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Kokuga (Nintendo 3DS) Review

Review for Kokuga on Nintendo 3DS - on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

Remember Ikaruga? Many Nintendo fans will recall it mainly from its GameCube port where there was a mode that made it possible to flip the TV set onto its side (back in the days of bulky televisions that could indeed rest on their sides, unlike today) and change the in-game settings to play in the original arcade aspect for the most authentic experience. Well, the director of that classic game from Treasure is back, this time at developer G.Rev and acting as director again, this time working on a Nintendo 3DS eShop shooter-with-a-twist by the name of Kokuga. Is this a new classic in the making?

Visually, Kokuga is quite sparse indeed, with basic blocky environments within a space setting, along with rudimentary enemy craft design. However, what becomes apparent almost immediately is that this harks back to the days when shooters required strategic thinking rather than the twitch reactions necessary with bullet hell titles, and those were the sort of games that did not require overly lavish graphics to allure people. This new eShop release is more about methodically moving around the various locations, eliminating the threat of enemies as carefully as possible, making smart use of the power-up items on the touch screen to survive until reaching the final goal.

The little craft at the player's disposal - viewed in a top-down perspective (a little like Xevious) - only fires one slow-moving shot at a time, which leads to a tactical rethink from those used to fast and frenetic shooters, and on top of that, in order to shoot in varying directions, the shoulder buttons (as default - they can be changed to suit user preferences) must be pressed to sluggishly move the gun turret around to the appropriate position to blast adversaries away.

Despite what some reviews have made comment on, this is really not aimed at a casual market. Sure, it is not quite as tough as Ikaruga could be at times, but even on the Normal setting there will be several repeat deaths, the most frustrating coming when just within touching distance of the final goal. Thankfully, though, the action is so enjoyable that deaths of that variety fuel players on to challenge themselves to another bout of 'suffering' rather than merely turning the 3DS off out of despair.

Screenshot for Kokuga on Nintendo 3DS - on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

Smart use of the sixteen random power-up chip cards that can be installed to the futuristic Kokuga tank that is busily protecting country A against country I in the on-going war between the two (yes, that is pretty much the extent of the story) is required throughout the fifteen levels that make up Kokuga. Lasers, multiple shots, stealth cloaks, special defence shields, homing missiles and more come in extremely useful when facing the ever increasing number of enemy craft when working through the various difficulty levels (Normal, Hard, Ultimate on twelve of the stages in total).

Therefore, whilst Kokuga does not quite have the visual finesse of other shooters, in the all-important gameplay stakes it hits the right notes and is accompanied by a decent industrial-feeling soundtrack, as well as some voice acting. Slow-and-steady is the way, carefully manoeuvring around and often having to backtrack to stay out of reach of enemy fire, since the space tank is too slow to easily dodge many laser bullets at once. This is why smart use of the ability cards is necessary, as there will be times when there are simply too many enemies around to merely trundle backwards, so quick use of the restore shield, stealth mode and rapid fire options (for example) are invaluable. Throw in a four-player Local or Download Play multiplayer mode, as well as some immense boss battles (where ability cards are a must most times!), and Kokuga becomes even better value for money.

Screenshot for Kokuga on Nintendo 3DS - on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

Gameplay

Slow-and-steady, strategic play required throughout in order to blast away the onslaught of enemies found around the various locations visited. Whilst it may seem too different from regular shmups to appeal, once the initial hurdle of 'change' is overcome, a truly engaging and smart title is revealed; a game that encourages extra thought rather than twitchy-panicky reactions.

Graphics

Whilst rather basic in nature, offering only barebones industrial landscapes dotted around space, the use of 3D definitely makes a difference, adding a brilliant amount of depth that makes the action more immersive.

Sound

To accompany the industrial look of the game there is an equally hard-hitting soundtrack that adds a gripping edge, building up the atmosphere wonderfully. Sound effects are not quite as 'meaty' as expected, but everything works well on the whole.

Value

Fifteen levels, three difficulty levels, manic boss battles, local and download multiplayer action…the only thing missing is some form of online co-operative and/or a leader-board ranking system. The 14.99 Euro / £13.49 asking price may turn some away, though. Maybe £7.99 or £9.99 would have been more palatable.

Cubed3 Rating

8/10
Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

About this score
Rated 8 out of 10

At first, Kokuga comes across as a little too retro for its own good, with bland visuals and settings, mixed with an awkward control system. However, once past the initial hurdle, what is uncovered is something truly intriguing and extremely engaging. Rather than the standard Bullet Hell style of more recent shooters, Kokuga superbly executes a more strategic approach to the genre, keeping gamers on the edge of their seats as they navigate each location to clear the path to the monstrous bosses.

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19.07.2013

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Developer

GRev

Publisher

GRev

Genre

Shooter

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  10/10 (1 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now    Also on Also on Nintendo eShop

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Reader comments - add yours today Comments on this Review

Roaming Space and Time (guest) 20.07.2013 02:39#1

Loving the retro vibe with this one! Huge shooter fan I am!

=3 (guest) 20.07.2013 02:44#2

Downloaded, seems insane. Totally my cup of tea though.

Senior ModeratorStaff Member

I was really pleased to see this as part of the Nintendo Unleashed booth at the MCM Comic Con event in Manchester at the weekend. There were loads of people trying it and coming away happy with the experience. Some struggled, but the stage on offer wasn't a tough one.

Who here has tried it?

Adam Riley < Operations Director :: Senior Editor :: Cubed3 Limited >
Word of Adam | Voice123 Profile | AdamC3 on Twitter

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