Akai Katana Review
This game was reviewed on Xbox 360
Rising Star Games brings their first effort into North America with developer Cave Interactive’s bullet hell, side scrolling shoot ‘em up, Akai Katana. This Japanese, arcade-style shooter is one that fans of both the genre and the developer will love. But does it hold up to a North American market release? Let’s take a look.
Akai Katana is a true “bullet hell” shooter; an arcade-style shooter that not only requires quick reflexes and skill in order to negotiate the veritable walls of projectiles thrown at you, but a level of pattern recognition and memorization to make it through the game; however, the likelihood that you’ll be able to make it through a single stage unscathed is pretty low, at least for the first few hundred times.
To combat the frustrations of playing this type of shooter, Cave has implemented the use of unlimited continues so that the player can progress through the entirety of the game in a single sitting. The problem is that the game only has seven stages available, which makes Akai Katana an exceptionally short playthrough. I was able to play the game through in about 45 minutes from start to finish, although I used about 10 continues to do it. Initially, I was under the impression that I was playing the game in an “Easy” mode, of which you can select by hitting the X button at the main screen, however, I found that this wasn’t the case. Nor was there an option to increase the difficulty, or reduce the number of allowable continues. So, if you’re looking for a shooter that will take hours, or even days to complete, this will most certainly not be that one.
The game’s story is rather ambiguous too, as the voice work is entirely done in Japanese, and there are no subtitles available to let you know what’s going on during the paneled cutscenes. Strangely enough, the end sequence is subtitled, which ironically, leaves you even more confused about the story because the two main characters wind up killing themselves, presumably because they love each other so much.
From a graphical standpoint, the game is simply gorgeous. The game uses 2D sprites instead of 3d rendered objects on a 2D plane, which brings an air of nostalgia for those familiar with coin-op versions that endlessly swallowed thousands of quarters on a daily basis. Incoming projectiles and explosions are bright and vivid; adding to the visual appeal of the game, but also draws your attention to the incoming wall of death that will soon be upon your poor little vessel. Of course, this is a double-edged sword as you’ll be drawn to so many objects on the screen that your attention can easily be pulled away from the one thing you should be paying care to the most; you.
Combat will vary slightly depending on which character you choose in the selection menu, as each one has a different craft (labeled simply as Type I, II, or III) with different secondary attacks and special abilities known as Phantoms. These Phantom modes allow the character to shift into an alternate form with a more powerful laser attack. However, once you have been hit, you revert to the original form.
Your secondary attack is a super bomb that’s capable of wiping massive amounts of enemies off of the screen in short fashion, and even clear out their weapons fire. However, to prevent this from being overused, you’re only allowed three of these super bombs per life.
Overall, Akai Katana is a fantastic game for die-hard fans of the shoot ‘em up franchise. If you’re looking for a longer campaign, this game will not meet your needs. While the hard-core shmup fans will find tons of replay value in Akai Katana, casual enthusiasts might find that paying $39.99 for 7 stages to be a bit steep, and may want to wait for the price to come down a bit.
Akai Katana receives a 4.5/5.0
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