Shmups fit a particular bubble that’s difficult for them to break out of. The genre always pursues an arcade-like game experience first and foremost, so you’ll be hard-pressed to find experiences that try to reshape that mold by shaking up the status quo. But such a title is attempting to do so in the form of the KeelWorks-developed CYGNI: All Guns Blazing.
This next-gen shmup is quite an ambitious one, choosing to appeal to a broader crowd thanks to the implementation of cinematic scenes alongside a story focus for single-player. And after playing some of the game’s upcoming PlayStation 5 release, I was pretty impressed and left yearning to see what the full release would ultimately be.
The story of CYGNI: All Guns Blazing is not exactly clear from what I’ve played. In fact, it’s entirely up in the air as the opening scene featured a girl prepping herself on a ship to battle threats in a war we can’t really get into detail on. Still, this opening cinematic deserves emphasis because it is genuinely gorgeous. The environments and character models look truly next-gen.
From what KeelWorks’ CEO Meher Kalenderian told me, the team has taken great strides with these visuals so that CYGNI can stand out from the genre’s typical releases. To elaborate, their goal isn’t to reinvent the wheel but to differentiate themselves enough while attempting to recapture the magic of shmups that they recall from their childhood.
Considering how one of the main reasons shmups are beloved by their players is the core gameplay, trying to capitalize on the other features is a wise move since it can only serve to further immerse players if done well. Thankfully, at least in the brief time I played, the developer understands how to do just that.
As someone with limited experience with shmups, a good chunk of my memories of them are sort of melded together because of their generally similar presentations. CYGNI is already succeeding in not falling into that same trap. The soundtrack also caught me off guard, as it’s fully orchestrated with impactful sound design, further enhancing that sense of uniqueness for an amateur to the genre.
As for the gameplay, CYGNI is certainly a shmup. As said before, it’s not trying to reinvent the wheel, so if you’ve played other games in the genre, you already have a decent enough idea of what to expect here. Still, there are some mechanics worth pointing out. For one, you can alter between airborne and ground shots, giving sufficient reason to look at the type of enemy units on screen and not just their shots.
Additionally, energy pick-ups can be allocated between defensive and offensive systems, providing meaningful on-the-fly choice that genuinely matters, as the efficacy depends on context. There’s a homing function for those not confident in their aim, too. Regarding balancing, the title is still in the midst of finalizing those aspects, so I can’t comment on any of that yet.
If you’re into shmups or even just like the idea of them, then CYGNI: All Guns Blazing should be on your radar. Even after playing it for a short while, it’s abundantly clear it knows what it’s trying to be; a shmup trying to appeal to newer and veteran crowds without sacrificing the core of what makes them fun. Further, the high levels of presentation and sound design up the distinction a few notches. I should also note that the game will feature a two-player local co-op, though I didn’t get the chance to try it out.
CYGNI: All Guns Blazing is planned to launch for PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X|S, and PC via Steam at an unknown date.
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