09th Feb2018

‘Sky Force Reloaded’ Review (Nintendo Switch)

by Emma Rees

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Sky Force Reloaded is an arcade style, vertical shoot ‘em up that serves as a sequel to Sky Force Anniversary. It came to mobiles in 2016 and arrived on the Xbox One and PS4 at the end of 2017; now it can be played on the Nintendo Switch in all it’s full screen glory. The 3D graphics are crisp and beautiful and explosion effects really stand out without being overwhelming. There are also nice little details in stages such as tyre tracks on the land below.

Sky Force Reloaded wastes no time putting you straight into action as the very first thing you do before the title screen first appears, is play through a short tutorial. You can move around the entire screen to shoot enemy planes and doing so feels very fluid and responsive. There’s no need to try to remember all the item icons and their uses either because a soft, robotic voice tells you each time you collect something. Useful player tips are also shown before starting stages. If you still want to check out the different items you can collect, there is a help page in the options menu which lists them. After the tutorial ends you can start the main game. However, don’t expect to start with a powerful and fast ship like in the tutorial; you start off with minimum health and much slower, weaker firepower. If you want some help a second player can join you who will share the same screen.

Usually games from this genre such as Don Don Pachi Resurrection are incredibly fast with a screen full of bullets right from the start. Sky Force Reloaded, on the other hand, gives you more time to maneuver around the projectiles. It’s by no means easy; bullets still come at you from all directions from planes, tanks and turrets, but it is fair. There are also humans to hover over and rescue which you can see by their emoticons.

It is extremely satisfying to shoot enemies as they all explode or fall to the ground on fire. A boss will be encountered at the end of each stage and they have multiple parts to shoot at. Best of all, bosses have percentages on their health bars so you know exactly how much health they have left. The same goes for your own ship which will also cause the screen to flash red to indicate low health. It is a good system for when there is too much chaos to notice your health bar. Crashing , however, will cause instant failure. Throughout the stages you can collect health shields which restore health, and weapon upgrades which gradually increase rate of fire. A combo score bar and weapon upgrade bar at the top of the screen lets you keep track of those aspects.

The real challenge comes not by finishing stages but by completing the objectives, which you get awarded medals for. You can’t even go onto the next stage until after you have got a certain number of medals. The later the stage, the more medals it will require too, meaning you will find yourself playing through stages several times to earn them. Medals are earned by rescuing all humans, destroying enemy forces and not getting hit. Once you’ve completed them you get a new set to earn at a higher difficulty. Four icons in the top right corner of the screen show the medals you can get and a red cross will appear through the ones you have failed on as you play. It’s great not having to wait until the end of the stage to know if you’ve failed and means you can simply try again. Even better, is that if you earn a medal but happen to fail before the stage is complete, you still get to keep it. Medals are not just for accessing new stages either; they accumulate prestige points which eventually unlock a new pilot for the plane, known as a ‘technician’. Each technician is amusingly named and comes with their own benefits such as finding more stars in crates, slowing down bullets and even having good luck.

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Another reason to replay stages is to become stronger and complete challenges that were too difficult before. To become stronger you must collect stars to spend at the hangar and install upgrades. Upgrades consist of improving health and firepower to installing missiles, magnets, lasers and energy shields. Stars are collected from enemies, bosses and crates and feel very satisfying to collect, especially if you invest in a magnet which draws them to you. Later, they can also be used to pay into a radar system which will reveal bonus card locations. Cards can be found in stages and activate effects such as faster firing rate. Some are temporary whereas others are permanent. The more stars pumped into the radar system, the more efficient it is. Failing to collect a card on a stage will change its location. Ships parts can also be found floating in stages and each piece will fit onto a blueprint until a new ship is formed.

The gameplay is extremely addictive due to constant reward and progression. There’s always something being unlocked or worked towards which can be checked as more menus become available on the start screen. You don’t even lose your stars if you fail during a level, you get to keep them and upgrade your ship until you succeed. At weekends, there’s even a tournament which activates and is highly challenging but great fun.

Sky Force Reloaded has an entertaining little story which continues on from Sky Force Anniversary. It doesn’t really matter if you’ve never played the first game because the characters are amusing and voice acted surprisingly well. In fact, all of the soundwork is well done. A lively soundtrack with a steady, catchy beat matches the pace of combat without being overbearing, and the sound effects are just what you’d expect from an arcade style shoot ‘em up.

In a nutshell, Sky Force Reloaded is a fantastically fun, vertical shooter that is almost impossible to put down regardless of if you are playing solo or with a friend. There is a lot of grinding involved in order to get more powerful and progress, but it never gets stale because of the constant improvements and rewards.

***** 5/5

Published and developed by Infinite Dreams, Sky Force Reloaded is available to download now on the Nintendo Switch.

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