There have been countless shoot-em-up titles since the early days of gaming and the genre is still relevant today. Digital distribution platforms such as the Nintendo eShop are where you can find most shmups nowadays, and some would argue that’s right where they belong. Squarehead Studios’ debut project, Star Ghost, is among the modern games in the category that stand out.
The game’s presentation is overtly simple. You take control of a spacecraft called the Star Ghost by pressing the A button to thrust upward and releasing it to drop down. That’s pretty much all there is to it. Although it’s not always necessary, you can also push the left stick up or down to aim your weapon and tilt the same stick left to engage the traction field, which gathers any nearby upgrades. As it may sound, the simple control scheme is reminiscent of the rocket barrel sections in Donkey Kong Country Returns and Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze. If you enjoyed those types of levels in both games, you’ll probably find Star Ghost as engaging as ever.
There are a total of four upgrades that you’ll want to have at your disposal. They come in the form of resources dropped by enemies and obstacles in your path. Upgrades are used to increase your fire rate, widen your firing spread, maximize your traction field and strengthen your shield. Credits are also scattered throughout each level, and you’ll need as much of them as you can find to go far. They can be used to purchase upgrades after completing a course, restore your ship and continue a game after you’ve been defeated.
Run out of credits, however, and you’ll no longer be able to progress – you’ll have to start from square one again. While this definitely ups the challenge, it would have been nice to meet checkpoints after completing a select number of levels – rather than having to start from the beginning every time you lose a life and run out of credits. If you’re not patient enough, you may never get to travel across all 12 of the game’s Star Systems.
The game’s retro-inspired soundtrack was composed by former Rare composer David Wise himself. It’s catchy and matches the deep space atmosphere, though it doesn’t contain enough variety for my liking. As you find yourself restarting the game several times, you’ll be listening to same familiar tunes over and over again.
There may be multiple modernized shoot-em-up games out there, but not all of them are quite as addictive as Star Ghost. Despite a couple elements that players may find repetitive, the game is one of the best eShop-exclusive offerings of 2016.