Wings of Bluestar Review (Switch)

Wings of Bluestar Review: Not Quite Crashing and Burning

 

Wings of Bluestar | Featured

As someone who believes in trying to start the new year on a positive note, I was excited to do so with the folks at eastasiasoft. After all, their recent showcase had me excited with several different Shmups on the horizon. There’s something very satisfying about the pure simplicity of the genre, so I was eager to try the first contender to arrive – Wings of Bluestar. It looked to feature attractive artwork reminiscent of early anime, an interesting premise, and capable enemy design. Sadly, the more time I spent with the game, the more I started to find multiple cracks in the seemingly pristine facade. Keep reading our Wings of Bluestar review to see if this is a Shmup worth your time.

 

The Moral of the Story Is To Never Trust Robots…

 

Wings of Bluestar | Story 1

One of the things the game does relatively well is the premise. It goes a little like this. On the planet of Accessia (also known as Bluestar for some reason), a team finds an ancient, highly advanced AI unit in a cave. Nicknamed BRAIN, the people of Bluestar work in conjunction with the AI, and in so doing, utterly revolutionize their society with incredible technological advances. Not only can they augment their bodies with technology, but BRAIN wants to create synthetic bodies and upload the consciousness of itself and the humans into them. Suffice to say, this makes the humans a little wary, and they vote against BRAIN’s course of action. As can be expected, it goes rogue and declares war on the people it once worked with.

Wings of Bluestar | Story 2

Though the story probably sounds pretty familiar for fellow science fiction fans, it still works, and I give kudos to the developer for trying. Where it starts to come apart is how that story is portrayed in the Story Mode itself. You pick from one of two pilots, Aya or Zarak, and then fight through 8 stages full of foes. At the beginning of each stage, you’ll get a pretty lengthy narrative arc, and can occasionally make decisions when prompted. Zarak’s story is mostly about his unsettling amnesia, while Aya has a pretty different tale. This would all be fine if the writing itself was good, but it’s passable at best. There are plenty of grammatical errors and moments of sheer awkwardness that took me entirely out of the story. Worse, if you want to skip through the dialogue quickly, you only have an option to speed it up so much that you can’t read a thing. While that might sound like a good solution, I’m all about context when it’s offered, and I decided to read the story. The problem is that the game doesn’t respond very quickly to pushes of a button here, and there’s a lot of padding to the conversations.

 

Pick Your Pilot

 

Wings of Bluestar | Pilots

Now, I can hear some of you complaining that none of this matters, Shmups are all about the gameplay. While I couldn’t agree more, sadly, the gameplay is also pretty mixed. For one thing, the in-game tutorial also suffers from unfortunate grammatical errors, and doesn’t do a clear job of explaining much of anything. I’m still not sure which pickups boost the power of my main weapon and which provide pods, for example. It took me a while to figure out that only one of the playable ships can aim their pod weapons in any direction, while the other is forced to only shoot forwards.

Wings of Bluestar | Patema Bonus

Besides those basics, it’s also really important to collect jigsaw pieces you find in stages to form a full picture of a character named Patema. If you find all of them in each stage, you’ll get 1000 risk stars, which can be used in the Bonus shop to unlock a whole bunch of other features. Including additional continues, which you’ll appreciate the longer you play Wings of Bluestar.

Wings of Bluestar | Zarak Beam

I mostly played the game as Zarak. He has the benefit of a massive laser beam he can charge and unleash, which devastates everything in front of him and goes through stage geometry. The only downside is you’ll have to wait a bit for the beam to reload before using it again, but it’s still really helpful, especially since it can cancel most enemy bullets into score boosters. While Zarak is admittedly powerful, especially when fully boosted, Aya is probably the better pilot. Not only can she collect shields that protect her ship from bullets, but once she has pods, they can aim their fire any direction you want. This is really helpful, since, pretty quickly, the game starts throwing enemies at you from every direction, especially from behind. So even though Aya is weaker in terms of pure stats, she’s much easier to navigate cramped stages with.

