|July 18th 2013
|E, Mild Fantasy Violence
I remember when I first heard about Chain Blaster. Published by G-Style, it looked like a stylish, portable SHMUP experience for the 3DS. Since it was released in Japan first, I found myself eagerly chomping at the bit to try it. When a Western release of the game was announced, I was stoked! Finally, another great looking SHMUP for my favorite portable system! However, due to some unfortunate limiting factors, Chain Blaster was not quite the SHMUP I was hoping for.
First, let me cover the basics. There is practically no plot or exposition given during the game itself, but I gathered the basic premise by reading the virtual manual. Sometime in the future, the world is run by one supercomputer named Artemis. This machine controls the economy, maintains the environment and sustains life on Earth. Suddenly, a virus infiltrates Artemis and triggers the world’s nuclear weapons, putting us on the brink of destruction. With no time to lose, an anti-virus named Sagittarius is unleashed to destroy this Ouroboros virus. You personally pilot the Sagittarius anti-virus, which is oddly reminiscent of a space ship, and blast your way through waves full of viral baddies.
Now I don’t want you to have the wrong impression that Chain Blaster is all bad. In fact, there are many key things it does perfectly well. The controls, for example, are sharp and responsive. You fire shots by tapping or holding the A button, initiate Chain Blasts with B and Overdrive with Y. Basic movement is all handled with either the joystick or D-Pad. The unique gimmick that brings the whole experience together is the Chain Blast. Enemies fly in complex waves, reminiscent of classics such as Space Invaders or Galaga, and if you hit one with a Chain Blast you wipe them all out instantly. Any destroyed ship will be replaced with a ripple explosion for a few seconds, and any other ships that fly into them are also wiped out. Consecutive destruction of waves rewards you with a higher combo count and extra lives. Gameplay eventually becomes a matter of memorizing enemy flight patterns and shooting a Chain Blast into where they intersect.
However, you don’t have unlimited shots with this powerful weapon. You accumulate energy by destroying enemy ships with either regular shots or Chain Blasts, and filling up your Blast Gauge fully gives you one Chain Blast. You can hold a maximum of three of these at a time. Furthermore, the Blast Gauge powers both your Chain Blasts and your Overdrive attack, which temporarily slows down every enemy on screen.
Difficulty-wise, the game gradually ramps up the challenge as you progress through levels. First you will fight many waves that only attack by trying to crash into you, but later these will be interspersed with ships that fire shots. There are also mini-bosses that have shields you must fully crush before you can destroy them. However, with that all said, there are only four enemy types in the whole game. Five if you include the Ouroboros boss fight.
Graphically, the game looks good. Though there is a limited color palette of blues, greens, yellows and purples, enemies all look different and the Sagittarius looks nice. I would detract a few points from the background design, since it is mostly the same flashing lights and patterns over and over. Basically the graphics work, but suffer from a lack of variety, much like the enemies. Also, I must mention that although this game looks very pretty with the 3D turned on, it did hurt my perception and made precise shots that much harder, so I beat the game with the 3D turned off.
I would give more props to the game for the sound effects and music. I expect a bumping techno beat for most SHMUP games, and Chain Blaster does not disappoint. There are about three different tracks that play continuously, and they all do the job wonderfully. Each type of weapon also has a different corresponding shot and explosion sound effect, which I also appreciated. By far the best track in the game is the one which plays in your big boss fight against the Ouroboros virus.
Which brings me to one of my biggest complaints, and the reason why the game did not ultimately live up to my expectations – the game length. I beat the entire game in about a half hour, with extra time spent trying to figure out if there were more levels hidden away. Essentially, there is only one world in the entire game. Though it is separated into five numbered segments, once you’re done, all that is left is to play through the entire thing again but on a slightly higher difficulty. The only incentive for doing this is to unlock a second ship, the Orion, which plays very differently from the Sagittarius.
What you need to understand is that I did love what little the game did. I just wanted so much more! The Ouroboros boss was challenging and fun, but it is the only boss in the entire game. Blasting him to pieces over and over again just doesn’t hold much appeal. I suppose the more competitive players can benefit from the online ranking that Chain Blaster provides, but it didn’t add anything to the experience for me.
Chain Blaster was a good attempt by G-Style at a portable SHMUP experience. If anything, I hope this isn’t their last foray into the genre, because a larger, more comprehensive and varied experience would be outstanding. If they decided to publish a game for more money with a larger experience, I would be all over it. Ultimately, the game doesn’t quite merit the $6.99 asking price. If they ever decide to discount this game, however, I would highly recommend that any SHMUP fan with an itchy trigger finger pick Chain Blaster up.
Review copy provided by publisher.