Title: Ghost Blade HD
Developer: Hucast Games
Release Date: October 24, 2019
Reviewed On: Switch
There’s always enough time for a good shmup. The genre can be played in lengthy play sessions or short bursts, but it does take a bit of skill to get further than the first stage boss. Developer Hucast Games seems to be honing in on the retro presentation of the genre but added in their unique style of difficulty and charm in their title Ghost Blade HD. While the game is available now on other consoles, we will be taking a look at its Nintendo Switch release.
Ghost Blade HD wastes no time getting players into the action. Jumping into the single-player campaign mode allows players to choose from three ships across three difficulties. Each ship has it’s own attack pattern, but it’s nothing too out of the ordinary. One ship spreads out the bullets, while the others are a bit more focused. Depending on your playstyle, it’s pretty easy to figure out which one works best for you. I ended up finding things I liked about each of the characters, which was nice because it offers ways of taking on stages differently with each playthrough.
Like most shmups, Ghost Blade HD has powerups for the ships. These power-ups max out at a certain point and don’t add too many exciting new patterns to the ship’s attack. It just makes the game feel more straight forward and less flashy. Controlling the ships feels good and offers enough mobility to be able to weave in and out of bullets with ease. The game also provides the option to slow down when there are tons of bullets around the ship, which makes surviving a little easier and offers a chance to practice maneuvers.
Ghost Blade HD is only five stages long, but there’s a lot packed into these stages that make it the right length for a shmup. The stages can get brutally difficult, and the game only offers a few continues when you begin. Luckily, more are added as you play so you can make it through longer if you’re having a tough time. The enemies in the game are ruthless, though, and will constantly rain bullets on you, which is to be expected. However, there are a lot of different colored bullets in this game that make it tough to tell them all apart. These bullets vary in size and patterns, but I felt that they could have gotten by with two bullet colors, so I don’t have a sensory overload each time I play a level.
Bosses in the game are fun at first, that is until they overstay their welcome. Each boss has a lot of HP and three different attack patterns. However, the HP goes down so slowly that you end up playing through the same attack pattern over and over until it just because too repetitive. The bosses could still be challenging with half of the HP they have. I’d have to say that level 4’s boss is the biggest bullet sponge of them all, and I just had to run the timer down to get past the level.
Level designs are decent, but level 2’s mars theme design hides the red bullets a little too much. Each environment offers a nice variety of enemies and moving parts that makes them unique. After multiple playthroughs, they didn’t seem to get old or stale, and I found things about each of them that I enjoyed.
Other options in Ghost Blade HD include a 2-player mode, which allows you to bring a friend into this bullet hell world. There’s also a practice mode where you can play stages or bosses to get better at them before playing through the campaign. I ended using this mode a lot for the later levels that can be brutally difficult. I’d also like to point out that I liked the soundtrack and graphical presentation of this game. It ran great on Switch, even with dozens of enemies and bullets on the screen.
Ghost Blade HD on Switch is probably the best place to play the game, and with the option to turn the screen vertically, I could finally utilize my vertical stand and play a shmup how it’s meant to be played. While the offerings are on the basic side and don’t add much to the genre, the game is undoubtedly fun. Over its five stages, I continuously pushed my self to master the bullet patterns and make it out without using a continue. If you’re looking for a shmup to take around with you and offer a quick positive experience, then I think you’ll do right with Ghost Blade HD.
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