Psikyo Shooting Stars Alpha is the first in a two part series, chronicling the shoot em up giants Psikyo. Is this a worthy addition to your Switch or should you dodge it?, read on to find out.
Some studios in gaming just lend themselves to a genre, Capcom has fighting games, EA has sports games, so on and so forth, initially I have always associated the Shoot em up (Bullet hell) genre with Treasure and Cave, little did I know about Psikyo. Psikyo have been around for years producing mostly top down bullet hell titles, they are responsible for the Strikers 1945 series, a series I knew of but have had no prior experience with.
Psikyo Shooting Stars Alpha features 6 titles from Psikyo, Strikers 1945 1, 2 & 3, Sol Divide, Dragon Blaze & Zero Gunner 2. While this is a nice mix of games, Strikers 1945 does take the bulk of it and is where I’ll be starting off.
STRIKERS 1945 is a top down shooter series based in an alternative post World War 2 scenario, alternative being we have mechs to shoot due to the mysterious CANY. Outside of that blurb the story is mostly none existent, fortunately you don’t really play these games for gripping narrative.
You have a choice of different planes in which to take CANY down, each offering different attacks, speed and bombs, it’s a standard shoot em up affair which isn’t to its detriment, STRIKERS 1945 as a series is the gold standard of Bullet hell, you won’t be doing any of these on 1 credit on your first few goes.
Before we move to different pastures it is worth mentioning the “hook” to this package, STRIKERS 1945 3. STRIKERS 1945 3 is currently only available through the Shooting Stars Alpha package (all other titles can be downloaded separately on the e-shop) and the only port of the game I can find (I ran into some Android ports but couldn’t verify their legitimacy).
STRIKERS 1945 3 confusingly isn’t set in 1945 but in the late nineties and softens the art direction somewhat, its business as usual and is a fantastic game but only a must grab for fans of the genre who fancy a little bullet hell curio.
Zero Gunner 2 is a Dreamcast era title, released on said console only in Japan and then on the Nintendo Switch, originally in 2018 and now part of this package. Zero Gunner 2 is the most graphically advanced of all the titles on this package and perhaps one of the most unique controlling.
Rather than the standard affair of STRIKERS shoot towards the top of the screen and dodge bullets, Zero Gunner 2 has you placing a crosshair down, once this is done you’ll circle it, it’s certainly a unique system and will take you a while to grasp.
While it does offer a different experience from the 3 titles we just mentioned, its art direction isn’t the most inspired (the bosses are outstanding though) the controls can be a bit off putting at first & the switch from sprites to 3D models, there is enough here in terms of quality level design and good ol Dreamcast nostalgia to make this a worthy addition to the package.
Dragon Blaze is the undisputed, stand out star of this package. The title is the closest to a CAVE title out of all of these, colourful bullets, anime characters, sheer bullet amount, everything is here for an all time classic.
The main hook with Dragon Blaze is the ability to separate your rider from your dragon, this allows you to effectively be in two areas at once, it can be a little tough to keep an eye on the mayhem but after a few run thoughts you’ll crack its quirks.
Dragon Blaze with its fantasy anime art style really helps it stand out from the crowd in this package, not being a military shooter really helps draw you to this title and the addictive gameplay will have you giving it “one more go” time and time again.
Finally we end the package on somewhat of a wet squib, Sol Divide. Sol Divide is a horizontal shooter with slight RPG elements, alot of dialogue, funky visuals, melee attack and a huge player hit box.
Sol Divide lacks level design and the levels that are there usually only last for 3 or 4 waves of enemies before its onto the boss, fortunately the bosses are fun and tough to fight.
The melee attack is your best friend throughout this title as the bullets do little damage making the enemies overstay their welcome. There is also magic which replaces bombs & finally there is a health bar rather than lives, overall it’s quite a different beast from other titles available in this package.
Now I enjoyed Sol Divide but it’s easily the weakest link of this title, it’s unique and worth a little look but the lack of enemies, ugly art style and absence of charm make this title stick out of this package for all the wrong reason.
Psikyo Shooting Stars Alpha is a fantastic compilation title with a few slight flaws, the first being that none of the titles can be played online, the second being that all ports are kind of bare bones and finally the focus on military shoot em ups makes it seem a little stagnant compared to the eclectic mix in the upcoming Psikyo Shooting Stars Bravo.
Regardless of the few downsides to Psikyo Shooting Stars Alpha I would say it’s an essential purchase for fans of the genre or those curious, it’s a decent saving than buying the games seperate and you get STRIKERS 1945 3 to sweeten the pot. All of the games are worth flying through and the pick up and play nature makes them perfect for the Nintendo Switch. Each of the games can be finished in an hour but the true game is to beat your high score and complete the games on one credit. I wasn’t really aware of Psikyo before but now I can’t wait to play more of their games, now if you excuse me I have some high scores to best!.