|July 14, 2017
|Shoot ’em up
The shoot ’em up genre is one I don’t have much experience with, outside of ones that were developed by Cave. I generally don’t consider myself good at shmups, but I do greatly enjoy playing them. When I saw Neko Navy and its adorable art style, I knew I had to play this one. Now that I’ve played through Neko Navy a handful of times, how does it hold up?
Right from the very beginning, Neko Navy is full of adorable charm thanks to its cat-focused art style. Everything is so adorable, from the six different playable characters to even the enemy designs. Creative and silly enemy designs like a tube of toothpaste with spider legs, airplanes with silly faces, and many other cute designs really help give Neko Navy a wonderfully charming identity of its own, charming enough to catch my interest before even seeing the game in action.
In Neko Navy you’ll shoot your way through seven different stages of cute-filled fun. Every time you attack and defeat an enemy, little blue cats appear on screen for you to collect. Collecting these is important because it not only contributes to your score, which gives you more lives, but it also fills your power up meter. Power ups in Neko Navy are very important as they can destroy almost any enemy on screen, as well as clear any bullets on screen and give momentary invincibility. This comes in handy especially when the screen is full of bullets that you don’t think you’ll be able to maneuver past.
When you first start Neko Navy there will only be three playable characters, but there are also three more to unlock by finishing the game multiple times. Each character has their own play style, too. Mugi and Chiyoko have a spread shot that goes in four directions and average speed. My personal favorite of the three starter characters has to be Miracle, though. Miracle’s attacks only shoot forward, but their attack power and speed is much higher than that of Mugi or Chiyoko.
The play style for secret characters Kyrie and Eugene takes some getting used to as they feel fairly different from the original three cats. Kyrie’s attacks swirl around the screen and attack enemies from all over the place, making the overall game much easier, but also feel satisfying if you’re just looking for some quick fun. Eugene’s attack curves up and down as you move around the screen, but his attacks are so powerful that they make quick work of any enemy or boss. The last unlockable character, Ginnosuke, is one I just never could get used to. He can only attack with a sword that rotates around you as you move around the screen, but it felt so clunky I struggled to get past even the first stage with him.
One design choice about Neko Navy that I really like is the way that it handles continues. At first you won’t be able to continue at all. If you get a game over, that’s it. Instead, Neko Navy asks you to keep trying and get more used to its mechanics and enemy patterns. The further you get into the game and the more new milestones you reach, the more you’ll begin to unlock continues to help you along your way. I really liked this approach because I felt like I had to improve myself at a genre that I generally don’t excel at. I had to start learning to move slower and more precisely through bullet patterns, as well as pay better attention to everything around me.
Each time I unlocked a new continue, I felt like I was making good progress. Even though the game is only seven stages long I still struggled along the way, getting better with each session played. The only negative I can really think of with this system is that I unfortunately have no idea what the milestone conditions are for unlocking new continues, as the game doesn’t tell you. It was through just playing the game on the easy and hard difficulty with different characters each time that I started unlocking more and more continues.
The boss encounters in Neko Navy are fairly decent overall, with some pretty outrageous designs. One of my favorite boss designs is the giant man made of meat in stage four. Its methods of attack are to try and stab you with its fork for a hand and throwing different kinds of meat at you. By far the best boss in the game to me, though, is the boss of stage six, which really takes a lot of practice. When fighting it, it’s constantly shooting bullets at you while also digging through rocks. You’ll need to dodge both the rocks and his bullets to stay alive here, and doing so can be pretty tricky. Once I got the hang of it though, it became my favorite boss in the game just because of how much concentration it required.
The music in Neko Navy is extremely catchy. Plenty of upbeat and fun tracks play during each stage that help convey its cute art style. By far the best songs to me are the themes in stages three and four. They just have such a catchy and fun upbeat rhythm that make blowing up everything in front of me feel like so much cute fun. The sound effects are also equally well done, with satisfying sound effects when attacking enemies and the explosions they make upon death.
Neko Navy is a really fun and charming shmup that even someone who lacks experience with the genre can enjoy. Thanks to its slow difficulty curve, as well as the way earning continues works, I feel this is also a good shmup to play if you’re a beginner with this type of game. Of course, Death Mode will provide plenty of challenge for shmup veterans, too. An average playthrough only lasts about a half hour, but unlocking everything took me roughly five hours. For only $10.99, Neko Navy is extremely easy for me to recommend to anyone, regardless of your skill level with these types of games.
Review copy provided by publisher