Saving the Galaxy, one Super Squadron at a time
Last year saw the release of a kickstarted shoot-em-up called Super Galaxy Squadron, a shmup which emphasized all of the action and intensity of a bullet hell shooter… but for regular folk like many of the people you and I typically know. Featuring a ton of ships fighting alien forces of the course of six stages, Super Galaxy Squadron was fairly well received with only the super-hardcore bullet hell players turning their noses to it because the shmup community at large is often like that.
However, Super Galaxy Squadron’s creator, Synset, wasn’t especially pleased with how the original turned out and wanted to improve the overall game. Fast forward to today and Super Galaxy Squadron EX, an updated, refined version of the game is set to take flight. It offers fully voiced cutscenes, fourteen unique ships and an “Endless” mode for real hardcore grinders, so Super Galaxy Squadron seems poised to offer you shace-shooting action for many moons to come.
Starting off, players will have a pretty wide selection of gamestyle choices which will allow for a gameplay experience that’s as hardcore as you want it. Proper challenge can be found in Veteran difficulty (which will up the bullet count) on Normal mode (which dispenses health pickups). Casual is a pretty easy 1CC while Hell makes things border on impossible. Meanwhile, a hardcore mode also exists, which is more in line with your typical shmup with no checkpoints and no health pickups. An endless mode with randomly generated, infinite stages is also available for players looking for a game mode that can go as far as they can.
Control is simple and sharp no matter the ship you happen to be using. I played Super Galaxy Squadron EX with the Razer Sabertooth controller using only the analog stick, and every ship responded extremely well despite this method. Using an arcade stick or D-Pad is even better. All of the controller’s face buttons shoot your ship’s guns, so dispensing death is a pretty big no-brainer.
As players defeat enemies, blue pickups that look like Internet Explorer logos will be dropped from your fallen foes. These pickups will fill a gauge on the right hand border of the screen. When gull, a special hyper attack is unleashed to heavily damage foes or defend your ship, depending on the craft chosen. Each ship is vastly different from the last in terms of the weaponry and special attacks that can be used. Finding one that works best is half the fun, and there’s a ship here for everyone. Some of these ships are super imaginative as well, such as the purple circular craft piloted by a mass of sentient goo. Another neat feature is the ability to change ships on the outset of each stage. Handy if your play style doesn’t jive with the ship you’ve chosen.
Enemies will also drop power ups that enhance a players weaponry as well. All ships have primary and secondary fire, which is leveled up with their respective drops to a maximum level of 5. Getting hit will cause these power up to be ejected from your ship though, and they’ll have to be retrieved before they disappear competely.
As enemies are defeated and shots consistently land on your targets, a multiplier will steadily climb so long ass heavy damage and pickups are being collected. When the multiplier reaches 10X, your ship’s Hyper ability will go into overdrive with considerably more power behind it. Speaking of multipliers, scoring is pretty straightforward as well. Blue pickups add to the score with varying amounts of pointage, up to a maximum of 10,000 All destroyed enemies drop blue pickups of varying size, so constant bonuses are always obtained in addition to multiplied kill score. Additional large power-up capsules and large health modules also yield a 5000-point bonus.
So with solid gameplay, Super Galaxy Squadron EX is absolutely a great, easygoing experience, though there isn’t a ton of replay value outside of score chasing and achievement hunting. All in all though, it’s really fun while it lasts. However, some more advanced players might be off-put by the relative ease that accompanies this particular shmup. For those looking to really push the limits, a game like Mushihimesama is probably a better bet.
Super Galaxy Squadron EX’s presentation is as solid as the gameplay too. Voiced interludes between missions tell of the Super Galaxy Squadron’s exploits as the plot unfolds. The voice acting is acceptable, but also a little rough around the edges with noticeable room noise and reverb, albeit filtered with flange and phase in a fair effort to hide it. The music is a nice blend of 8-bit style synth with rock guitar and drum overtones giving Super Galaxy Squadron a great blend of traditional and 8-bit retro flair.
The visuals are also heavily in the low-res 8-to-32 bit range with ships that would work well on the NES but backgrounds that have the kind of complexity and color range of a Saturn game. The faux-taté setup also works pretty well, with pleasant UI elements filling the sidebars nicely but I would have loved the option to taté it up. Finally, there is some good use of Japanese for the bosses as well, though there was questionable use of Katakana (which is almost always used for loaner words from other languages) for “albatross” instead of the more appropriate kanji for the Japanese word which was used, “ahodori.” Minor, sure, but it bothered me in ways that will surely get me labeled as some kind of language nazi.
Other than that, there isn’t much to dislike about Super Galaxy Squadron. It’s definitely a game that had me playing over and over again, which is always a good thing. Getting that veteran 1CC is just within my grasp! One other nifty thing: proceeds from the sales of Super Galaxy Squadron EX goes to the Child’s Play charity, so you can get your shmup on AND feel good about it!
Final Verdict: 4 /5
Available on: PC (Reviewed) ; Publisher: New Blood Interactive; Developer: Synset ; Players: 1; Released: February 18, 2016; Genre: Shooter; MSRP: $9.99
Full disclosure: This review was written based on review code supplied by the game’s publisher, New Blood Interactive.