Wings of Bluestar is a one-developer title by Shinu Real Arts and published by EastAsiaSoft hoping to combine the school of Bullet Hell with slightly more traditional Shmup, taped together with hand-drawn art and other juicy bonuses to help turn your eye towards this project over other Shmups that have and are being released recently.
Wings of Bluestar is a horizontal Shmup much in the vein of titles of R-Type and the recently re-released Akai Katana, you have a choice of two ships to tackle the game’s 8 Stages throughout the various game modes.
The art direction of Wings of Bluestar comes from every aspect of it being hand-drawn, I can appreciate the level of work that has gone into this title and at times it does look really good but I don’t gel well with the HD hand-drawn look, give me some chunky pixels and I’m your guy whereas the art style here I always associate with “Flash” titles mixed with an American attempt at anime. I feel the visuals are going to be very marmite for some and I almost passed on this title due to them but fortunately, the game looks so much better in motion to the point it doesn’t present that much of an issue if you don’t like the look of it.
The music in Wings of Bluestar is wonderfully varied and well suited for the genre, fortunately, there is an in-game Jukebox for you to listen to the tracks outside of the stages which will allow you to sit down with some brilliantly written music, while not quite Darius level it certainly has some standouts.
Wings of Bluestar should feel right at home for anyone who’s played a Shmup, your ship slowly scrolls the screen from the left going to the right, and you’ll shoot down plenty of smaller ships while dodging colorful bullets, collecting various power-ups including additional weapon pods and a shield depending on what ship you chose. Once you reach the end of the stage you’re met with a giant WARNING sign before you take on that stage’s big bad in some fantastically varied boss fights that are sure to drain your lives and credits.
The ship differences are in the shot types and the fact one is heavily focused on damage while the other is more balanced and has access to a shield upgrade which heavily resembles “The Force” from the R-Type series. In terms of mechanics, there isn’t anything new or unusual here, everything has an air of familiarity and I feel that’s one of the title’s strong points. The pods you can collect through pick-ups can be aimed manually, almost turning the game into a twin-stick shooter at points, this felt quite fresh though some areas seemed to rely on this meaning if you’d lost them prior you were going to be in for a bad time.
Alongside that there are “Risk Stars” you can collect to boost your score and some artwork you can also collect to help you reach the top of the leaderboard, worth noting for the score chasers of you out there that the game includes off and online leaderboards which are always something I look out for when reviewing these types of games.
Unusually for the genre Wings of Bluestar features a fully blown Story Mode and rather than just adding the odd cutscene or dialogue, here there is nearly enough a full Visual Novel including dialogue choices and different endings. This was a complete surprise, as I said this isn’t usually done within the genre and offers something new, I’m not a fan of the Visual Novel style of game but it is a brilliant inclusion to give gamers a little more content for their money, full disclosure I did end up skipping a lot of the dialogue to get to the action but from what I read there is quite an interesting story on offer here.
If you’re like me you can just skip straight over to arcade mode which lets players go through the story without the dialogue and just the delicious shoot-’em-up bits, there is also a Boss Rush mode for those who just want to take on the game’s bosses without the popcorn enemies and hazards of the stages.
There is an in-game shop that allows you to spend credits you accumulate throughout playing to unlock stuff like the boss rush, more gallery items such as in-game art and songs as well as extra credits and upgrades to help you see the end of the game should you struggle and yeah the game has the Shmup curse where the difficulty skyrockets around stage 3 and does not let up.
In terms of issues with the title, I noticed a painful slowdown if you played the game too long and sometimes button presses would not register, looking into these issues I believe these are being patched out as I type this but there isn’t anything just yet, maybe hold on for a week or so after release and see if the developer has addressed these issues.
The only other thing I noticed was at times the backgrounds obscured the bullets and it wasn’t always clear enough what objects were in the background or the foreground causing me to lose a few lives over a run where I hadn’t given something the “bullet check”. Aside from that, Wings of Bluestar is a damn fine Shmup that mixes some of the more hellish bullet patterns from Japanese shmups and the more adventure aspect from the western shoot ‘em ups.
A whole lot of heart and content in this package. Bit of a rough launch but a promising future.
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