The rise and rise of Rising Star Games
Next month, Rising Star Games will bring thrilling Japanese shmup title Akai Katana to the masses; their first title to be launched simultaneously across the EU and North America.
At the beginning of the year the publishers opened brand new headquarters in California, furthering its aims to bring exciting Eastern games to Europe and beyond. Since beginning trading eight years ago, Rising Star Games have published over 100 games including over 1 million units of the cute, anime farming RPG series Harvest Moon and the retro-inspired, chunky pixelated, totally addictive Bit Trip series which was released as a 6 game compilation for Wii and 3DS last month. An intense test of reactions and rhythmical ability, Bit Trip Beat has streams of complex squares flying around at different speeds that have to be repelled with a paddle in old school Pong fashion whereas Bit Trip Runner sees sprite star Commander Video jumping, sliding, kicking and of course running through and endless scrolling landscape whilst the pounding, crazed Chiptune soundtrack spurs you along.
Hitting the Xbox360 from 11th May, Akai Katana is a fully upgraded HD version of the Japanese arcade hit by developers Cave Interactive. With new graphics and animation, SFL recently got some hands on time with this manic shoot ‘em up and it is eye-bogglingly good. In between the icy blue and neon pink bullets spirographing across the screen in wave after frantic wave there is a loose story about having to hunt down a greedy tyrannical Emperor with psychic powers. Seemingly unstoppable, the Empire has been crushing neighbouring countries with powerful blood swords that bestow their wielder with magical powers. Smelted from a new form of energy (a mysterious mineral called Guiding Ore), sadly, they also require human sacrifices in order to unleash their destructive power. A small band of rebels with fighter planes and powered up swords take to the skies, seeking justice and the sensory onslaught begins.
Initially, the game seems illogical, frantic and overwhelming; shooting everything on the screen is impossible but master a few techniques and a satisfying challenge is unlocked. Dodging and timing shots through the patterns of bullet hail is crucial as is planning when best to use bombs. Collecting green energy builds up a meter that allows for transformation from a sleek plane to a character with a protective bubble-like shield, perfect for getting through tough sections. Saving up weapons and energy for the mega explosive encounters is vital whilst the rest of the time is spent relentlessly spraying out bullet after bullet after bullet. It’s surprising at just how much tactical planning is required, considering this is a shmup game but it brings added thought and engagement to proceedings. There’s a sense of control over the unrelenting madness which is hugely rewarding. Elsewhere the anime cut scenes are short and sweet whilst the vivid colours layering up the backgrounds with different perspectives as you scroll through the madness, combined with a stirring soundtrack really gets the brain and heart racing. There are three modes which offer different sets of characters to choose from, each with different shooting abilities to explore so there’s plenty of replayabilty though really, no matter which character is doing the shooting, this game is all about hitting those high scores for which the phrase “just one more go” has never rung so true. Akai Katana is definitely a crazy sci-fi/anime title worth investigating. Just make sure to stock up on plasters for your thumbs before crashing on in!
With future plans for a Rising Star Games Digital division with games planned for Xbox Live Arcade, PlayStation Network, Steam, Android and iOS devices, we can expect to see a lot more from the home of Japanese Games as they go from strength to strength in 2012.