Spaceship shoot-em-ups, or Shmups for short, are one of the longest running and dedicated genres in video games. Through multiple generations of handheld and console gaming, shmups have remained in the industry, inviting players to sit back, have fun, and use their skills to save the universe.
Shmups have come in a variety of forms and settings, but each one has dealt with the impossible scenario of defeating entire armies to achieve victory. Shmups have been making their way back into the spotlight, with games, such as Assault Suit Leynos and Score Rush: Extended making a triumphant presence in the rich field of today’s video games. Among them, is a new shmup, with a decade’s worth of experience. That is SkyForce: Anniversary Edition.
Skyforce began on the PC platform in 2004 and was lauded for its gameplay, as well as its 2D visuals. As the smartphone was introduced in 2007 with the iPhone, the platform was explored as a new home for gaming.
Eventually, Skyforce made its way to iOS and Android platform, using the touchscreen capabilities to great effect. All players had to do was use their finger to pilot their ship, as the ship had auto-fire enabled. Skyforce would lead the surge of shmups on the platform.
With the tremendous success established in previous installments; Infinite Dreams has brought the game over to the PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, and PlayStation Vita platforms as SKYFORCE: Anniversary Edition. The result is a very solid offering of great action and shump gameplay, albeit with slight technical issues that can be a bit iffy.
Skyforce puts you straight into the action. There is no real story or narrative, making the actual focus on the gameplay, as well as the action. The beginning of the game establishes the basic mechanics, only for you to be shot down. You play as the next pilot, whose mission is to rescue downed pilots and destroy the enemy’s lethal military hardware. The bad guys are fierce, tough, and overwhelming. With an entire military of planes, boats, bombers, ships, AA turrets, and tanks, the bad guys are certainly no pushover. What they didn’t expect, is you and your dangerous, fully-upgradeable fighter jet.
Sky force works by shooting down as many enemies as possible, all the while avoiding shots and rescuing pilots. Each level has one of four medals to win. After winning all four, the same set of challenges are unlocked, but on a much higher difficulty setting. SKYFORCE functions with the star upgrade system. The more enemies that are destroyed in combat, the more stars are collected. These stars then go towards the upgrade of your ship. The levels can become quite difficult to complete, but SKYFORCE allows you to keep the stars collected, should you be shot down mid-mission.
You ship is a lethal fighter, with a combination of a primary gun, side cannons, and missiles. Naturally, the higher the upgrade, the more powerful your craft. The shop also offers lasers, mega bombs, and shields. These, however, have their own ammunition sets. At the beginning of the mission, you can purchase any number of shields, bombs, and lasers. These special weapons are upgradeable and can make the difference between a victory and a crushing defeat. Once players are familiar with the basics, it’s down to the gameplay, which is an absolute blast of fun!
The enemy is relentless, and at times, the screen will fill with bullets and obstacles. Some aircraft fly in a pattern, similar to Galaga. While they don’t fire back, hitting them directly will cause significant damage. This makes it all the more satisfying to engage the targets and shoot them down. While the fighting can be fierce, seeing the burning husks of ships and bombers Is very much worth it. SKYFORCE is a lot of fun.
The game controls extremely well, and with the weapons, provides a challenging balance for casual gamers and die-hard gaming enthusiasts. Though after you upgrade your craft, it is easy to feel like a grizzled air warrior, swatting down the legion of forces that oppose you. Most notably, using the laser, shield, and mega-bomb to your advantage greatly helps in combat, especially on higher difficulties. The combat is incredibly satisfying.
Each level in Skyforce presents its own unique challenges and settings. Each level ends in a spectacular boss fight, requiring quick wits and good combat strategy. Initially, the boss battles will be a breeze, but as the difficulties rise, the levels, as well as the boss fights, will be that much harder. This makes it all the more rewarding when an overwhelming boss gets lined up into your sights, only to be vaporized by your laser cannon. Ultimately, Skyforce is an exciting game that plays great, looks solid, and is a good amount of fun.
As rewarding as Skyforce is, there are a few drawbacks. The game has three tiers of difficulty for all nine levels and even encourages you to keep playing to discover collectibles. However, there are only nine levels, and the game could have used more.
Additionally, the game does feature cross-save support with its own cloud. For PlayStation enthusiasts, which may own a PlayStation Vita, PlayStation 4, and possibly a PlayStation 3, this service is unique as you can continue your progress. However, in a strange way, the cloud service seems to be slightly unpolished. On the PlayStation Vita, I cleared eight levels and unlocked level 9. However, when loaded onto the PlayStation 4, it was a previous cloud save, in which I only had unlocked level seven. Finally, one trophy is glitched, and that is the 10,000 kills trophy. These are issues that can be ironed out, I am sure.
Skyforce: Anniversary Edition is a very fun shooting action game on the PlayStation platforms. In fact, it reinforces an opportunity for other developers too, hopefully, make more shmups and action games, in particular for the PlayStation Vita systems, as well as mobile platforms. Gamers looking for a good time shouldn’t miss this one. If gamers do not own PlayStation platforms, consider grabbing the game on Steam and smartphone platforms!