Developer: Endless Shirafu
Release Date: March 29, 2019
Reviewed On: PC
Publisher: Fruitbat Factory
There’s something charming about games that shape out their own genre which creates a unique title in the end. Where games like Undertale mix up a classic RPG formula with some bullet hell mechanics and the Persona series after the third entry gives us a school life simulator broken up by supernatural threats. It’s also found in more zany titles that I’m not even going to try and explain such as Nights into Dreams and Katamari Damacy.
So when Akashicforce rolls around claiming to be a rhythm puzzle hybrid, two genres I would like to say I am well versed in, I’m left fantasizing about the results of such a combination. However, after my experience, I really wouldn’t say Akashicforce is a puzzle/rhythm hybrid. I think this really fits in the Katamari genre of “what on earth is going on here?”
Akashicforce acts like a puzzle game, where orbs of differing colors fall from the sky and fill up an area. Your job as the player is to prevent that area from filling up by making the orbs disappear, instead of matching colored orbs or neatly lining them up, you shoot them. However, you can’t shoot fast enough to clear the orbs by just doing that, so you need to use skills called “methods”. These methods are a collection of varied skills, which aside from the first and most basic method, that creates lovely orb clearing explosions, are tied to different characters. The skills are inputted akin to using special moves in a fighting game and are bright and colorful, have a variety of neat effects.
Or at least I think they do.
You see, this game lacks both a proper tutorial and an explanation on what moves actually do. Akashicforce contains a missions system to loosely explain how to play the game and sets you off into a very, very unprepared void. The game is quite competitively set up and you’ll be playing against NPCs, with your goal being for the NPC to fail before you do or fill up a gauge on the top of the screen. The gauge is connected to performing combos, destroying masses of orbs consecutively, which is as you’d expect done via various methods. Except there’s no way to tell what methods do, and even when you’ve filled up your special meter to use them, you may have no idea what they do. I still don’t understand what half of them do.
There is a special wave clearing skill, the eliminator, that costs almost your full special gauge and can only be triggered once, you guessed it, an unexplained criteria is met. This special move puts you into a fancy rhythm minigame that is super aesthetic and has seven lanes. But don’t expect the game to ease you into these or start you off simple as Akashicforce expects you to play to the skill level of “Through the fire and the flames” on hard, right out of the gate. Your success of the rhythm portion doesn’t impact its ability to clear the wave of orbs but does impact how much you fill the divergence gauge to net you a victory. Which is a real pain because your CPU opponents will without fail, flawlessly full combo this minigame every time they initiate it.
This is all frustrating because it simply makes the game frustrating to play. The player has no idea what to do and thus can’t properly enjoy the visual design of executing basic methods. Nor can they really enjoy the stellar audio design as the player’s attempts to progress are smacked back as the difficulty spikes quickly. That’s disappointing as the story looks at least like it would be filled with lots of aesthetically pleasing imagery and it has magical girls playing fancy games. Both of which would be points in the game’s favor, ya’know if they could actually be experienced. The limited story sections I experienced were also frustrating because your first viewing is locked to a slow auto-scroll which I’m not particularly fond of.
This is all quite disappointing for Akashicforce because the visuals are fantastic, the animations are a joy to behold, and there is a charm to pressing buttons and making pretty explosions. However, even that has limits. Still, the soundtrack is fantastic and really gets me in the mood to play more if it wasn’t for the difficulty that limits any enjoyment to be found within the first couple of hours. Akashicforce just expects you to know things that it doesn’t explain, which, for more reasons than one, makes this a game that I can’t recommend in its current state.
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