Psikyo Shooting Stars Bravo Review
The second in the ‘Psikyo Shooting Stars’ series brings us another 6 classic shooters, sure to be nostalgic to any Shump fan. Bravo’s very nice collection caters for veterans and newcomers alike and although not a lot of new content has been added, the games have a ton of replayability and options to tweak to your liking. All games in this collection are available separately on the switch (except Sengoku Cannon), however, it is much nicer to have them all together in one single collection and they look and play great both docked and in handheld mode.
Samurai Aces Episode I
Originally Released: Arcade 1993
Samurai Aces is the first game ever released by Psikyo and is just as fun as their other offerings. Originally released in the arcade back in 1993, the game holds up surprisingly well 27 years later!
You play as one of six characters from Sengoku period of Japan on a quest to rescue Princess Tsukihime, while not the most original story by any means, the Psikyo Shooting Stars Bravo games are not really about the story at all, it’s about the fast-paced action and there is plenty to be had here. It’s nice to see where the series got it starts as a lot of features have become a staple in Psikyo’s games. The game spans across seven varied levels and features 21 different endings depending on which character you chose or combo of characters if playing with a second person.
Samurai Aces is a vertical shoot and you have the option to rotate this game 90 degrees to play in a nice Tate mode which is great if you have a screen that can be rotated or a flip-grip from Fangamer. There is also an option for a vertical scanline effect which I am not too fond of personally, but I can understand some people like it! The options also have ‘dip-switch’ like settings allowing you to modify extra lives etc. In Samurai Aces you have the option to play both in English and in Japanese.
Originally Released: Arcade 2001
This spin-off title is the oddball of the bunch and although technically a shooter, I would class Gunbarich as a puzzle game. Even though not a ‘true’ shooter this is a still a great game and features Marion from the Gunbird series.
The gameplay is like Arkanoid mixed with Pinball and it works very well. You choose between Marion or Grutan, who both handle differently. You must break all the blocks on the screen within the time limit, you get various powerups and collect addition time while racking up combos breaking all the blocks.
Bosses are good fun and fill up much of the screen taking damage when you hit them with the ball while avoiding their attacks. There is something really satisfying about getting your ball bouncing off the boss and the top of the screen doing massive damage.
Gunbarich has support for Tate mode and has a screen filter you can apply that resembles an old LCD, like the vertical scanlines; not to my taste but some may enjoy.
TENGAI (Samurai Aces II)
Originally Released: Arcade: 1996 & Sega Saturn: 1996
Tengai is Samurai Aces II, although a little different from the previous game in the series. Tengai is a Horizontal shoot em’ up this time around and features a slightly different setting. We now find ourselves in an alternate version of feudal Japan which seems to have gone down a slightly more steampunk path.
Much like Samurai Aces, you are tasked with rescuing a princess from a cult that wants to sacrifice her. This time around the princess is Princess Futsuhime. This leads you across numerous levels which are a little short but designed well featuring a lot of Minibosses as well as the usual colossal end-level boss.
There is a total of six characters you can choose from, with a few returning from the first game.
To access the hidden character Ayin you need to hover over ‘random’ and input up x 3, down x 3 & up x 7.
Being horizontal, Tengai does not support Tate mode but does let you fill the screen with a stretched widescreen mode if that is your thing. A welcome feature for me is the inclusion of horizontal scanlines which do well at giving the game a more CRT style feel.
Samurai Aces Episode III: SENGOKU CANNON
Originally Released: Sony PSP: 2005
The third instalment is interesting, gameplay-wise is pickups up where Tengai left off, same horizontal gameplay, but this time with 3D background and elements. The game loses its branching paths the previous games had and is a couple of levels shorter weighing in at 5 levels in total. To make up for this the levels tend to be a little longer but can become a bit of a slog.
The 2D sprites still look great but there’s something I find bland about the 3D aspects of the game. Being a relatively early PSP game, I think the game suffers from a case of “how much 3D can we show to the player”, if you know what I mean!
That said, the game holds up well. The art is clear and looks like something you would find at home on the Dreamcast, rather than the PSP and looks pretty sharp on the switch.
The game lets you control one of 4 characters with 2 additional characters unlockable.
To unlock Tengai and Yunis: at the ‘press start’ screen input left x 3, down x 1 & right x 9, this will also unlock hard mode.
No Tate mode here as the game is horizontal, but the inclusion of two levels of horizontal scanline filter is nice!
Originally Released: Arcade: 1994
Gunbird is a vertical shooter very much in the style of Samurai Aces (As to be expected) and arguably one of their most ported games to date. There have been versions at the Arcade, on the Saturn and PS1, a special edition for the PS2 and even steam and mobile ports.
In Gunbird each of the games 5 protagonists are trying to collect pieces of a magical mirror that will let them make a wish.
There are 7 stages in playthrough with a second loop of the game being available are completing the game which is akin to a hard mode, Enemies are tougher and there are even more bullets flying around the screen.
The slightly ‘cuter’ character designs add a ton of charm to each character and there’s plenty of cutscenes that play before each level exploring their whacky personalities.
Gunbirds options give you the ability to play in Tate mode, both English and Japanese language choices and the return of the same vertical scanline filters we saw in Samurai Aces.
Originally Released: Arcade: 1998
Gunbird 2 is my personal favourite game in this collection. The gameplay is very similar to Gunbird but with improved graphics sprites and, in my opinion, slightly tighter controls.
We have seven characters, this time chasing a divine potion that will grant them their wish, not too dissimilar from Gunbird’s story. The goofy cutscenes still playout between levels and they are better than ever.
Bullet patterns are a little more complex than Gunbird which makes Gunbird 2 much harder, yet more rewarding. A new close-range attack has been added to the game to mix things up and there seems to be a bigger emphasis on scorekeeping with the coins you collect from defeated enemies varying in point value depending on if you collect them when they are shining. I do have to admit though, many a time I have been too busy focusing on keeping my coin value high rather than looking at the sheer number of bullets headed toward my character!
Out of all the games on the collection I personally, find this to be the most challenging. The screen seems to fill up with bullets a lot quick than the other entries.
Gunbird 2 has a phenomenal soundtrack and you can select between English and Japanese dialogue. Gunbird 2 takes this further by allowing you to change to the original game text and even bring back the original final boss which is a nice addition. You have access to Tate mode and vertical scanline also.
To access the hidden character Ayin you need to hover over ‘random’ and hold down.
Psikyo Shooting Stars Bravo offers some of the greatest Arcade shooters of all time and they feel perfectly at home on the Switch. Each game in the collection is easy to pick up and play but quite hard to put down. I do, however, feel a little let down by the inclusion Samurai Aces III, but the game is still good, just not as good as the others.
Shooting Stars Bravo is the kind of collection you will find yourself booting up time and time again! It’s so much fun!