Tengai Nintendo Switch Review by SwitchWatch
Developer: Zerodiv (originally Psikyo)
Release Date: March 29th 2018
Price as of Article: $7.99 USD, £6.99 GBP
Tengai, also known as Sengoku Blade, is a shooter sequel to Sengoku Aces which I reviewed not too long ago on the Nintendo Switch. And it’s no wonder the title is a little confusing since this second entry is quite different from the original, even switching the gameplay from vertical to horizontal.
The story of Tengai is almost as meagre as ever which is disappointing after coming straight from playing Sol Divide which did attempt at story telling in it’s small little way. It’s not as bad as, say the Strikers games, but it’s more in line with the original Samurai Aces. Between each stage you’ll have a short character utterance, before having a final cutscene when completing the game. I really liked the ending cutscenes the most as they were often humorous and well worth watching for all of the characters, even if they don’t really add any depth to the story.
As far as audio goes, Tengai is superb, especially when compared with the original. The soundtrack of that was okay but it was tame and I felt it lacked urgency. Tengai really has a special soundtrack since it takes the ancient Japan vibe from the theme of the game and ramps it up perfectly for a classic, tense arcade shooter. It’s even great by Psikyo’s general standards and there are some genuinely memorable tunes here. It mixes old fashioned Japanese instrumentation so well with a modern twist.
Visuals are fantastic as you’d expect from a sprite-based Psikyo shooter. You do have the standard sky-based scenery but there are plenty of nice visuals of an alternative feudal Japan. You’ll travel in caves, through towns, the forest, underwater; it’s a real rollercoaster ride of environments and each stage is made up of multiple areas as you transition from gorgeous scenery to gorgeous scenery. It’s not only the backgrounds though, the characters and enemies are all equally great looking and designed well. It’s genuinely one of Psikyo’s best looking games for sure.
The performance is perfect, I found no slowdown whatsoever in Tengai.
As stated in the intro, the game has switched from being a vertical shooter and into a horizontal one. Also gone are the cool ships and this time your character is flying through the air, superhero-style. There are five characters to choose from, which is always nice. There are some returning characters but also some new ones for you to enjoy and they are all very different which I highly appreciate in my shooters.
If you’ve seen my other reviews of classic Psikyo shooters then you’ll probably be very familiar with how things roll here. You have your standard shot which can either be shot individually with the Y button or on auto fire with A. Of course you will want to choose auto-fire, for the sake of your Joy Con buttons if nothing else.
If you destroy certain enemies you will be granted power ups which will increase the power of your weapons. Here, they act as kind of nodes that either follow you around, or shoot in a different direction. The first power up you acquire will give your character their follower or node. For example Junis has a cigarette-smoking lemur, while Katana has some spears that follow him around. The more power ups you get the more numerous or powerful your follower becomes.
It’s at this point, after the first pick up, you have access to the charge shot which, on the Switch version, is mapped to Y. Holding this down for a short period will allow your follower to do a really strong attack. The more power ups you have, the more powerful it is. For example, Sho’s pan-thingy-ma-bobs will hold in place and unleash a barrage of lasers. Junis’s charge attack is by far my favourite though as her lemur will start breathing out fire.
The final thing to do is the bomb attack, which can be picked up once in a while. This is usually a panic button that will destroy just about everything in your way. Careful though as, just like the original, some of the characters bombs aren’t always instantaneous or offer universal protection.
My favourite character has to be Junis, just for the fact her lemur is hilarious as well as her panic bomb being almost instantaneous when compared to some other characters. I’m sure some of you will find enjoyment in other characters too, since I also enjoyed Sho.
The game is very tight. With bullet hell style enemies, you need to be on your toes which is difficult no thanks to your movement being a little on the slow side, plus your characters are hardly small in this one. Still, much more bearable than the giants in Sol Divide. With seven difficulty levels you’re going to be crying for mercy on anything but the lowest one, even if you’ve played a handful of shooters before. It’s arcade difficulty will be a test for even the most hardened of shmup fans.
I honestly found it difficult completing the game with the standard settings on the lowest difficulty. Even if it says “monkey” you’ll still need lots of learning and skill to completely destroy the final boss. Of course you can change the amount of continues allowed in the settings if you want, but I suspect most hardcore shmup fans will do it the standard way.
One of the really good things I enjoyed about Tengai are the multiple endings for each character. Depending on which choice you take near the end of the, admittedly short, run will decide one of two endings for a character. It’s well worth playing through with each character twice to see them all. Even better is that if you complete it in 2-player there’re different endings that involve both characters together. It’s great incentive to play it multiple times, with different people, to see them all.
There’s genuinely only one complaint I have with Tengai and that’s the fact your character’s hit boxes aren’t so clearly defined, making precision judgement of where to place your fairly tall character from the enemy’s bullets. It’s not as bad as say, Sol Divide, but there are times when bullets pass through you, other times not. It’s difficult to know where the limits are unless you play it dozens of times which make it not as clear cut as some of Psikyo’s other efforts.
At £6.99 and $7.99 I think Tengai is worth the price but only if you’re into playing shooters and mastering them. It’s a short play time as you’d expect for a Psikyo shooter but it’s all about learning the enemy patterns and trying to one credit the game. I could only ever dream of that, but I still enjoy playing them over and over and gradually getting better, moving on to a higher difficulty, rinse and repeat. The different available endings make it worth playing through well over a dozen times, minimum.
Classic Shmup Gameplay
Characters hit boxes aren’t defined