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  • Writer's pictureFrankieW

Game Review #479: Psikyo Shooting Stars Alpha and Bravo (Nintendo Switch)

Updated: Mar 22, 2020

Reviewer: WoodmanFLG

Developer: NIS America

Publisher: NIS America

Category: Shoot Em Up, Arcade, Compilation


Bringing Me Back

I honestly didn’t even know it at the start, but I’ve played a few of these games before… like twenty years ago or something completely ridiculous! One boss in particular brought me way back to a Beef ‘O’ Brady’s in my hometown, with my family all together eating chicken wings and pumping quarters into this machine, being amazed as the games kept throwing more and more challenges at me, and being visually pleasing, filling the screen with bullets, planes, missiles, and more! Come to think of it, moments like this may just be what caused me to fall in love with the genre of shoot ‘em up games; and it's completely wild that I am here now, all these years later, getting to review a collection of some of my formative games that helped me find out what genres I love!

A Legacy of Quality

Psikyo seriously ran the market for shoot ‘em ups once upon a time, and there is a reason why: these games are absolute quality! The way this review is going to go down is that I’m first going to touch on the series in the Alphacollection, then the Bravo collection. I will note differences between games in series, but they tend to just be prettier versions of the last ones with new ships and levels, so unless necessary, I will be reviewing the series on the collection as a whole.

There's a TON of content on each of these, and between both the Alpha and Bravo collections, anyone with even a feigning interest in the genre is sure to find hours of fun; and its PERFECT for beginners, with extensive difficulty options and the ability to change how many lives and such you start with. I certainly get a kick out of how, on many of the games, the lowest level of difficulty is below baby, and it's called monkey! We are going to start the series contained on the Alpha collection, and then follow it up with Bravo in this MEGA PSIKYO REVIEW! But First…

Shoot ‘Em Up Basics

Pretty much all of the games on this are of the shoot ‘em up genre, and most of them are also going to be of the vertical variety, TATE style. The genre has you destroying hundreds of enemy fighters, dodging screens full of bullets while powering up and progressing through the stages. Known for its quarter-eating level of difficulty, this genre tends to lean towards more hardcore gamers, because beating some of the harder games will prove to require lots of practice on base difficulty levels. It is an extremely rewarding genre to get good at, and I love that feeling of success after many, many tries, perfecting your strategy—basically, grab power ups, don’t get hit, and maybe say a little prayer! Now it’s time to start getting into the meat and potatoes of this review, starting with...

Psikyo Shooting Stars Alpha

Release Date: 1.21.2020

Price: $39.99

Buy Psikyo Shooting Stars Alpha from the Nintendo Switch eShop here.

The first collection has 6 awesome games in it: Strikers 1945series, with 1, 2, and 3 included; Sol Divide; Dragon Blaze; and Zero Gunner 2. Any of the vertical scrolling games support TATE mode as well, so you Flip Grip people will be super excited to play with this one—I know I am! Of course, you can also edit lots of things in the games to make it easier for you, like adding more continues or lives to simulate you having LOTS of quarters—the dream we all lived for as kids, of course! Let’s start with the Strikers Series, shall we?

Basic Ideas, Expert Execution!

Strikers 1945 is what you expect when you think of shoot ‘em ups: a few different planes with different shot patterns, missiles, and bombs, shooting other ships, tanks, and even the occasional mecha! While being basic in concept, it makes up for it in being INSANELY clean, and with each game feeling unique enough to warrant individual play AND repeat playthroughs. Also, co-op shoot ‘em up action is ALWAYS appreciated, and it is here for you to enjoy.

Being that these are all arcade games, expect semi-short levels, epic bosses, and a TON of bullets coming at you. It keeps it interesting with this mix, and it's well appreciated. This is the series that honestly made me fall in love with the genre as a child. It was a regular thing to see in arcades and family restaurants, and you couldn't find a better spot to learn these games than this series!

Something a Bit Different

Sol Divide: Sword of Darkness is the perfect contrast to the previous series, and shows the variety of gameplay styles in the genre! Sol Divide is actually our first horizontal shoot ‘em up in this collection, and also features animated cutscenes. You will journey out with different capabilities than the usual with this one, with characters who don’t die in one hit, and instead have life bars.

Another welcome change that is vital to master is the addition of melee attacks, which are highly damaging, but short ranged. You can also cast magic with MP, depending on what spell book you pick up. This ranged from your basic elemental attacks to massive screen-clearing blasts! This is a welcome change of scenery and gameplay style from most of the series in these collections, and was a ton of fun to play for the first time!

