Playstation

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Developer Qute and Rising Star Games are well known for Ginga Force, a vertical shoot ‘em up title that originally released in September 2020 for PS4 and Steam. Following the success of that game, their latest project, Natsuki Chronicles, is a horizontal bullet hell side scrolling shooter that takes place prior to the events of Ginga Force.   

Two game modes are available from the beginning: Arcade and Story. Whereas the arcade mode revolves around the various stages, the story mode delves deeper into the past of rookie RDF pilot Natsuki that leads up to the current events parallel to those found in Ginga Force. Life is far from peaceful with reports of hostile eco-terrorists stealing caches of the precious element, Septonium from the home planet Seventier. Tragically, much of the storytelling is easily missed with your attention drawn to the ship and dodging incoming enemy fire. There is a good degree of jumping back and forth on the timeline as you piece together the memories and pivotal points of Natsuki Sugiura’s life. Both modes are distinctively unique as upgrades are acquired in Arcade mode versus purchasable items with currency in Story mode. As one would expect, Arcade mode is a continuous session with online leaderboards with the Story mode featuring narrative dialogue over 10 stages between the cast of characters.

 

The game shines in the weapons department with a variety of customization options to suit your play style. Armed with forward and rear weapons, you can switch from primary to secondary weapons at any time to engage and destroy surrounding enemies. These weapons include but are not limited to laser beams, homing missiles, explosive bombs, energy waves and more. Opting to use both at once sacrifices the power and range of the respective attacks on their own. In addition, switching speeds from A to B or vice versa is a delicate balancing act of firepower and speed as you maneuver around and away from enemy ships. A defensive special attack can grant you temporary shield from stray enemy bullets or operate as a targeted homing attack to obliterate dangerous foes. This is not an easy game as even the lowest difficulty will keep players on their toes with rarely a moment to breathe in the heat of battle. Trial and error is a necessity as you upgrade your weapons and survival skills at every opportunity to gain the upper hand. 

One of the highlights is the Bullet Trajectory Display system that allows you to adapt by seeing the predicted trajectory of enemy projectiles. Regardless of the difficulty setting, this helps players immeasurably by increasing the odds of evading enemy bullets. Strategically evaluating the situation and acting quickly with these visual cues makes the game more accessible for everyone from newcomers to veteran bullet hell shooter fans. While far from a guarantee for survival, the Bullet Trajectory Display system feels new and refreshing and is a welcome change of pace.

 

Visually, the presentation is top notch with a variety of weapons, equipment upgrades and special effects. From the stray enemy bullets to the artistic ship designs, there is a lot to see and do at a steady frame rate with no noticeable slowdown. Though it was difficult to follow along with the story at times, the voice acting and soundtrack complement the game well that gives it the arcade type vibe. The one drawback is the absence of an unlockable gallery to truly appreciate the shipbuilding visuals. 

Natsuki Chronicles is a thrilling bullet hell shooter with high replay value. Boasting gorgeous visuals, an abundance of weapons and equipment and two unique game modes, Natsuki Chronicles offers hours of horizontal side-scrolling arcade action that is ultimately satisfying and rewarding.

 

PROS (+): Vibrant Visuals, Immersive Gameplay, High Replay Value

CONS (-): Absence of Art Gallery

 

SCORE – 8.5/10

This review is based on a digital copy of Natsuki Chronicles on the PlayStation 4 provided by the publisher.

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