Friday, March 3, 2017

Ghost Blade HD Review (XONE)

Ghost Blade started out as a 2015 Dreamcast (yes, THAT Dreamcast … in 2015) release and now comes to Xbox One, Wii U, and PS4 as Ghost Blade HD. This bullet hell-style shoot-em-up is a throwback to the classic titles in the genre and is well worth a look for genre vets. Shmup novices will dig it as well as it is actually pretty straightforward and simple compared to many bullet hell shooters, so it is a perfect game to try and see if you get bitten by the shoot-em-up bug. We have all of the details in our full Ghost Blade HD review.

Game Details

  • Publisher: 2Dream
  • Developer: HUCAST
  • ESRB Rating: “E10” for Everyone 10+
  • Genre: Shoot-Em-Up
  • Pros: Looks and sounds awesome; satisfying bullet hell gameplay; accessible for newbies
  • Cons: Pretty straightforward and simple
  • MSRP: $10

Ghost Blade HD is a bullet hell shoot-em-up where you choose one of three scantily clad anime girls who then have to go shoot stuff through five levels because of reasons. Why are they scantily clad when you only ever see them on the character select screen and then never again? Because boobs, that’s why! I’m not complaining.

As far as gameplay goes, Ghost Blade HD is a little more simple and straightforward than some of the best-known bullet hell shooters over the last several years. You won’t find the complex scoring systems or parry / defensive mechanics of a Cave shooter like Akai Katana or Deathsmiles, for example, and instead Ghost Blade HD focuses just on simple shooting, dodging endless walls of bullets, and surviving. That focus isn’t a bad thing, of course, but it makes for a less interesting experience for genre vets expecting a little more depth.

With that said, the core gameplay in Ghost Blade HD is very solid all around and does actually have a little more depth than it seems to have at first. You have two shot types – a wide spread shot and a more powerful linear shot – and using them at the proper times to take out enemies efficiently is vital. Also, unless I’m crazy (because it seems like no one else noticed it …) the shot types also affect your movement speed so you go slightly slower while doing the powerful shot than you do using the spread (or not shooting at all) so adjusting your shot type is key to help you avoid different bullet patterns.

Ghost Blade HD is also pretty accessible despite being a bullet hell-style game. The speed of the game and the patterns it throws at you aren’t ever super crazy, so dodging the hails of bullets isn’t nearly as challenging as it is in other games. It also offers three difficulty options as well as a practice mode so you can really learn and get better fairly quickly. The game takes less than 30-minutes to play through – which is about standard for shmups – and re-playing and learning and doing better is the whole point, so don’t call it too short! In addition to the standard 1P mode there is a score attack, online leaderboards, and local two-player co-op to keep you busy. For $10 you’re getting a lot of shmup goodness.

The presentation in Ghost Blade HD is also quite nice overall. It was designed to mimic the shmups of the 90’s (which is part of the reason why the gameplay is a little simpler) and it does so tremendously well even with the bump up to HD resolution. The game looks great and, most importantly, it is easy to tell what is going on at all times during gameplay because they were very careful to make sure all of the bullets flying around onscreen have distinct colors. You can even adjust how bright explosions are in the options to make it even easier to see if you need to. I love that. There is some slowdown when things get super hectic, but it seems intentional. The game also sounds like a shmup from the 90’s with perfect sound effects and an awesome synth pop soundtrack.

All in all, Ghost Blade HD is a solid shoot-em-up that is perfectly at home on Xbox One. It is one of those games that is easy to learn but tough to master, which makes it good for genre vets as well as casual fans as it is one of the most accessible bullet hell shooters I’ve ever played. Speaking of bullet hell shooters, it is the only “real” bullet hell shooter on Xbox One at the moment (Raiden V and Sky Force Anniversary aren’t really bullet hell), which also adds to Ghost Blade HD’s appeal. In the end, Ghost Blade HD is a pretty easy shmup to recommend to anyone with any short of interest in the genre. The presentation is awesome, the gameplay is solid, and it is very welcoming to newbies. Buy it.
Disclosure: A review code was provided by the publisher.