Ghost Blade HD (PlayStation 4) Review

By Gabriel Jones 28.02.2017

Review for Ghost Blade HD on PlayStation 4

The inhabitants of Mars have thrived for several millennia thanks to Shira. This sentient program controls the defence systems of the planet. However, with the passing of time, and lack of regular updates, the AI eventually became corrupted. Now, it's attacking the very people it was programmed to protect. In order to combat this threat, the Earth Defence Force sends out their bravest and most skilled pilots. If they fall to Shira's forces, then the entire galaxy is liable to be obliterated.

There are few genres that have endured as long as the STG. The appeal is in its blend of surface simplicity and unimaginable depth. The average 2D shooter might take thirty minutes to complete, but can potentially require hundreds of hours to master. Some games have complex scoring systems that take a long time to figure out, others rely on unrelenting difficulty, where reaching the next stage or even the next checkpoint is a herculean task. Then there are titles like Ghost Blade HD, the kind that aren't especially complicated or difficult, but are entertaining all the same, as Cubed3 found out in the review of the original Dreamcast version in 2015.

There are three playable ships to choose from, each designed to suit specific styles of play. All three have a spread-shot, which is good for taking out weaker "popcorn" enemies. The focus-shot is necessary for crushing the larger and more dangerous battleships. One of the boons of focusing is that it shows the player-ship down, allowing for those millimetre-close dodges. Each fighter has its own distinct style of weaponry as well as movement speed. For example, when it isn't focusing, the "Milan" darts around the screen as quick as a thirsty mosquito.

Screenshot for Ghost Blade HD on PlayStation 4

As is common for shmups - especially those in the bullet hell subgenre - the player-ship comes equipped with a cache of screen-clearing bombs. Naturally, these are best saved for emergencies, or not used at all. Leftover bombs are worth a significant amount of bonus points. Furthermore, constant razor-close contact with instant death is just that much more satisfying. To add to this, bombs have a habit of shaking the player's mental fortitude. If a bomb is used, it's probably because they're in a state of panic. Three more are likely to be spent within the next few seconds.

In order to get through the game using as few resources as possible, it's important to memorise the capabilities of each foe. Every type of enemy ship has its own patterns and behaves in a unique manner. With this knowledge, players are adequately prepared for the future. A certain adversity might appear by itself in one instance, but before long, it'll work in tandem with others. Dealing with these combinations in an efficient manner will become second nature, even if they are capable of spewing a fairly high number of bullets.

The bulk of the scoring strategy is in collecting gold stars and not making any mistakes. A death not only brings the player that much closer to a game over screen, but also completely erases their combo bonus. Combos are decided entirely by the destruction of adversity, so anything left standing can end up being pretty costly as well. Getting a high score sounds easy enough, but it still requires a bit of nuance. Knowing when and where to use both types of shots can make a difference. Good positioning is also extremely important, because it decreases the possibility of getting trapped by a net of bullets.

Screenshot for Ghost Blade HD on PlayStation 4

Now, for those out there who want to really profit from this war against a maniacal AI, they're going to have to pursue serious risks. Battleships are deadly, but if a fighter is able to get close and blast them out of the sky, they'll be heavily rewarded with gold stars. Pursuing this aspect of the scoring system can make or break runs, but all the same it's worth a shot, because they can potentially add billions to a high score.

As with any shmup worth its salt, this game has thoroughly solid controls and mechanics. Since the crafts are capable of shifting between two different speeds instantaneously, the transition must be smooth. That's definitely the case here. Moving from one side of the screen to the other or threading the needle through a dense bullet pattern is as seamless as turning one's palm. The clearly marked hit box is sufficient for handling whatever barrage Shira's armada can dish out. Even with all of the chaos on-screen, the visuals are always clear and distinct.

Screenshot for Ghost Blade HD on PlayStation 4

For anyone who has cut their teeth on arcade titles such as Dodonpachi and its ilk, Ghost Blade HD is going to feel almost pedestrian by comparison. Though the bullet patterns are ornate and imposing, most bosses are only capable of one or two. A few more per battle would have presented seasoned pilots a convincing argument to stay on their toes. Even on the hard setting, which adds to the "suicide bullet" count, the difficulty isn't terribly high, so veterans shouldn't have too much trouble clearing the game without using continues. Thankfully, netting a high score is another story and should keep gamers of all skill levels invested for quite a while.

This edition compares favourably to the Sega Dreamcast predecessor. Enemies are a bit more durable and boast heavier firepower. Issues such as slowdown have been addressed as well. Also included is a score attack mode. Comprised of one long caravan-style stage, pilots will have to deal with a large swath of Shira's battalion. In this mode, they have unlimited lives and the chance to attain a very high score. It's a welcome addition, especially due its addictive pick-up-and-play nature. There's also a dedicated training mode for practicing specific stages or bosses. Both the main and score attack modes support online leaderboards, which is all the more reason to keep playing.

The other complaints are merely nit-picks. Despite the presence of multiple characters and a storyline, there aren't any endings. It couldn't have hurt to include a couple screens after defeating the last boss, if just to give a little closure to the fate of Mars and the pilots. Speaking of, the bosses don't blow up as nicely as they could. Sometimes a tough fight needs to be capped off by a large multi-part explosion. It gives the player a few seconds to admire the results of their effort and skill.

Screenshot for Ghost Blade HD on PlayStation 4

Cubed3 Rating

7/10
Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10

Ghost Blade HD isn't going to astound its players with exhausting layers of depth, or challenge them in ways never thought possible. Still, it features a strong grasp of the basic necessities that make for a fun and exciting game. The constant loop of dodging bullets, destroying enemies, and collecting their precious stars is solidly executed. The level of difficulty is balanced well, and learning the intricacies of the scoring system will make each playthrough all the more enjoyable. All in all, this STG is a fine way to spend a weekend or three.

Developer

Hucast Games

Publisher

Hucast Games

Genre

Shooter

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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