Following hot on the heels of Psikyo Shooting Stars Alpha we have Bravo, featuring titles covering the GunBird series and the Samurai Aces series, is it worth picking up following Alpha? Let’s have a look!.
Psikyo Shooting Stars Bravo contains the following titles.
Samurai Aces II: Tengai
Samurai Aces III: Sengoku Cannon
Gunbird originally released in 1994 and features a manga art style rather than military focused as in STRIKERS. The game features a rather comedic cast and has them fighting a band of Sky Pirates in order to obtain a magic mirror to make a wish.
It’s a top down shooter so please don’t expect Witcher levels of narrative, there are some fun and brief interactions before boss fights and at the end of stages.
Gunbird is a beautiful looking game, especially coming from 1994, that’s the beauty of Sprite work!. As with the majority of Psikyo games the first 4 levels are played out in a random order before hitting the 5th.
Mechanically Gunbird is rather vanilla, it plays much like STRIKERS in a fantasy setting, bombs, hold a shot down to charge an attack, pretty standard stuff, the boss battles are awesome especially the amount of phases they have, really keeps you on your toes throughout.
Gunbird 2 follows this title up releasing in 1998, originally in Arcades and then on Dreamcast in 2000, I always remember seeing this title but never biting.
The first thing you’ll notice about Gunbird 2 is just how good it looks, the original certainly wasn’t a slouch and Psikyo used the 4 year gap between these games to really push some more out of the series,
Gunbird 2 is generally the same premise as 1, slightly different cast but contains Sky Pirates, Mechs and lots and lots of bullets to dodge. Gunbird 2 also features “Medal Chaining” which when you grab medals in quick succession, heightens your score.
Gunbird 2 also features a magic metre, the more damage you cause the higher it goes, charge your shot and you’ll perform different attacks. It’s a vastly improved title over Gunbird which seems daft to come out with considering 1 is an amazing title but everything just feels dialed up to 10 with this sequel.
Gunbarich was the strangest title of this collection. Rather than being a bullet hell it’s actually a breakout clone. Naturally it does have bullets to dodge and plenty of colours but it wasn’t a title I spent much time with; more to complete the collection than an essential must play on this one.
Samurai Aces was Psikyo’s debut title and as such lacks the additions later titles have such as Gunbird and titles mentioned in the Alpha pack. Samurai Aces opts for a more feudal Japan vs mecha art style and enemy design and it really pays off.
While not the most advanced of titles it is brilliant to see how these titles started and where Psikyo began, it’s not the worst title out of both packs but certainly doesn’t have the level of magic other titles by Psikyo has.
Samurai Aces II: Tengai takes the feudal Japan vs Mecha approach of the original, turns it into a horizontal shooter, ups the quality to 10 and manages to produce a title equal in my humble opinion to Gunbird 2.
I personally enjoy horizontal shooters to vertical so this might be why I enjoyed this a little more than the original but it’s hard to not see just how much of a leap in quality this is to the original.
As with all the Psikyo games it has a quirky story, randomized first few levels, insane boss encounters and bullets to dodge and even more to shoot. The cast are brilliant and all play differently, level design is top notch and there isn’t really anything negative I can say about this one, apart from keeping me up till all hours between this one and Gunbird 2 trying to 1cc both of them!.
Finally we reach Samurai Aces III: Sengoku Cannon another vertical shooter, made by some of the team at Psikyo when they went on to make X-nauts after Psikyo folded.
Sengoku Cannon was for the PSP rather than porting an existing arcade version. This game is another one that is around for collection purposes and curiosity more than actual quality.
The game has this hideous art style with small ugly sprites slapped onto a moving 3D background, after playing Tengai it’s borderline offensive to even suggest this game is from the same series.
The levels and general game feel aren’t quite as good as either of the games that came before it and it’s frankly quite a dull title which is a shame the series bowed out on such a low mark. While it’s not quite as bad as Sol Divide, it does lack any of the spark that title had and comes off as painfully uninspired.
When I reviewed Psikyo Shooting Stars Alpha I mentioned there was an issue being it was mostly STRIKERS 1945, this pack basically chronicles the Gunbird and Samurai Aces series’ while this is far from a bad thing if you have no interest in either then Alpha would be a better pick.
4 out of 6 of the title here range from great to must plays, Gunbarich while isn’t a bad title by any stretch seems slightly odd compared to the others and Sengoku Cannon is a title I long to never play again. Even with those odds the Bravo pack is outstanding just for having Gunbird 2 and Tengai, two of the greatest shmup titles I have ever played.
NIS have done a great job making 2 must play compilation titles for fans of the genre or people just interested, while there are some low points the highs aim that high it’s easy to ignore them. The Psikyo Shooting Stars title are both MUST BUY titles for any Switch owners, grab a joy con, grab a friend & grab a high score.