If you asked me what one of my favorite genre’s of games I like to play is, one of them consistently you would hear is the ‘Japanese Shoot Em Up’ genre of games. I just love playing them, there’s just something about the thrill of being a lone space ship or plane fighting thousands upon thousands of enemies shooting thousand upon thousands of bullets, missiles & lasers (Oh My) at you simultaneously with such tight patterns you are expected to dodge, that tickles my fancy something fierce.
However when it comes to these kind of games, there are a huge amount of them (at least in japan), and a lot of them can feel samey, as most of these kind of games rarely deviate from the formula of ‘avoid oncoming projectiles, shoot back at the enemy, and if needed, use a bomb to clear the screen, and if you get hit once you lose a life’ which leads to a lot of these games chomping for your coin and attention which is why a lot of these games depend most of the time on looking as flashy and good looking as possible without really bringing anything new to the table. It can be a little daunting to know which games you should play that are worth your time and money, and it doesn’t help that as time passes, a lot of these old genre’s like the Japanese ‘shmup’ is becoming increasingly irrelevant, as newer genre’s take the spotlight.
In comes Super Galaxy Squadron, developed by Synset & published by New Blood Interactive, the original Super Galaxy Squadron, released back in January 23rd of 2015, was a pretty good japanese style bullet hell shooter in the vain of games like Mushihimesama in that it was a top down shooter, that filled the screen with a ton of bullets that you had to avoid, and it was pretty good, but stuff like lacking presentation, dull narrative scenes between levels, and the game sending you back to the beginning of the level no matter how far you got, really set the game back.
But as of 2016 on February the 18th, Synset released an overhauled edition of SGS titled appropriately enough, Super Galaxy Squadron EX, and boy does this version blow the original out of the water, everything in this game is a lot better, from the graphical presentation, to gameplay balance everything was tweaked to make it a far superior experience that the original.
The game has overall 2 modes, Arcade mode which essentially is 6 stages interspersed with narrative cut scenes with voice acting between each level to flesh out the story of the game. The games story, revolves around the Galaxy Squadron, a team of ethnically diverse group of people, from Americans/Japanese/Martians/etc. That make up the team, from which there are about 14 characters (or ships if you prefer) in total to choose from, all of which have different gameplay styles, and all of them are fun to play as in there own right, also a cool thing they added in this version of the game is the ability to change ships in between stages, which is great because if you end up being uncomfortable with one ship, you can just switch to another ship during the next stage, which is nice.
boy does this version blow the original out of the water
The game centers around this conflict that the Galaxy Squadron has to fight against to defend…I don’t even know. To be honest, while I do appreciate that the new cutscenes and voice over grabs my attention more so than the original which was just your ship in space with text explaining what’s going on, the story itself didn’t grab my attention, and was rather dull, and just seemed unnecessary.
Graphically speaking, the presentation is excellent! Ships blow up really damn well, and it not only looks good, it sounds great as well. While by no means is the game a graphical powerhouse, it doesn’t need to be, and for the style it is trying to capture, it looks really damn good.
The game itself also is really fun, while it plays pretty similarly to games like the before mentioned title, it also includes certain elements that aren’t typically seen in these style of games, such as a health bar and hyper meter, the health bar being self explanatory, and the hyper meter essentially acting as your bomb.
While it seems that having a health bar is counter to what these kind of games are meant to be and would make the game easy, the game thankfully is still pretty challenging, as if you die at any time during the stage, you have to start off from the beginning of the level (up until you hit the boss of the stage which then you just restart at the boss), which seems insane especially considering how much bullets can fill the screen at once, but, thankfully the developers did the smart thing, and confined your hit-box to the small dot on the sprite of your ship, making bullet avoidance less irritating, but make no mistake, this game is still pretty damn hard and the game will punish mistakes.
I would say that this is the Japanese bullet hell equivalent to Dark Souls
The Hyper meter acts as a ‘bomb’, but the properties of what the hyper meter does varies from ship to ship, varying from the straight forward projectile clearing explosion, a giant laser beam, to even a shield that protects your ship, and because the meter is refilled by picking up blue orbs, once the meter is full, you can only use it once before having to recharge it again, adding a layer of strategy: “should I use my hyper now? There is a ton of bullets on screen…but what if the boss is almost close? Should I save it for then?” were questions I asked myself constantly, which is something I was surprised by.
If I had to compare this game to any other game, I would say that this is the Japanese bullet hell equivalent to Dark Souls…now hold on a sec, don’t leave, hear me out. The thing that I found this game does pretty well is encourage you to get better at playing the game, considering how balanced the game is, whenever I died, I never felt it was the games fault. This game encourages experimentation by trying different tactics/ships to find ways to beat your enemies, adding a nice layer of strategy, I would find whenever I would beat a boss, I would instinctively shout with joy at how awesome it felt to beat a legitimately difficult boss, filling me with a sense of accomplishment that a good amount of games sometimes fails to deliver, and Super Galaxy Squadron succeeds at doing.
If there is one thing though I felt under-delivered in in any aspect of the game, besides the lackluster narrative, it would have to be the games soundtrack. Now while I may be in the minority on this one, and while I’m not saying the soundtrack is particularly bad, I just felt underwhelmed by it, and unlike other shmups with great soundtracks such as Eschatos, Mushihimesama, Thunderforce etc., I didn’t feel the urge to put this soundtrack on my ipod. While RandomEncounter, the band responsible for the game’s soundtrack, do have musical chops, and has some pretty good albums to listen to on their bandcamp, I just feel their style of music didn’t really suit Super Galaxy Squadron, which is why it did nothing for me, which is a shame. There are people who will strongly disagree with me on this one, so to each there own, but this soundtrack is not the main draw of this game.
Also aside from the regular arcade mode, there is also Endless mode, which basically is a randomly generated infinite level that changes up every time you play and the main draw of the mode is you only get one life to play it, which makes sense. However as of this review, one of the two modes of play on endless mode: Gauntlet, which is touted to be the more insane variation on endless mode counter to the easier “Zen” mode, is unfortunately missing, but it’s my assumption that the next big update for the game will include the addition of Gauntlet mode, when that will be I’m not sure when, but hopefully it will be soon.
With all that said, the great gameplay, great presentation, and overall a pretty good package put together overall, and the fact that this game is only $9.99, I have to say this game is a STEAL! You would be silly not to pick it up, especially if you are a fan of this genre of games, or if you just like short fun games with a good challenge, this is definitely one to pick up, and definitely deserves the VP seal of approval! (which doesn’t exist, but let’s pretend it does.)
So if you are looking to shoot at stuff with bullets, lasers, bombs, or just want to see things blow up real good, strap on your helmet, zip up your flight suit, and take to space with Super Galaxy Squadron EX! You won’t regret it for a minute!