Title: Rival Megagun
Developer: Spacewave Software
Release Date: November 29, 2018
Reviewed On: PS4
Genre: Shoot 'Em Up
Some would say that “Once you’ve played one shmup, you’ve played them all” and while they wouldn’t be technically wrong, you could argue that they each have their differences. However, developer Spacewave Software has decided to take the shmup formula and add a competitive twist to it with Rival Megagun.
In truth, this type of split screen shmup formula is one that I’ve seen before, but after passing it around with some friends who have little to no experience with the genre, I quickly realized that Rival Megagun‘s approachability is what makes it stand out. However, there is more to Rival Megagun than it’s easy to pick up controllers when it comes to the game modes and systems some work really well, while others can use some improvements.
Rival Megagun, while it’s a shmup, does have a story. Each playable character, which there are six of, has a unique story the revolves around the reasons why they entered in a competition which will halt an invasion of Harvesters that are threatening Earth’s citizens. This will require the player to be the first ship that puts a stop to whatever is the source of the Harvesters. The pilot who wins will be crowned Earth’s greatest Hero and given a large cash prize.
Although a story isn’t necessary, I enjoyed the premise and the conversations between each of the characters before a battle. Their banter was interesting enough to me to put a pause on the action and read what they had to say. Similarly, they each have their own reason for entering the contest which makes completing the story a must.
The Story campaign can be completed in about 20 – 30 minutes, depending on the difficulty level, but the game does have unlimited continues, and you only have to defeat your rival once before moving on to the next so this short of a campaign is to be expected. With that said, it’s a must to complete all of the pilot stories, since if you don’t, you’ll be left with just a cliffhanger ending!
Gameplay features a split screen horizontal screen where players will avoid hordes of enemies and bullets while building up a meter to attack the rival player. Each character has their own unique attack, special attack, and transformation, which we’ll get into in a bit. As the player shoots down enemies and builds up a combo, they’ll send over small ships to the rival’s screen, and once the combo is over the ships will launch an attack on the rival. Although these combo ships aren’t tough or intimidating, they do add a layer of pressure onto the rival to watch out for them once the player is finished with their combo.
Additionally, each enemy ship shot down builds up the player’s meter which can be charged to send over a special attack to the rival. Each character’s special attack varies, but some are better than others — for example: Nano’s special attack can build walls up on the rival’s screen that can almost cover their entire board, whereas Gen will only send over homing bombs that can be dodged easily.
Lastly, players can transform into a massive boss-like ship and enter the rival’s screen to unleash a barrage of blasts against them. Each of these ships is different and usually end up helping you crush your opponent to get an easy win, but it’s totally possible to beat these ships with extra bombs or just sweet piloting skills.
Rival Megagun‘s gameplay has a nice difficulty curve where the beginning of matches can slow, depending on which of the four difficulties the player is playing on, and get tougher as the match continues. The game’s controls are tight and responsive, and I didn’t have a problem weaving through streams of bullets. With that said the game might not impress, let’s say, hardcore Touhou players because it does keep all of its modes approachable, which I greatly enjoyed.
Rival Megagun is best played with friends in versus mode. The best thing about the game is that players of all experience levels will find that all of the enemies are relatively easy to destroy and there’s a path out of every scary situation. The competitive nature of the game, for me at least, allowed me to play with friends and introduce them to this genre, which proved to work out because after a few matches I was losing. There’s also an online mode, but after 15 minutes of waiting on PlayStation 4, I gave up trying to find a match, I think an online lobby feature would work better for this type of game on a console.
Rival Megagun has unlockables that players will acquire through gameplay. These allow the player to customize their ship and add new streams of bullets or other upgrades. I personally thought this was a cool feature because it made the higher difficulties a little more manageable and gave a variance to gameplay that gives it more replayability in the long run. I’d also like to add the game’s pixel artwork is pretty great and compliments its awesome soundtrack. The game’s framerate is decent through intense moments, and I actually never saw any significant slowdown, even in those moments when it seemed like there were hundreds of bullets filling the screen.
As for downfalls, I think the enemy variance could be improved since each match usually starts with the same enemy types, with the more advanced ones showing up later, but sadly, not all matches last that long, so you don’t see them that often. Also, when a player goes into the boss mode, I wish that the divider in the screen was taken away and allowed the player to use the entire screen to avoid shots. As mentioned before, these boss battles can almost mean an instant win, so more room to move around during these battles would be nice. Although there’s plenty of options to customize the game modes, there’s not a way to add more than 2 hit points to the ship, which holds some versus games back from being longer and could prevent players for seeing other enemy types.
Any issues that I found with Rival Megagun doesn’t stop it from being a fun and beautiful competitive shmup. The game has so much to offer for new players of the genre, but it might feel a bit too easy to the hardcore shmup community. I absolutely loved the music and pixel art as well as transforming into a badass boss and destroying my friends in this great competitive shmup.
For Spacewave Software’s first game, Rival Megagun shows that they are fully capable of creating fun and addictive games in the shmup genre. I am beyond excited to see what comes next out of the studio, but for now, I’ll continue building the shmup army by getting my friend’s hands on this approachable title.
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