Supercharged Robot Vulkaiser, Released: June 4, 2015, Reviewed on: PC, Genre: Space Shooter (horizontal), Developer: Astro Port, Publisher: Nyu Media
Let me just get this out of the way first and foremost: I love giant robots. It’s in my blood. It’s something that always interests me, and the inclusion of them in something will cause to me take interest in it. As far as video games go, I love lots of types and genres, but shmups (shoot ’em ups, for the unintitiated) have always been a perennial favorite of mine. Especially space shooters, whether horizontal, vertical or with a fixed forward perspective, i.e. “on rails.” I got my hands on a game that mixes classic Japanese giant robot anime sensibilities with a horizontal-flying space shooter. This should be the best game of all time, right?
No. Supercharged Robot Vulkaiser is not the best game of all time, not by a longshot. It’s a lot of fun if you like the genre, but it’s very basic, just like the era of Super Robot anime it uses as inspiration. But it’s not so much fun that you’ll keep coming back to it, and it’s not so inventive that you’ll want to keep finding new ways to play. It’s worth playing, but only if you have the same deep love and reverence for both sides of its particular coin.
Supercharged Robot Vulkaiser itself is very straightforward — fly robot at the left of the screen, enemies appear from the right of the screen, shoot them down, repeat. When you fire, you charge up a big shot in the background, and said big shot will fire a good ol’ rocket punch from the titlular mech. That punch one-hit kills most normal enemies, it will deliver a serious blow to any miniboss and is your only hope of doing noticable damage to large bosses. The Vulkaiser can also dock with other robot modules piloted by teammates (again, a Super Robot staple) to augment health and attack abilities.
These teammates act as the weapon pickups and are very mortal, so losing them will lose the ability to use their powerup throughout the rest of the game. Using them gives you a significant edge — some of them far more useful than others — but having that offensive boost means that you’re responsible for that teammate’s life, and their support craft has a fraction of the health that the Vulkaiser does. However, health is restored between missions, so you shouldn’t need to worry too much provided that you can dodge worth a flip. The Vulkaiser’s hitbox is small, so you should be able to weave the patterns just fine on Normal difficulty.
The firepower boosts are pretty sweet, too. Vulkaiser starts with a simple, tiny spread cannon and a rocket punch, but this all changes once you pick a teammate. Strong spread cannon with the Needle partner, Macross-style missle barrage with the rocket guy, thunder laser, giant drill, it’s a who’s who of anime tropes. All of them have the same charge mechanic in play, and can charge their shots to do extra damage. Thunder laser becomes giant kill beam, rocket guy fires a big missle that wipes out half the screen, drill lady creates a giant drill from the end of the Vulkaiser which allows you to simply stand in front of bosses and rip them to shreds, etc.
But that’s it. There’s nothing more than that. It’s very “here you are, this is the game, go play it” without much in the way of legitimate story or setup. And really, there doesn’t have to be. It is what it is, and it’s very fun provided that you’re a fan of the genre and of old-school anime series that the game emulates. There’s multiple difficulty levels that have genuine challenge, and a distinct lack of a pause button, which is really frustrating at times. You have to commit to playing the game, and that’s not fun for people used to getting phone calls, watching kids, needing to let the dog out, etc.
It’s not the worst game I’ve ever played, by far. It’s not the best, though. I’d love to see what they could do with this idea, given more time and polish. For $5, you could do a hell of a lot worse than Supercharged Robot Vulkaiser. It’s just not something I’d recommend for everyone.