Reviewed on: PC
Publisher: New Blood Interactive
I love shmups. I absolutely adore them. The feeling you get from successfully navigating a field of enemy fire, crushing all enemies in front of you while remaining untouched…that sensation is unmatched in any other genre in the medium. When I took on the review of Super Galaxy Squadron EX, I watched the trailer on YouTube before I fired it up, and I was psyched to play it. The game has been played, the magic has worn off, and I’m left with a feeling of missed potential and a lot of moments where the game barely missed the mark. It’s good. It’s really good, even. But no matter how many times it reaches out for greatness, and regardless of how close it occasionally gets, it falls short of being a great game.
The game is simple enough, as most titles in the genre tend to be. Enemies come from the top of the screen while you fly up from the bottom, shooting at anything that moves. Dodge bullets, dodge enemies, kill ’em all, repeat. Where this game stands out is in its mechanics, but they aren’t anything original. The ability to choose one of fourteen different ships with different weapons and stats seems ripped right from the Raiden Fighters Jet playbook, the Overdrive multiplier power-boost mechanic seems lifted from DoDonPachi Resurrection, and the only real thing this game does differently from any of its spiritual predecessors is give the player the ability to change ships at the start of each of the six levels of Arcade Mode.
The game’s story features fully-voiced cutscenes, so that’s a nice addition for anyone who would ever play a shmup for a plot. The music is also really, really good for the zen-like trance state you enter into when you’ve become one with the game. There are multiple difficulties to satisfy all skill levels, and there’s a choice to play with a health meter and restorative pickups, or play with one-hit kills for the ultimate in throwback homage.
However, the difficulty spikes in the game are strangely inconsistent. Some stages are super easy, then the boss comes around and steps it up a bit. Then, the next stage will suddenly be a gauntlet, while the next boss is a cakewalk. It all culminates in the sixth level, which is incredibly long and capped off with one of the most frustrating boss fights I’ve encountered this side of a Touhou shooter. If that boss causes you to quit playing the game, I do not blame you, as even on the easiest difficulty, it’s soul-crushingly difficult and wildly out of place from what the game has handed you up to that point.
Additionally, there’s a boss before that boss, and dying on the second final boss means restarting at the previous one. This is frustrating and unrewarding as hell, so even though they added all this stuff in to appeal to casual players, it will cause people to stop playing it. The game fails at balancing its difficulty at easier levels, and harder levels make the game damn near impossible to finish, and worse, it ruins all the fun that the game’s earlier stages provided. There’s also an Endless Mode for flying through an infinite minefield of enemy fire, and that’s fun for what it is.
As someone who’s proud to have played most of the world’s (in)famous shmups, I have to say that Super Galaxy Squadron EX fails just as often it succeeds. Its seemingly inconsistent hitbox detection, sloppy bullet patterns and random spikes in difficulty tempers the awesome aesthetics, massive choice of ships, and incredibly fantastic soundtrack. It’s not the worst shmup I’ve ever played, by far. However, it all but namedrops its influences, then does a poor job at emulating what made them so much fun. I would only recommend this for people who can’t get enough of the genre.
The review copy of this game was a digital code provided by the publisher.
Sure, there’s a galaxy in this game, and there’s a squadron, too. But this game isn’t quite “super.”