Wings of Bluestar | Aya Turret

Firing in 360 degrees is a must in Wings of Bluestar.

While Wings of Bluestar doesn’t break any cardinal genre rules, it also doesn’t really elevate itself much beyond doing the bare minimum. Enemy waves will get indicated moments before they arrive, each level culminates in a massive boss fight, etc. Though I wouldn’t classify the game as bullet hell, since those have clear patterns to weave through, it does love to throw a mess of projectiles at you with abandon. While the laser and shield can help with that somewhat, it’s very easy to get overwhelmed. The only saving grace, at least in Story Mode, is that you don’t have to restart from the beginning once you run out of lives and continues. The problem is that the game forces you back to the start screen, and from there, you have to go to Story Mode to continue from where you died.

 

Buying More Options

 

Wings of Bluestar | Bonus

One thing I appreciated about the game is how you can unlock features with risk stars. This reminded me a lot of Horgihugh and Friends, and it goes a long way to not only improving replayability, but making the game a bit easier to navigate. You can unlock modes like Boss Rush and a Gallery, though you’ll still have to spend more stars to get individual artwork. What really pleasantly surprised me was that the game features its own achievements, and there are a metric ton of them. Even though Wings of Bluestar itself left me more than a bit underwhelmed, these went a long way to improving my appreciation of the experience.

 

Flying the Bland Skies

 

Wings of Bluestar | Fin

Visually, I have mixed feelings about the game. While I’d hardly call it ugly, it nevertheless was a bit boring. This goes double for the stage backgrounds, which looked flat and painfully generic. Sadly the same problem applies to the enemy and boss design. Don’t expect any mind-bending crazy bosses here. Everything is a ship of some sort, or some array of mechanical death. I also was irritated by how the Story Mode reused visual assets, which made the narrative even more challenging to stomach. The music in the game is all right, but also didn’t really make any lasting impact on me. Put together, the design was decidedly lackluster.

 

Entering the Danger Zone

 

Wings of Bluestar | Warning

Much as I’d like to end on a high note, there are more issues we need to address. The game has a feature where you move slower when attacking, but instead of making Wings of Bluestar feel tactical, it just added another layer of pain. Another issue is the game’s bosses. They’re very hit-or-miss, and none of them were particularly memorable. They tend to hurl a lot of abuse your way, and if you’re not lucky, you’ll suffer plenty of cheap deaths.

Wings of Bluestar | Worm Boss

There’s one noteworthy annoyance of a boss that looks like a giant segmented mechanical worm. After ripping away all the segments except the one covering its head, I realized I couldn’t damage it anymore. I’m not sure if this was a glitch or if I was missing something, but the only reason I beat the boss was that I ran out the clock, which then let me move on to the next stage. Another annoying incident was the first time I got to the final boss. Moments into the battle, the game suddenly glitched me back to the home screen, meaning I had to play through the entire final stage again.

 

Down To Earth

 

Though I was hoping to start the new year on a high note, Wings of Bluestar just wasn’t up to snuff. It’s not a horrible game, but it’s incredibly mediocre, with bland design, poor writing, and generic boss battles. While it’s relatively affordable, it’s nevertheless very hard to recommend to hardcore Shmup fans.


Final Verdict: 3/5

Available on: Switch (reviewed), PS5, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S; Publisher: eastasiasoft; Developer: eastasiasoft, Shinu Real Arts; Players: 1-2; Released: January 18, 2023; ESRB: T for Teen – Blood, Violence, Suggestive Themes; MSRP: $14.99

Editor’s note: The publisher provided a review copy to Hey Poor Player.

Josh Speer
Got my start in the industry at oprainfall, but been a game fanatic since I was young. Indie / niche advocate and fan of classics like Mega Man, Castlevania and Super Metroid. Enjoys many genres, including platformers, turn based / tactical RPGs, rhythm and much more. Champion of PAX West and Knight of E3.

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