enemies or by shooting them instead and various other little customisations to suit your preferred play style. There are a few complaints I have within the gameplay though that stops the game from being great for me.
In the first and third level, if you choose the Grim Reaper, then the bullets fired are purple and so is the background so the bullets almost merge into the background which makes it hard to see. Numerous enemies are also repeated in a many of the levels and, with this being no longer than 30-45 minutes long, this aspect of the game needed more work. I will get into the performance in the performance section, but the hiccups here and there do affect the gameplay as you can end up losing your rhythm.
The audio in Shikhondo is a mixed bag for me. I think that the soundtrack is really good. I enjoyed the change up, especially in the boss battles when the bosses would enter their second phase, so this part of the game was pretty much on point but the sound effects for me were really weak. The explosions sound tinny, and when entering Soul Collect Mode I wanted the game to make a much bigger deal out of it but instead it sounds rather disappointing, as so do the bullets our protagonists shoot. I felt there was a little bit of a disconnect because of that.
Visuals & Performance
Visually, again, the game is mixed for me. I love the backgrounds and the art throughout the game. The boss designs are really wonderful and creepy all at the same time, but then there are things that spoil it for me that takes away from some of the superb artwork. For example, some of the effects when things explode look really inferior, just a black fog, and this same effect is used for the bomb weapon. The colours chosen, as I have already mentioned for the Grim Reaper, blend into some of the great backgrounds which is not what you want in a bullet hell game. It’s only on some levels, and with the Grim Reaper specifically, as The Girl’s bullets are red so it’s not so much of an issue with her, but when the Grim Reaper is your favoured character then it’s a bit of a problem. While the visuals are nice to look at when you look close enough you do see a lot of pixelation. Which, again, just takes away from what is, overall, a very nicely designed game, especially as it was made by one person.
Lastly, I want to mention the performance issues. There are stutters and missed frames which, in a game like this when you’re trying to get into a rhythm, can affect the gameplay experience so it’s just something to point out if you’re looking into this one. Shikhondo unfortunately does not have a Tate mode so you can play the game vertically which would have been a nice addition.
In terms of value the actual game is not a very lengthy, but you will spend many hours trying to improve your high scores and get higher on the leaderboards. That’s what these games are all about. These types of games are great for any kind of player and this one caters to hardcore and casuals with it’s various difficulty options. Also the fact that you can play with a friend locally, although not online which is a missed opportunity. The replay-ability comes in the form of constant improvement and I for one like to fire this one up for a quick blast on the go.
So is it worth your hard earned cash? Well that depends if you like bullet hell games. At, currently, $12,59 it could have benefited with being under 10 dollars, but it’s just about worth it if you have played most of the other bullet hells on the Switch and fancy another to add to the collection. If you are on the fence about it, the game is available at a 10% discount over the next two weeks from launch. Also don’t forget this game will come in a wonderful limited edition from East Asia Soft, only available at Play-Asia albeit at double the price, though as of this review a release date hasn’t been determined.
Sound Effects are weak
Poor visual effects
Bullet colours sometimes merge with background
Will be too short for many