Side scrolling shooters are not for everyone, indeed most have a cult following and for those fans this genre is epic. Most causal gamers will play a side scrolling shooter for a while and then change it for Call of Duty or something more mainstream. Rising Star Games and Cave have joined forces to bring us another one of these shooters called: Akai Kitana. This game features retro graphics, updated 16:9 aspect ratio and so many bullet patterns that you may end up with epilepsy. The story is typically Japanese and the gameplay is simply just curiously strategic and addictive. There is a lot to be said for an old school side scrolling shooter.
The story tries to bring together planes, samurai and magic spells. So you are based in Japan and in the era of the Taisho (this was a time of growth) expansion and all round goodness. A new energy source was found called Guiding Ore and as with other precious metals it could be made into a sword and it was. The new sword called a guiding Katana allowed the user to have psychic powers. The Japanese emperor used an army of Katana wielding thugs (The Ten Suns) to take over all the neighboring countries. This caused the inevitable resistance from within the Ten Suns, with some disagreeing with the emperor’s plan and set about to stop them. So you set out in three different planes with three different characters, each with their own style. The novel aspect of this game is that your pilots can be transformed into Phantoms when you collect enough energy. These appear either side of your craft and are tethered to you like a rope and work with a simple push and pull mechanism so you can judge where to deploy them on the screen. It’s basically like having two planes on the left as they shoot lasers, bullet and bombs against the waves of enemies. The graphics are retro but hand drawn and look rather nice on the screen. They aren’t pushing the limits of the Xbox 360 but I doubt they are trying to. It looks lovely but clearly its set for a more nostalgic feel.
The main menu gives you a few options; mostly notably the ability to play in slash mode, which is the new game system, and the origin mode that was available when it was released. Let’s begin with the Origin mode, this is the original arcade mode which was released in 2010. In this mode the phantom you summon has the ability to repel incoming bullets, this gives you the edge in some of the hardest battles. Energy is released through enemies as you kill them, once your meter fills the phantom is yours. You can shift your plane into defensive or attack mode, based on the amount of enemies there are and your judgement. The main difference between these modes is the reduced mobility and higher attack power versus quicker movements to avoid the bullets and weaker attack. This mode allows you to experience the thrill in balancing between the two strategies. If you need an extra hard challenge then enter into Climax mode which is a Xbox 360 exclusive. Climax is essentially the origin mode but on acid with it being faster, more aggressive and extremely tough. The bullet patterns are just insane, for a moment you will forget you’re playing a game and think you’re watching a firework display. This is the more hardcore fan’s choice as you need to shift a lot and think about the way you tackle challenges.
Slash mode is the Xbox 360 exclusive mode. The game is represented in a nice 16:9 aspect ratio and is better to look at. This mode allows the use of steel orbs and Katanas. You pick these up by either destroying an enemy in defensive mode or by point blank attacking an enemy with your shot attack. To pick up Katanas you need to equip the laser and enter Phantom mode and destroy enemies. When you collect enough Katanas (16) you will launch a mesmerising attack across the screen that will clear all enemies and make you feel great. This mode as been built with flash and attack in mind as this is pretty much a feast of bullet patterns and waves of lasers. This is the mode I recommend first to casual gamers as you can satisfy your blood lust and go kick some serious ass. There are also score attack and training modes. You can also go online via Xbox Live and view leader boards and replays as well as uploading your own replays.
This game will blow your mind with the insane amount of things going on at once. I also found that during a particularly bullet heavy screen the game does have a slight lag to it. There are not that many levels and with only 3 game modes some gamers will see this as more of an Xbox Live game rather than a full retail. I disagree as it’s packed with delicious amounts of shooting and ridiculous difficulty on Climax mode. This is more of a game for hardcore fans I will suggest, and those fans will love this. However casual gamers should not hold back and give this a try, there is a highly addictive nature to it that most will like.