Following the awesome Fairy Bloom Freesia, a 2D brawler with 3D graphics, doujin masters Edelweiss have gone back to their roots with this, their latest and highest profile project yet: the arcade shooter game Astebreed.
Astebreed picks up from where Ether Vapor (their first commercial title) left off, taking the multi-perspective mechanic to a whole new level and adding glorious mechs, higher production values (including a vast array of technical improvements), voice acting, an rocking soundtrack full of old-school keyboardy goodness and the inclusion of melee weapons as part of the arsenal.
The dynamic camera and multi-perspective elements are certainly a major draw for this title, but looks aren’t everything! The changes in camera perspective are not just for cinematic effect: they offer a different approach to each situation where you have to think and adapt, not just smash the main fire button and hope everything dies in front of you.
The player mech comes equipped with sets of four weapons (two sets are available in the current demo) that can be used at will in many different ways, making up for the slower speed of the mech. Most of the weapons involve the managing a multitude of small orbiting wisps that follow your mech and provide most that additional firepower and functionality. There is also a dash/boost attack and a button to reposition the wisps or send them away to strike at distant targets.
Scoring-wise, at the moment the game opts to keep it very simple (just like Ether Vapor, although missing the Overkill bonuses) by having Enemy Shot Down Rate, Time Taken to Defeat the Boss and Remaining Shield Percentage as the three big variables to acquire a good score.
One of the most interesting features —and a huge concession to people new to shmups— is the inclusion of a shield bar instead of lives or a select number of shield points. Hardcore players usually perceive shield bars as an excuse to cast unavoidable bullet patterns or just to disguise lazy design, knowing players will almost always get damaged no matter what. Not so much in Astebreed: you are encouraged NOT to get damaged because at the end of the stage you get a big score bonus out of this. Granted, it’s hard not to be a daredevil and try to melee the hell out of everything and get destroyed shortly after. However, here comes the interesting part: if you DO get damaged and manage to move away, you’ll see the bar gets a red section. You’ll recover that section of your shield bar after a couple of seconds, thus, you can actually extend the durability of your mech quite a lot with some practice and skill! This little but clever approach (also present in Fairy Bloom Freesia) can make all the difference to bring a more accessible experience without sacrificing difficulty as well as leading to very tense moments where you can squeeze a hard battle with barely any shield left. Props to Edelweiss for that one as it can certainly make the game far more manageable to those without godly reflexes.
Edelweiss have set themselves a difficult challenge: finding the proper balance between blending the cinematic feel with the traditional shmupping action, but they have the chops to deliver! The full game is not due to be released until mid to late 2013 and no doubt there will be huge changes and improvements to come, but Astebreed already promises to be one of the highlights of the year. This is absolutely one that any fan of the shooting game genre should be looking forward to!
For more details, check out these links:
Astebreed Website: http://edelweiss.skr.jp/works/astebreed/index.html
Edelweiss Homepage: http://edelweiss.skr.jp/