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Video Game Review – Super Galaxy Squadron EX

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Shaun Eddleston reviews Super Galaxy Squadron EX…

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Shoot ‘Em Up games have always been a notable part of my gaming experiences over the years. One of the earliest memories I have of actually playing video games is Super R-Type on the SNES (admittedly, I wasn’t very skilled at it, but I had heaps of fun regardless). Its mega challenging arcade-style gameplay, cool character design and great graphics made me a fan of the genre instantly, and I occasionally revisit many classics with renewed enthusiasm. So, upon discovering Super Galaxy Squadron EX, it made total sense for me to dive back into “shmup” territory once again.

Super Galaxy Squadron EX isn’t technically a new game. It is a reboot/remake/update/overhaul/expansion of last year’s Super Galaxy Squadron; a great (if not slightly basic) tribute to the 16-bit era of shoot ‘em up games, developed by Synset. The game is set in the year 2438, amidst a stalemate between the United Interstellar Federation and an alien race from the planet Tau Ceti. In an attempt to win the war, the UIF sends out fourteen of its best pilots to single-handedly win the war once and for all.

The game plays like a standard vertically scrolling arcade “Bullet Hell” shooter, such as the rock solid DonPachi series, where you control a singular ship firing up against a barrage of enemy ships, eventually resulting in a powerful boss ship at the end of each level. The controls are ridiculously simple, with your controller’s primary buttons being mapped to firing, while the trigger buttons activate your ship’s “Hyper” attack. There are power-ups spread throughout the game to increase the effectiveness of both your primary and secondary weapons, as well as blue pickups that increase your score and add to your hyper bar.

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The first thing I noticed upon starting up the game was that the difficulty level can now be changed, with a choice of Casual, Normal and HELL modes to suit the needs of players accordingly. It’s a welcome addition, which will introduce a new generation of gamers to the genre in a progressive manner, instead of dropping them in at the deep end, while keeping veteran players fully engaged and challenged. Each difficulty bracket offers the option to go through the game with checkpoints and regular health power-up drops, or a more hardcore option that’s more akin to the standard “bullet hell” madness that is associated with the genre.

Another mode that has been implemented into Super Galaxy Squadron EX is “Endless” mode, with the option to play a more casual and low pressure version of the game (in the appropriately named “Zen” mode) and a forthcoming gauntlet mode. This added variety to the gameplay adds a little more replay value to the title in a more laid back fashion. I mean, come on, who doesn’t want to just kick back and relax by shooting the hell out of alien spaceships, without the worry of being forced to use lightning quick reflexes?

A new element of gameplay included in Super Galaxy Squadron EX is the “overdrive” function. As you rack up your combo multiplier, things start to get more intense, and as you hit the 10X multiplier, Overdrive kicks in and adds a massive temporary power boost to your weapons and effectively obliterating all enemy spacecraft that lies in your path.

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There is a plethora of playable ships to choose from in Super Galaxy Squadron EX, each having different unique primary and secondary weapons, as well as their own strengths and weaknesses in the areas of power, armour and agility. It’s a tremendous amount of fun getting to know the ins and outs of each ship, and the game offers you the option of changing to a different ship at the beginning of each new level, just in case you feel like changing up your playing style mid-game. Each ship also comes with some brief details of its respective pilots, adding a little bit more of a backstory to the game and allowing you to immerse yourself in the experience a little better.

The presentation of the game’s story has been immensely improved, with voice acting and basic animated story sequences being used in between each level, instead of the standard text scrolling along the screen. While the story is far from original, its simplicity is perfect for a game as brash and chaotic as this. The music is also one of the highlights of Super Galaxy Squadron EX, as the retro chiptune music fits incredibly well with (and adds a sense of urgency to) the already noisy, explosion-filled madness you’ll be experiencing throughout.

Super Galaxy Squadron EX’s graphics are almost an homage to the classic 16-bit graphics of arcade shoot ‘em ups from the 90’s; gloriously pixelated, bright flashing explosions that are simple, yet detailed enough to appreciate the design of each individual ship. While not as detailed as some of the original games from the arcades, it’s still really pretty to look at during each play through. There’s also been a complete redesign of all the onscreen HUD elements from the original game. The sides of the screen that aren’t used during gameplay are now stylised to make it feel like a part of the ship that you’re controlling, the power levels for both your primary and secondary weapons are displayed, and the “HYPER” bar is way more prominent on the right hand side of the screen, while your health bar is in the same position to the left. In addition to the already chaotic rainbow of energy blasts, lasers and rockets that take up the screen whilst playing through a level, achieving “overdrive” turns everything up to 11 and makes for a pretty insane visual spectacle.

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Overall, Super Galaxy Squadron EX is a great experience for any fan of the shoot ‘em up genre, as it allows newbies to this type of game to play without the fear of getting absolutely pummelled from the start, while offering enough difficulty for  veteran “bullet hell” masochists to be satisfied with. That being said, the game could definitely benefit from adding a few more levels, and is not the most original game out there.

With the game’s relatively low price-tag (which currently stands at £6.99 on Steam), excellent soundtrack (also available to download on Steam!) and the inclusion of the original Super Galaxy Squadron as an added bonus, Super Galaxy Squadron EX is a great game to have in your library, and let’s face it, probably the only “shmup” game most of us are ever going to beat (and have boatloads of fun while doing it).

Pros:

+ Massively varied roster of ships to choose from.

+ Accessible to newcomers, yet still challenging for seasoned players.

+ Amazing soundtrack.

Cons:

– Lacks in originality.

– Arcade mode is very short.

Total Score – 8/10

Shaun Eddleston

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