Monday, 10 August 2015

Review: Supercharged Robot VULKAISER (PC)

Astroport, a name seemingly synonymous with the doujin shmup scene, has had yet another shooter head to Steam of late via Nyu Media. What sets Supercharged Robot VULKAISER apart from the studios previous releases is the games style, a nostalgic familiarity for those fond of anime’s of yesteryear. Does this nostalgia help blast the game to victory, or does it weigh the game down and prevent it soaring? Lets take a look....

Review code provided by Nyu Media

Its 1977 and the people of earth are facing there greatest threat! The earth is currently being invaded by an alien force known as The Gogoh Army who expect the earthlings to crumble and fall before them. Luckily for us, the Supercharged Research Centre has just completed the pinnacle of human scientific progress – the Supercharged Robot VULKAISER. That’s about it for the games story, as you would expect for a shmup, but some narrative depth Is offered via the multiple Vulfighter pilots. There are 4 pilots, each with their own craft (more on that later), that reward you with conversation pieces and background information depending on which character you had as your co-pilot at the end of the stage. There are other characters too, VULKAISERs lead scientist & the general of the Gogoh Army, but these rarely feature (aside from the Gogoh General whom appears often as a mini-boss during stages). Each of the 5 stages (six if you include the hellish bonus stage at the end) will have a different conversation from the pilot which will culminate in an overall mini arc per say for the characters. It does surprisingly add a little replayability to the game as you start another play through with the intention of reading up on another character, although finishing will be harder than expected as you’ll find out. As noted earlier, there aren’t many stages in this games repertoire, but the leaderboards, pilot stories & Steam achievements should keep you coming back for more.

If the content doesn’t keep you coming back, the game play will. As you would expect from Astroport, the games mechanics are slick & refined. The games hit boxes are fair, always important for a shooter like this, with the games difficulty building gradually – Great for newcomers. The game starts to come into its own on a tactical level when you factor in the Vulfighters. Each Vulfighter offers a different ability, which in turn changes how you’ll be engaging the Gogoh Army. There are 4 fighters you can link with – Needle (fires low damage projectiles rapidly In a large spread) Thunder (fires thunder in a large area around you) Rocket (fires a barrage of missiles in a small spread to the front) and Drill (keeps a drill in front that causes maximum damage). During each stage you’ll be presented with opportunities to switch the linked Vulfighter, and your choices will hinder or improve your opportunities. For example I tended to stick with Needle, her rapid & spread fire meant most enemies were a breeze, but boss battles became a slog. Her low damage meant I had to get close so then every round hit, a little too risky at times. Not only does enemy fire damage you, it also damages the attached Vulfighter. A little health is regenerated at the end of each stage thankfully, but if a fighter is destroyed – they are gone for the rest of the play through. The game also gives you a special attack with each fighter, as well as a charge attack. This ability is gained when constantly firing, and is unleashed by releasing the fire button, so there are as many available during a stage as you can use. They're not quite as powerful as the special attack, but the constant availability sure helps during the moments when you feel swarmed. Its all these added extras to the basic formula that give the gameplay the depth to have you returning, but thankfully the core game is also solid enough without them.

Graphically the game hits all the right notes with its style. With character and overall design looking like its been ripped straight from a pre-90's anime, it'll no doubt please many out there. Each of the characters that make up the games narrative are as different as can be given the standardised uniforms etc, with the design diversity also extending to the enemy designs. All manner of enemies at all shapes and sizes will be trying to destroy you constantly, which also has a drawback. With all the enemies, and all the subsequent explosions from their destruction (especially during swarms) the dialogue from the Gorgoh general and other enemies can often be lost due to it being delivered via speech bubbles. A chaotic visual flourish isn't necessarily a bad thing tho, and the words delivered from your foes aren't really integral to the narrative after all. The fast paced action is also complimented well by a really good soundtrack. Whilst it wont be winning any BAFTA's, the overall sound & tempo fits perfectly with the rest if the game – again feeding the nostalgia. As is usually the case with Astroport PC shooters, resolution is locked to 640x480 and there's nary a graphical tweak in sight on the menu. This does have the advantage tho of guaranteeing that even your toaster should have rock solid performance. None of this stops the game from still looking good, and delivers just what it needs to supports the games fast paced combat with its nostalgic presentation

Supercharged Robot VULKAISER is a gem of a shmup for those with little experience in the genre as its easy to pick up and play, with the gradual difficulty curve stopping you being overwhelmed early, whilst offering tactical options for those that seek some tactical depth. The fast paced gameplay is well refined at its core to keep you returning, with the multiple storyborads for the characters and Steam achievements also boosting replaybilty. Its almost the complete package, some tiny niggles aside, and the games nostalgic anime presentation will keep you just as engrossed as the gameplay.


Who Should Buy This
  • Looking for an 80's/90's anime fix
  • Want refined & solid gameplay in your shmup
  • Looking for a little tactical depth 
  • Surprising amount of replayability
Who Should Avoid 
  • Would like a bit more content & unocks
  • 640x480 & no options to tweak doesn't suit you
Steam [LINK]

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