Classic Retro SHMUP Action – Super Galaxy Squadron Ex Review (PC)
At one point in time, the TAITO logo would be blazing around various arcades and fish and chip shops. Sounds of laser fire and rockets would rumble from the sides, colours blazing from the screen. These arcade wonders were often home to loud and proud shoot-em ups, simple games that wanted your loose change.
There’s a certain thrill to be had when it comes to neatly swivelling through wave after wave of projectiles. No other genre truly gets the player into a state of zen, defying seemingly impossible odds. Super Galaxy Squadron Ex is looking to replicate these exact feelings.
Developed by Synset Games, Super Galaxy Squadron Ex tries to marry the joys of ‘bullet hell’ Shoot-em ups with accessibility, all without sacrificing any of the thrills. It’s a rather daunting prospect, trying to make such a genre accessible.
General gameplay follows the exact same formula seen in genre classics like Radiant Silver Gun. Shoot down enemies, avoid incoming enemy fire and seek out power ups. In a homage to its inspiration, Super Galaxy Squadron Ex plays vertically, borders and all. It’s distinctly retro at heart, with modern touches bridging the gap between hardcore mechanics and accessibility.
Players have a fairly plentiful health bar, allowing for ships to take more than a few hits. Repairs can be made by flying into health boosts dropped by the enemy. These health drops tend to float around areas that present a fair amount of risk, creating a risk/reward dynamic. It keeps the general tone of play varied enough to where it’s never brutally difficult nor is it too easy.
As the screen is swamped with various enemies, the true quality of the game shines through. There’s a fairly varied amount of enemies that all have unique attack patterns. Adjusting to each pattern starts to become second nature, almost like a rhythm game. Bobbing and weaving between the small spaces among enemy fire provides thrilling and intense moments. A certain level of desperation grows as enemy numbers bolster, but this only enhances the experience.
In a effort to give Super Galaxy Squadron Ex’s bullet hell-like elements a more forgiven tone, ships can be fully upgraded. Picking up various upgrade drops becomes key to late game success, with each upgrade permanently remaining via file saves. Much like the health drops, upgrades are risky to pick up, but are always worth obtaining. Before long, ships can lay death upon everything on screen, like some sort of space age apocalypse. It’s not all a bed of roses, upon taking damage, upgrades will drop off from the ship. There’s a brief window in which they can be recollected, as long as the player is up to the task of evading oncoming fire.
With a fair amount of levels (all of which are introduced with some fancy cut scenes), across two modes, there’s a decent amount of content there for the price. The primary modes are split between normal and ‘hardcore’, both of which supply wildly different experiences. Normal may not be to everyone’s taste given its general unforgiving nature. Hardcore is more akin to the games that act as inspiration to Super Galaxy Squadron Ex. A single hit will take the player out, removing the safety net found in Normal. Endless mode is exactly what it sounds like, non-stop waves of enemies attacking until the player perishes.
Further replay value is added in the sheer amount of ships available for selection. Each of the fourteen crafts possess their own unique stats and special screen clearing attack. Choices cater for a whole range of play styles, from the heavily armoured starter friendly ships, to the lightweight nimble death dealers. Trying out each ship helps in the pursuit for that desired high score, with riskier options providing the best score builders.
The amount of levels may not feel much, but given shoot-em ups are focused on earning high scores, it’s a fair helping. Scoring points is achieved by completing stages, taking out enemies and chaining together combos. Focusing on the creating high combos opens up a subtle amount of strategy. The longer enemies take to die, the more chance the combo has to break, resulting in mixing up kills becoming a vital tactic.
There’s clearly a lot of love and passion poured into Super Galaxy Squadron. From the visuals, to the soundtrack, it revels in nostalgia and admiration for the the shoot-em up genre. Wonderful visuals allow the game to truly burst into life, engaging the player instantly.
Credit should be paid to interest ship design that rarely repeats, allowing each stage to feel fresh. It’s not all a feast for the eyes, the soundtrack is also worthy of note. Booming nostalgic beats power Super Galaxy Squadron Ex straight into that nostalgic hot zone, conjuring up memories of arcade cabinets and lost hours.
Denying the sheer fun on offer is impossible. The satisfaction felt while witnessing all the joyous sights and sounds is uplifting. Innocent video game thrills than conjures up memories of classic shoot-em ups, minus the harshness. It may not be the most challenging or ground breaking game in the genre, but it’s far too enjoyable not to recommend.