Shootings things and travelling super fast in space ships that aren’t actually in space is something that many of us dream about, frequently. After all, being able to control a spaceship like Yukinojo or Ryo-oh-ki would be awesome, a sort of awesome that’s beyond all reasonable understanding. Mix this into an attack on the eyes in the form of fireworks and you’re left in a world of good, where nothing can hurt you.
This isn’t that place, it’s a place where an assault on your visual senses will touch you and leave you for six. Yes, Akai Katana is the latest shump from the Japanese developer Cave and it’s just as pretty, just as aracdey and just as difficult as the last one – DoDonPachi Resurrection. The main difference is that in Akai Katana rather than there just being a single real mode of play, this time around there are three.
For the uninitiated, Akai Katana will seem like a painfully short game. It doesn’t actually take long to shoot your way through the levels and even with a few deaths along the way it’s pretty basic; yet, by playing the game in this fashion, the key element to this game is being missed out on. Bragging rights. Akai Katana is essentially an arcade game that’s been ported over to the Xbox 360 and during the port, the developers at Cave have added in a respawn feature that didn’t appear in the original.
The constant availability of the continue has taken away the challenge from all gamers. Akai Katana is all about the highscores, even using one of the three available lives will destroy the highscore and for gamers who care, it means that the game is hard. Match the want to be the best with the Achievements, like getting 15 million points in the first level, it makes the game not only a challenge but addictive.
Unfortunately the continue has removed the fun as all you need to do is hit start and you can carry on playing. Whilst the score has disappeared, for an average gamer who’s not used to this style of game, they’ve suddenly dropped £30+ on a game that’s over before it’s began. Although there may be three modes of play, each mode is very similar to the last and the levels are all basically the same, it’s the subtle differences that the initiated will notice.
Setting aside the strange additions, the game itself is an absolute joy to play. The controls are responsive, easy to learn and it’s super easy to navigate around the screen. There’s a few questions as to why the different modes of play aren’t clearly advised or why the co-op mode is also hidden away and not clearly called: co-op mode.
Yet the strange naming convention isn’t a real reason to not enjoy Akai Katana from the off, it’s a breeze to play through the first time around. Then you start committing the bosses, the level structure and even the patterns of the attacks to your long term memory and your points start to rack up and suddenly 15 million is a puny number and it’s something you can achieve without really trying. Once this has happened, it’s time to start collecting the Achievements.
The Achievements are really what make Akai Katana a game that you’d want to replay. For most people who don’t “get” the game, they’re just going to be something that’s next to impossible to achieve. For those who put some effort into the game, it’s something to work towards. Especially if this is the first Cave style shump that’s been entered into your Xbox 360.
Graphically the game is beautiful and the engine is amazing. The ships and enemies are all unique and enjoyable to watch fly around the screen. Some hail to Russian made war machines, others are more futuristic but throughout the carefully crafted, pixel perfect, sprites are easy to watch and you never lose your place. More impressively is that with a vast array of coloured bullets floating around the place and literally consuming more screen than the backgrounds at times, there’s next to no slow down. An impressive achievement all things considered.
Akai Katana is a not a game for quitters, if you’re easily frustrated by repetition and don’t want to put the time into a game it’s not for you. If however, you enjoy a carefully crafted title, that’s trying to push you to the next level then it’s well worth the buy.