Monday, 27 January 2014
Otaku Review: Strike Witches Hakugin no Tsubasa (PsP)
The storyline for the game follows the series well, placing itself in between season 1 & 2. Those new to the series may not be bothered much, but fans will want to lap it up as its fully voiced by the cast from the series. The story mode unfortunately has to be completed before other areas of the game are opened to you. You'll more than likely have started with the story mode anyway, but some may not like the restriction. Once story mode is done with, Arcade/Time Attack & Practice modes are unlocked. Arcade allows you to freely form a squad from the 13 witches in the roster (In story mode you are limted to choosing between 4 squads of 3 locked units) and tackle each of the levels how you see fit, choosing your difficulty etc. Time attack mode is similar, but you are graded on how fast you can defeat all of the bosses in the game. Practice mode does exactly what it says on the tin as you choose a witch and play a stage to get to grips with the individual aspects of each one. The Base mode is where you'll be finding most of your unlocks. As you play through the game this area will be continually updated with additional content and there are also conversations to listen on & music to listen too. Some of the content was added from the DLC released for the Xbox360 version, so those fond of that release yet didn't pick up the DLC can find it here within this release. It must be noted though that this game fully deserves the 'Bullet Hell' tag. Those expecting a cakewalk due to it being based on the Strike Witches licence will be in for a rude awakening when they fire up the game. Even on the lowest difficulty of 'Very Easy' you may find yourself succumbing to the game and hitting up that continue a couple of times. The difficulty you choose will have an effect on how long the game will last you no doubt, but even then your looking at a solid 10+ hours if your looking to sample most of whats on offer. Its a shame then that the games structure doesn't really deviate from the shmup norm, with levels consisting of surviving waves of enemies while travelling horizontally till you reach a boss at the end, although sometimes a level has multiple bosses. Its not that its a bad thing, as shmup fans will feel right at home & it keeps things ticking along nicely for those who have come to see what the girls have been up to between season 1 & 2. With the gameplay (more on that in a moment) having a couple of interesting quirks, a little more could have been added to the games overall structure.
With a rigid structure, short runtime & unlockables that will do little to delight non-fans of Strike Witches seeming to take the sheen off what is a surprisingly good use of the licence, what it gets right for everyone else ensures its one to try. Fans of the series will find a game that perfectly compliments the universe while shmup fans will find a game with a good set of gameplay mechanics & a delightfully devilish difficulty to enjoy. Its not perfect, but the game cant be faulted for offering old-school gaming goodness wrapped in a universe that doesn't seem out of place with that gameplay. One for fans & shmup enthusiasts to enjoy, but it also may surprise others that give it a try
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Footnote: No english patch is available for this title, but its easy enough to figure out & play. That also means the story may be difficult to follow for fans looking to give it a try for the story-mode. There is a little guide here that details controls etc, but Ive not found anyone that has translated the story. Worth playing for fans though, even if you have no understanding of Japanese. I also forgot to save the screenshots as BMP/PNG so they are at JPEG format, heavily compressed instead. Sorry in advance for the poor quality that entails.