There was me thinking 2D scrolling shooters were all but dead and then Rising Star Games bring over fan favourite Akai Katana, but whilst scrolling fans will be ecstatic with this extremely fast paced shooter, newcomers may be a little flummoxed as to what all the fuss is about.
Very little has changed over the years for this particular genre of game, just more powerful game engines offering more on screen items and prettier graphics, with the game scrolling your ship through the levels with hundreds of enemies just aiming for you along the way to the inevitable boss fight at the end. Bright and explosive graphics aside, with Akai Katana you will find that it will not let up for an instant, with the first level shocking you into realisation this will not be a walk in the park. Mere seconds into the game and the initial salvo of bullets seems unending, with blue and red bullets making deadly patterns to dodge as you fire back and try to clear a path and survive as long as possible. The screen is awash with bullets, blink and your dead; though this not helped by the fact with every kill you earn energy which is represented by large green blobs which are automatically attracted to your ship, making it very hard to differentiate between death dealing bullets and life saving energy.
There are three ships you can play as, all classic fighter planes that have been kitted out with some serious technology to at least give you a chance to survive the relentless waves of enemy attacks. Each fighter comes with a slightly different attack style plus their own summon power, which grants the ability to have a phantom assist you, offering improved firepower and also a shield that can allow you to navigate safely through some of the more bullet heavy moments.
The presentation is of a high quality, with plenty of well created, hand drawn enemy vehicles all wanting to blast you out of the sky, with helicopters, planes and tanks of varying sizes all gunning for you, though you do start to notice that there is an awful lot of repetition of them throughout the levels. The story in Akai Katana is pretty much non-existent, with the instruction booklet offering more info on the plot than the game itself, let’s just say it is based in an alternate reality Japan where a mineral called Guiding Ore replaced coal and electricity and you are a group of rebels on a suicide mission trying and stop the evil emperor, oh yeah and your co-pilot is a ghost that previously committed suicide to grant you special powers. It’s only at the end that the game offers any real explanation with a very brief final scene explaining things; this game is really only for scrolling shooter fans.
As with any side scrolling game, it is the boss fights that are the most memorable and Akai Katana initially shows promise but then, like mentioned earlier, it just repeats the same ideas over and over again. The boss will just be hovering on the right side of the screen, spewing various coloured bullets at you as you throw whatever you have back at them, dodging the incoming barrage. Just like you own fighters, the bosses are able to summon, but this time huge war machines that burst from a portal; from massive trains, zeppelins or flying battleships, you need to be wary of their attacks patterns as well as the boss. Whilst a great idea, it is the same pattern boss after boss, with the game not really offering any new ideas other than throwing even more at you.
With the game hosting so many on screen bullets and enemies it manages to make games like Dynasty Warriors feel empty, but with all this action sadly something had to give, with the frame rate drops becoming an issue, but only it seems on boss fights in which noticeable slowdown occurs when the screen is full of bullets (not really complaining mind as it helped dodging death a little longer).
Anyone with any real skill will complete the game easily within about 30 minutes which comes as a bit of a surprise for a retail release. To extend the lifespan of the game you have the three ships to try out plus a few game modes, the Akai Katana Origin mode, Slash mode and Climax mode. Each offer score attacks and replay options to compete with other players and also a two player option but they differ in slightly in areas like extra special moves involving collecting katana’s to build up powerful attacks, slightly different enemy patterns and also native screen sizes.
If you like your shooters with huge kanji symbols randomly appearing on screen, screaming ninjas, a hell of a lot of bullets to dodge and a noisy Japanese rock track that makes your living room sound like an arcade, then this is for you. Scrolling shoot’em up fans will be through Akai Katana in mere moments and there is little in the way of replayability to hook newcomers which is something to think about when considering this title.
Rating: AverageReview Policy(version tested: Xbox 360/XBLA)
You can order your copy and Akai Katana from ShopTo here.