A world engulfed in war teetering on the edge of oblivion; it’s only hope? One teenage girl armed up to the teeth with missiles, lasers, and beam swords, fueled by the desire to put an end to the senseless killing. Developed by Orange_Juice Sora, is an enjoyable new fast-paced bullet-hell title, set in the same universe as one of their previous jaunts at the genre; fan favourite title SUGURI.
It’s the typical bullet hell scenario of a worn-torn world on the brink of destruction. What exactly they’re fighting is anyone’s guess as the war has raged for so long that to win they’ve gone so far as to turn themselves into living weapons. Following on from another running theme that has been growing out from the genre, is the replacement of a typical pilot and ship with a cute flying girl. Sora, born into this bleak world, is a girl with a keen sense of combat, and one who could potentially put an end to the conflict. It’s a fairly dark and melancholy story, as Sora looks for the reason of why people fight, while looking to aid the world as much as she can. There’s animated cut scenes and exchanges of dialogue injected along the story, but ultimately the narrative is more of a background element to connect the fast-paced gameplay.
Story mode is your main port of call, comprised of 8 scenarios. After an indepth tutorial in a simulation room, you’re thrown straight into the battlefield in the sky, and are tasked with mowing down waves of enemy units before facing off against an opposing battle-hardened human child. Be prepared to die a lot. As everyone is out to blow Sora out of the sky, levels can be rage inducing, even at the easiest difficulty (or maybe I’m just bad at these types of games). The length is of the game is as you’d expect, dependent on skill. On the easiest setting (and many failed attempts) it took me around 13 hours to finish the story.
To survive you’ll need to evade a barrage of enemy attacks, which you do simply by moving Sora around. When things get particularly hectic though, Sora can perform a dash to quickly move out of harm’s way. This not only makes her invulnerable for a short period, but the rainbow rings that follow behind her allow her to absorb laser attacks, which builds up a hyper attack gauge. Using the dodge too much however, comes at a price as it overheats Sora’s shields. The hotter they get, the more damage she’ll take from enemies. It’s worth the risk though, as the hyper attack is a key tool whether used as a panic button when you’re surrounded, or dealing a considerable amount of damage to bosses.
The game plays how you’d expect for a shoot em’up, dodge enemy attacks, and take them out with your arsenal of weaponry which consists of a main, secondary and special. The mains are laser attacks, which are typically the weaker option of your ranged attacks, but they cannot be parried by enemy units. Secondary’s are your heavy arms; missiles packing a big punch, but they’re open to being destroyed by enemy attacks. If you want an alternative then you can fall back on your trusty sword, which if used correctly can deal some power combos but of course leaves you wide open. Then again, when attacking with any weapon you’re left vulnerable as Sora sits still briefly to charge and launch attacks, unless you cancel out of them with a dodge. The mechanics can leave you a bit dazed at times as you bash any button trying to remember each system. However, it’s good fun for experimenting play-styles, and it means the game can be tackled in a variety of different ways.
It’s particularly entertaining when you start picking up new weapons. The customisation you can bring into each level is a fantastic addition. For each level you’re given a rank based on your performance, which in turn can unlock a new tool for one of the three weapon categories. There are over 20 different weapons to unlock, so you can adjust your loadout for a particular location, or just to try and give scenarios that extra challenge.
Visually the game is kept low key, but it means that it’s playable on just about PC setup. Low end rigs will still experience some slowdown during busy moments, when there’s a mass of enemies and missiles swarming the player, but you can still push though those pauses and enjoy the game. The quirky anime graphics are a treat to look at, and the lasers, missiles, explosions and varying ship designs add a nice splash of colour to the mix. The low fidelity backgrounds are a bit of a disappointment but they do show of the bright laser attacks well. Just don’t expect a lot of colourful laser patterns to memorise as is the usual bullet-hell trope, as analysing attack patterns isn’t completely what Sora is about. The fast-paced techno music soundtrack can be a bit of a mixed bag too, there are some solid pieces to listen to, while others can fall a bit flat. When there is a good piece though the addictive quick gameplay doesn’t particularly help, as it can be too distracting to really enjoy the music to its fullest.
Sora can offer players a fantastic challenge. However, it takes a lot of practice before you can really enjoy this title, even when playing on the easiest settings. The mechanics offer multiple ways to play scenarios, but trying to remember each of them can be frustrating, and a lot of time, they get in the way of the fun fast-paced gameplay. Whether just playing through the melancholy story, unlocking weapons, or competing for high scores, Sora still makes for an enjoyable bullet-hell experience.
This review is based off a review code of Sora provided by Fruitbat Factory.
This review was originally published on the site GamersFTW which unfortunately has now been taken down. It’s been published on my personal blog, DanielVaughanReviews, out of respect for the developers/publishers that were kind enough to give me review copy of their game.