Flying Through the Sky

Dragon Blaze feels a lot like Strikers, but oh man, did they change it up visually and thematically, and I LOVE it! This time you will be playing as characters riding elemental dragons, and they added a few new things to the classic Psikyo formula! You have your basic shot, as well as your bomb, as always; but this game, not content with being one of many, lets you LAUNCH YOUR DRAGON OUT AND FUNCTION AS A TURRET! Not only that, but you have a magic gauge connected to a strong attack without any invincibility that is a ton of fun to use.

These additions to the gameplay keep it fast, frantic and fun, and I love the visuals it went with. I also loved that bosses show their weak spot when they get semi-close to death for a quick moment, and if you launch your dragon into them, you will get an instant kill! It’s a cool reward!

Even Further from The Usual

Next up, we have Zero Gunner 2! This fully-3-D game has a horizontal screen, but you can attack in any direction, and so can enemies! To handle this, you fire in whatever direction you face, but if you hold down a button, you will create a spot in which you will rotate around, so you can change your attack vector. You also will be able to drop bits that you power by collecting energy cubes to assist you in your assault of this game world. This one was fun, but probably the least interesting one of the collection—to me at least, but you could be different! And with that, we close out the Alpha collection, and make our way into…

Psikyo Shooting Stars Bravo

Release Date: 2.18.2020

Price: $39.99

Buy Psikyo Shooting Stars Bravo from the Nintendo Switch eShop here.

It’s a Samurai Shodown!

We start out our review of the games contained on the Bravocollection with an interesting one, the Samurai Aces series! This one is interesting because it starts more like a very Asian-inspired version of Strikers 1945, but in the second one, sub-titled TENGAI, it changes to having the characters ditch the plane, and switch to a horizontal shooter! Then, with the third entry in the series, SENGOKUN CANNON, they ditch the traditional all-sprite-based look for 3-D models flying high on moving backgrounds!

It’s an interesting evolution for the series that lets you play in the universe, regardless of the kind of shoot ‘em up you are looking to play. Also, some of the characters in the third one might even make this count as a #SwitchLewd! All in all, the high-flying samurai action was good to look at, and even more fun to play, regardless of the entry, and it is highly recommended!

People in the Air and People on the Ground

Next up, we have the Gunbird series, a vertical shooting series with probably the best visuals in the collection. Between the two games—and one more that is kind of in the series that I will talk about—they are all absolutely gorgeous! I love that this game is the kind that doesn’t have you piloting ships, but rather, people flying through the air. Both games have a really cool method of storytelling that evokes the feeling of a chase, as you chase down whoever you are chasing through the level, blasting through their defenses, culminating in a big boss battle before they escape or otherwise. Everyone feels really unique, and they also have attacks that you can charge up for a different effect, which is plenty of fun. Psikyo is a mark of quality, and this series doesn’t disappoint in the least.

A Break-Out from the Expected

Finishing off this collection, we have Gunbarich, a kind of spinoff of the Gunbird series that, instead of being a vertical shoot ‘em up, is a brick-breaking game, like Breakout or Arkanoid! You pick one of two characters, one of which is the poster girl of Gunbird, and then you will begin your adventure! You will conjure up what is essentially a pair of pinball flippers that you will use to direct the ball, hitting bricks and clearing the level in the time limit.

You can get various power-ups to make it easier on you, in addition to lots of stuff to keep you on your feet, like deflecting stun blasts! I actually love these kinds of games, so this was a HUGE awesome surprise when I played this one. It's well designed and it gives the genre some of that fast-paced action that Psikyo is known for! Give this one a go; it is the black sheep of the series, but it’s a ton of fun!

Wrapping Up

All in all, I was absolutely JAZZED to get to review both of these amazing collections of games, and I don’t think I could want for more than we were given! Ok… maybe the ability to change characters after you run out of lives but have more continues, but that is really small! This game is absolutely packed with greatness, and if you have even a FLEETING interest in the genre, hop on this collection! I give both of these collections a high-flying 10 out of 10!

Score: 10/10

Buy Psikyo Shooting Stars Alpha from the Nintendo Switch eShop here.

Buy Psikyo Shooting Stars Bravo from the Nintendo Switch eShop here.

Follow NIS America

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*Game codes were provided for review purposes

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