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    Sky Force Anniversary

    Rating: 3.0 – Fair

    Fun Throwback

    One of the first shmups I played on the NES was Sky Shark by Taito. Sky Force Anniversary reminds me of Sky Shark on so many levels, and that is predominantly a good thing. If there’s one thing I love about this downloadable gaming revolution, it’s being able to play a gorgeous re-imagining of a memorable game from my past.

    Sky Force Anniversary IS gorgeous, in my opinion. All the fine details, like the little pieces that enemies smash into, is something we can do in this console generation that wasn’t always possible. I appreciate that the creators put time into animating every last detail of battle cruisers breaking in half, the wings snapping off of a B-52 bomber as it careens into the ground, and a tank’s turret flying off as its chassis explodes. Sure, this isn’t a tough load for the PS4 visual department to carry, but I see a lot of shmups that could do this kind of stuff and instead go with a boring, basic explosion to basically cover a sprite that just disappears. This extra detail is appreciated. Admittedly, sometimes I would get hit by bullets I lost track of amidst the beautiful backgrounds, but that is a price I’m willing to pay.

    Sky Force Anniversary also plays superbly well. At no point did I feel that any death was the fault of the game; I owned every one. The ability to upgrade my ship to off-set my weaknesses in gaming skill works well with the game, and will allow just about anyone to eventually see the whole range of levels. However, there is by no means a lack of challenge for those that want it, with level sub-goals and four levels of unlockable difficulty for those who feel their blasting journey was too quick or easy.

    One thing about Sky Shark, however, was that it was unfortunately quite simple compared to other shmups on the NES. Unfortunately, Sky Force Anniversary is the same. The weapons available are not very flashy, nor do your upgrades offer you any weapon types that would challenge you to play in different ways. Each level adds one or two new enemy types at most, but there isn’t much about most levels that set them apart from the others as far as visual style or area of the world. The weather effects are done well, though. I did like the rain, fog, and lightning.

    Lastly, the music in this game should take some cues from Sky Shark. Sky Force Anniversary has some superb sound effects, but unfortunately the music is just kind of there. When a game’s default setting has the music turned down compared the already loud sound effects, you know they aren’t too proud of their soundtrack. Some of the best shooters I’ve played (Gradius 3 and 5, Axelay, Ikaruga, to name a few) usually use the music to drive the emotion and excitement. Even Sky Shark really rocks its tunes using the NES’s limited sound capabilities. And even when these examples used a quieter sound for their stages, they still drove the atmosphere to match the theme of the level, which is something Sky Force doesn’t do well. In fact, Sky Force Anniversary has only 9 stages, and yet some of the music gets repeated.

    Sky Force Anniversary nails the shmup fan’s desire for crisp controls and cool explosions, but unfortunately, it fails to deliver an unforgettable personality of its own, or a great variety of experience. I feel that shooter fans like myself will look past these faults and appreciate what is done well as they play to the end, but I think the average gaming joe will probably pass this up in favor of something grander that pulls them in with more than just a solid, but still rather common gaming experience.

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