Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Shikhondo - Soul Eater Review (XONE)

One of my favorite things about shoot-em-ups "shmups" is that there are lots and lots of different types with varying degrees of difficulty and intensity. Gradius and Raiden and Akai Katana and Sky Force and Deathsmiles all play wildly differently from each other, for example, so it is easy for players to find a style that suits them. Personally, I like them all, but I do have a soft spot for the so-called "bullet hell" shooters that fill the screen with hundreds of bullets and enemies and you have to weave your way through the seemingly impossible bullet patterns. The latest bullet hell shmup to hit the scene is Shikhondo - Soul Eater and it is pretty darn spectacular. With challenging gameplay, gorgeous artwork, great music, and tons of modes, Shokhondo - Soul Eater is one of the best new shmups to come along in quite a while. See our full Xbox One review for more.

Game Details

  • Publisher: Digerati
  • Developer: DeerFarm
  • ESRB Rating: "T" for Teen
  • Genre: Shoot-Em-Up
  • Pros: Great artwork; awesome music; solid shmup gameplay; lots of modes
  • Cons: Too easy to get lost in the sea of bullets
  • MSRP: $14

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There is a story in Shikhondo about little anime girls having to hunt down monsters, but like all shmup stories, it doesn't matter one darn bit what you're doing or why you're doing it. So take your pick of two cute anime girls and then fight your way through five levels where you fight a crazy monster / woman hybrid at the end. The artwork is pretty fantastic and the bosses look particularly outstanding.

Gameplay-wise, Shikhondo is fairly standard when it comes to vertical scrolling shooters. Movement feels good and you have two different shooting modes - one wider spread and one that slows your movement down but concentrates your bullets into a narrower pattern. Your hit box is clearly identified by a little circle inside the body of your character so it is (fairly) easy to weave through the waves of bullets and enemies that fill the screen. The bullet patterns themselves are overwhelmingly crazy and intimidating, but there is always a path through as long as you're patient and pay attention.

Experienced shmup players know that just surviving isn't really how you play the games, of course, so Shikhondo also has a scoring / gameplay gimmick to spice things up. In this case you build up a Soul Collect meter by flying close to enemy bullets. When the meter is full you can activate a more powerful bullet (and higher scoring) Soul Collect Mode that deals tons of damage and scores you tons of points. You can even power up the Soul Collect Mode by using a bomb during the mode to really do damage. This gives the game a fun risk / reward as you have to earn the Soul Collect Mode by flying close to bullets, which gives the game a unique challenge and feel. It isn't as deep or interesting as, say, Akai Katana or Deathsmiles' various systems, but it does stand well above most other shmups on Xbox One thus far.

My only real complaint with Shikhondo is that it is a little too easy to get lost in the sea of bullets spewing all over the screen during particularly intense sequences. The bosses regularly throw multiple types of shots of all different colors at you, some of which blend into the background, which makes it hard to tell their shots from your shots and it is easy to get lost and overwhelmed. Bullet hell shmups are only playable as long as you can tell what the heck is going on amid all of the chaos, so if you can't easily see they're harder to play than they should be. Shikhondo toes that line a bit too often.

As far as features go, Shikhondo is pretty fantastic. The game has five levels and can be beaten in under 30-minutes, but there are two characters to choose from and multiple difficulty levels to keep you coming back again and again to chase high scores. In addition to the standard mode there is also a Boss Rush mode, a local co-op mode, and a custom mode where you can adjust all sorts of options. The best part is that it all costs just $14, which is pretty much a perfect price.

Visually, Shikhondo is pretty spectacular with awesome character and boss artwork and an appealing presentation throughout. The menus even look great here! For the most part the gameplay screen is clean and looks good and the game runs smoothly even when the screen is filled with enemies, but the game occasionally doesn't do a good enough job communicating enough information on player position and status through the chaos of multi-colored bullets. The music in Shikhondo is surprisingly varied and memorable and covers a wide range of genres and all of it sounds awesome.

In the end, Shikhondo - Soul Eater stands right up there among the best shmups on Xbox One and is probably the best true bullet hell game thus far. With great gameplay, gorgeous presentation, tons of features, and a very appealing price point, Shikhondo is worth a look for genre vets as well as curious newbies. Definitely give it a look.