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Akai Katana Preview

by Diogo Miguel April 19, 2012

It’s always a pleasure to see traditional video-games companies like Cave surviving in a world obsessed with realistic visuals. Rising Star Games also shares this view and has single handedly published a few of Cave’s titles in the West. The latest offering is the rather unique Akai Katana.

Akai Katana is set in an alternate feral Japan where a few selected individuals have received special powers. These powers do come at a cost, since it’s only possible to upgrade them, by sacrificing blood relatives. It’s not a Cave shoot ‘em up without a tragic story and there is a fair amount of drama in Akai Katana. One of the striking differences in this latest release is the main menu. It’s not only filled with colour but it also makes it easier to browse through the different modes. There are three modes to pick from consisting of Origin, Slash and Climax.

One of the modes that most players will start off with is Origin. This is pretty much a straight port of the arcade version. It is possible to stretch the play screen but the native resolution is 4:3. It just means that it might look stretched when it’s being output on a different aspect ratio. Bullets in this mode are a lot easier to avoid and it’s even possible to play it on a novice difficulty. Anyone new to the genre is better off learning the basics with this mode.

Bombs are available in all modes and it’s recommended to use them when necessary. It’s possible to use a secondary character, unless a special power meter is depleted, which not only makes it easier to score points but also avoid losing a life when hit. Akai Katana has a unique system where it’s possible to swap between two characters. Each character has a different function depending on the mode being played. This makes for a different experience from the typical shoot ‘em up , since it involves carefully thinking which character to use.

Slash mode involves raising a hit counter in order to get a large amount of score points. Raising the hit counter is all about using the light shot and swapping characters at the right time. Like every shoot ‘em up , it’s possible to switch between a light or strong shot. Using the strong shot all the time will destroy enemy ships faster but tends to not give as many score points. Switching to the secondary character with a high hit counter, will make it possible to earn even more score points.

It’s probably the best mode since it provides a compelling reason to keep coming back to rack up even higher scores. The same can be said of every other mode, but the system works so well in Slash mode, that it turns into a high score obsession. This mode is included with wide screens in mind and it looks absolutely gorgeous on a big screen. It also makes it a lot easier to look out for those incoming bullets and spot enemies on screen.

Climax mode is the one that will test the patience of all the veteran shoot ‘em up enthusiasts out there. Bullet patterns become much more complex and are harder to avoid, due to the increased speed. This is oddly enough the mode that closely resembles that feeling of spending a copious amount of coins down in the arcade. Obviously shoot ‘em up s fans prefer to finish with just one credit and they are in for a challenge with Climax mode.

Akai Katana lasts a lot longer than the typical Cave titles. There are six levels to get through and each lasts longer. Every level has a different theme and bullet patterns to avoid. This is a Cave title so it’s no surprise that the backgrounds are full of detail. It’s difficult not to look at what is going on with stages set in such locations as snowy mountains. A fantastic soundtrack consists of individual tracks that fit in with each level theme. There’s three types of ships to choose from with their own pilots.

Each of them has different firing patterns with one focusing on straight shots. It’s a great way to make sure a player is able to pick the shooting style that fits a preferred play style. There’s also the possibility to play with another player locally. It’s complete chaos at times with so many bullets flying around but it works great with two players. A training mode offers a solution for anyone that wants to learn how to play a level. It’s important to highlight that each mode offers unlimited continues, so players that just want to have fun can still finish the main story.

Akai Katana is not the easiest video-game to get into but it makes it all the more rewarding to master. There’s a mysterious sense of accomplishment that comes from being able to understand how a mode works and continuously improve high scores. It’s also completely different when compared to the two other Cave titles published by Rising Star Games. Anyone looking for a new gaming experience should keep an eye on Akai Katana over the next few weeks.

This is one that shoot ‘em up fans won’t want to miss out on too. Seems like Rising Star Games is onto another stellar winner with this latest overseas publishing gamble.

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