Sol Divide Nintendo Switch Review by SwitchWatch
Developer: Zerodiv (Originally by Psikyo)
Release Date: March 22nd 2018
Price as of Article: $7.99 USD, £6.99 GBP
If there’s one thing I’m never too far away from in life, it’s a review of a classic retro shooter. Not that I’m complaining. This is basically my paradise. This time it’s yet another Psikyo shooter and one of their more quirky efforts: Sol Divide!
The story of Sol Divide has had much more effort put into it than what I’m used to with Psikyo shooters. For a start, you can actually follow what’s going on even if exposition and cutscenes are only a couple of seconds long. Each of the three characters have their own little entry into the story as they hunt down Ifther to stop his dastardly plans. It’s not really relevant but it’s nice they they actually tried somewhat and I liked the fact each of the three characters had different motivations for going after him.
The audio is really good. This time there’s an epic soundtrack behind the scenes with lots of trumpets and symbol crashes. Sadly since each track is so short like the levels themselves, I find it difficult to say if any particular tracks are memorable or not, which is a shame. There’s nothing that really stands out and catches the ears even if it suits the game very well.
Visually the game stands out very uniquely compared to what I’m used to with these kind of games. There’s almost a digitised sprite look to the game similar to Mortal Kombat and Donkey Kong Country back in the day and, while I can’t say it’s particularly aged well, I can appreciate the effort that went into it to create something different. I think one complaint I generally have about Psikyo games up to this point was that they often played it safe with their graphics. They look great, and they didn’t want to change that so they very often felt indistinguishable from each other. Sol Divide has no problem with that.
With its medieval fantasy look to it, Sol Divide is an odd one. I suppose back in the day it would have looked pretty cool, although nowadays it’s dated and a little comical. In that regard it does have a cheesy charm to it which I like.
As a side scrolling shooter, it’s a little different from their usual vertical efforts. Indeed the mechanics are much deeper than what you may be used to it you picked up their other games on the Switch.
There are three different characters to choose from; Kashon, Vorg and Tyora. Some quality fantasy names there. They each have their own attacks of course, although I’m not sure about their properties. One thing you’ll instantly notice about the game is just how huge the characters are. Not only that but their hit boxes aren’t so clearly defined making precision movements more difficult than they need to be.
Sol Divide is a much more ambitious game than most of Psikyo’s efforts as it has three different attacks all of which have to be used tactically. As a shooter you of course have your standard shooting attack which thankfully has an auto-fire on the Switch. Then you have your melee attack defaultly mapped to the B button. This is a powerful attack that can be combo’d with successful uses and can render enemies incapable of action. Of course, there’s a lot of risk. First you have to get close to enemies and it leaves you vulnerable to the other surrounding foes. Another note is that certain enemies will come to meet you to take you on in a melee battle. Not content to shoot from afar, one from the crowd will move inches from you swinging their weapon and following your every move. It gets super claustrophobic and is quite difficult to avoid them. No less so thanks to the half a dozen other enemies on screen shooting at you from afar.
And this brings one of the main problems with Sol Divide as a shooter. It’s a little too chaotic and unpredictable. This seem a little random compared to your average classic retro shmup. There’s little room for manoeuvring and is pot luck as to how nice the enemies are to you.
Besides the melee attack, the main interest is in its magic system. As you destroy enemies you’ll be able to pick up scrolls that contain new spells to learn. Whether it be a freezing spell, an all encompassing thunder attack or stop time, there are a surprising amount available in the game. Your character has a magic metre, you can scroll through your available spells with the shoulder buttons and unleash them upon your enemies with the X button. It adds a whole dimension to the gameplay in terms of how you want to tactically use them against the handful of bosses in the game.
It’s all really cool, but you end up heavily relying on items drops a bit too much. Whether for that one spell you really like for one boss or potions to refill your magic meter. So, while that’s nice for casual play, hardcore shmup addicts may not enjoy that aspect.
The gameplay as a whole feels less master-able as though there’s no scientific formula behind it to be cracked. It’s a bit random and chaotic at least from what I’ve gathered in my short play time. The way enemies close in on you leaving you very claustrophobic, while also getting shot from afar feels like a step too much in my opinion. I like it, don’t get me wrong, but it’s less satisfying than what I’ve played before.
It’s a difficult game no doubt. Indeed on the four difficulty setting, with none of the options changed in the menus, I struggled to complete it on the easy setting thanks to the meagre two continues provided. Obviously you can crank up the amount of continues which seems like cheating, but honestly that does help you to learn the game more in my opinion. And sometimes when you just want a quick blast through the action, it’s very welcome.
When talking about value, it all depends on how much you’re going to replay this shooter. With 3 characters to choose and four very noticeable difficulties, you will probably get your money’s worth out of this one if you’re a shooter fan. I would say that hardcore shooter fans who enjoy mastering the games will probably find less value in Sol Divide since, as I said previously, it doesn’t seem to be the kind you’d commit to studying and learning due to its chaotic nature. I will replay this one once in a while, but it will be a little down on my list when compared to others.
A little chaotic and random