The SEGA Dreamcast can be best described by a lyric from Sir Elton Johns classic song in that it lived its life like a candle in the wind. On the market for only three short years, the Dreamcast made an astounding cultural impression with its plethora of games, before being snuffed out by the rise of the PS2.
With the Dreamcast’s demise came the end of SEGAs reign in the console market and its beginnings as a third party publisher of various games. However, since that end, the Dreamcast hasn’t died. It has kept dreaming. In the years that were to follow, dedicated Dreamcast owners have modified their systems to output to newer resolutions, such as HDMI. Additionally, various independent designers have made exclusive Dreamcast games such as Xenocider from Retro Sumus and Volkar the Viking from CrazyViking Studios.
This brings us straight to Ghost Blade HD from the talented folks at Huecast Games. Originally released in 2015, Ghost Blade was an exclusive Sega Dreamcast space ship shooter, passionately made with a fondness for older arcade games of the 1990’s. Now, the game has made its way to the PS4 and Xbox One.
In the world of Ghost Blade, mankind has moved into the reaches of outer space, relying on advanced technologies and A.I. One of these A.I, Shira, has not only departed Mars but has become corrupted, weaponizing an entire fleet against mankind. As the Earth’s military forces engage Shira, a trio of women are activated as part of a specialized fighter unit. These vixens are augmented with cybernetic technologies to make them the best possible pilots to fight Shira. It’s up to players to choose one and fight the forces of Shira to save the universe from sheer destruction.
As a spaceship shooter, players simply fly their craft across the stage, mowing down waves upon waves of enemy fighters and vehicles. Each woman has their own ship to pilot, and each ship has their own different shots. For example, Ghost’s ship has more of a spread shot, while Milan’s ship has a centered shot with missiles.
Players have access to a primary and alternate fire mode that can be switched at any time to better combat the enemy. If players switch to the alternate fire, all fire focuses at the center for a concentrated flow of continuous fire. This is effective for putting down the game’s five bosses, though players will move a little slower in response.
The primary mode is more of a basic fire. Of course, like many other spaceship shooters, players have an assortment of bombs to use, should the battle become too chaotic. The bombs will clear enemies and bullets, which is essential for surviving the later levels.
Ghost Blade HD gets the feeling of playing a spaceship shooter right, creating an exhilarating experience that is visually captivating and incredibly fun to play. Though, this particular game feels very distinct from others. Huecast Games clearly poured a lot of nostalgic love and detail into the overall game as everything feels like something straight for the arcade halls of 1995. The colors, illustrations, and design are all reminiscent of games that I personally played back then, such as RayStorm, Einhander, Philosoma, Raiden Project, and Star Soldier: Vanishing Earth.
The visuals and animation feel very genuine. The game’s setting alone is reminiscent of 1990’s anime and sci-fi, between the gorgeous illustrated vixens that pilot their crafts to the fact that level three is strangely named “ Orgasmic Stride.” Everything in the background and foreground is very animated, with color palettes that brought back memories of a golden age in gaming. It was a time when games were mad to be games, utilizing all sorts of assets never seen before, in an effort to make the game as fun and interactive as possible.
Graphically, the game reminds me of something you’d see on the PlayStation or Saturn. This is further encouraged by an amazing score by Rafael Dyll, who also scored games such as JRPG Rainbow Moon and side-scrolling spaceship shmup, Soldner X-2: the Last Chapter. The music fuses Japanese musical influences with a unique, modern style.
The game moves swiftly with great fluidity. From the very beginning, enemies will be swarming your craft, and it is up to you to survive the bullet-hell frenzy to the end of the level. All sorts of fighters, bombers, and gunships will come directly at you, firing every single bullet imaginable towards you. It is an incredible feeling to dodge waves of bullets and absolutely annihilate hundreds of enemies, all in a matter of minutes.
At the end of each level is a boss fight. Each boss has their own distinct battle pattern, and naturally, each will fire endless volleys of bullets at you. The boss fights are particularly difficult and will require multiple playthroughs to fully outsmart and defeat. The game features multiple difficulties and will challenge you to play through each one. Playing with a friend is encouraged, and adds to the already fulfilling experience.
Despite all these great elements to Ghost Blade HD, there are several setbacks to consider. Despite the game being originally released in 2015, this re-release in HD for the PlayStation 4 does not have any additional content. More levels, boss fights, and perhaps even cutscenes to the overall setting would have been greatly appreciated.
The game does feature a score attack mode and training mode but does not contain any other mode, such as a boss rush mode. However, the potential for growth is there, as other developers will, hopefully, take notice and lend their efforts in a collaboration. One such example is DariusBurst Chronicle Saviours from Taito and Kadokawa Games. The game has collaborations from Sega and Capcom for exclusive new ships against DariusBursts’ cybernetic marine enemies. Hopefully, something similar may happen.
Still, Ghost Blade HD is a beautifully well-made spaceship shooter that greatly embraces the thrill of the genre while harking back to a golden age of gaming. From its sheer, exciting gameplay to gorgeous retro-inspired visuals and the solid soundtrack, this is a mission worth embarking on.