Graze Counter (PC) Review

By Gabriel Jones 23.07.2017 1

Review for Graze Counter on PC

EDEN, the virtual network of the 23rd century, offers users a world without violence or hate. For 2.4 million people, this was supposed to be paradise, but now it's become a prison. For reasons unknown, the administrator has denied access, trapping everyone inside. To those that wish to leave, an ultimatum was made. Somebody has to step forward and fight the network. If they can survive the five stages of bullet hell, then humanity will be freed. Failure will result in reality becoming nothing more than a distant memory.

When it comes to STGs, we try our best to stay as far away from bullets as possible. After all, it only takes one for all of our hopes and dreams to come crashing down. However, you might be familiar with the shmup term "grazing." Basically, it means staying dangerously close to a bullet, in order to obtain some sort of perk. Graze Counter revolves around this concept, making for a 2D shooter where players are all but required to dance on the razor's edge.

Figuring out how to play this game simply requires a breakdown of its title. Over the course of each stage, enemy ships will approach, firing off wave after wave of bullets. Through grazing, the player builds up energy in their fighter. Once the meter reaches a certain point, they can perform a counter beam. Not only does this devastating special attack destroy enemies and their projectiles, it also converts practically everything it annihilates into gold stars. As is usually the case in shmups, all that glitters is, in fact, gold.

Screenshot for Graze Counter on PC

Keep in mind that gold stars are just the first step in the process of obtaining a high score. Accumulating a mass of shining goodness fills a second meter. After hitting the appropriate button, the player-ship enters break mode. In this temporary state of maximum overdrive, all of its shots that connect will result in red stars. These delectable crimson bits are worth 500 points each. On average, pilots will obtain thousands over the course of a single stage.

Speaking of thousands, it's important to graze as often as possible. Every moment spent just pixels away from obliteration will cause a multiplier gauge to rise. Over time, every enemy that gets destroyed will be worth up to one thousand times its normal value. Constant diligence is required to keep this gauge topped off, because it will deplete whenever the pilot isn't grazing. In seconds, the overly cautious could potentially lose out on millions of points.

Screenshot for Graze Counter on PC

There are also a handful of scoring techniques in each stage. For example: whenever break mode is activated, all on-screen bullets are converted into red stars. What makes this technique especially profitable is when it's used. Some battleships are capable of firing massive lasers. Entering break mode causes their lasers to become overflowing fountains of stars. Mastering the scoring system requires a balanced play style. While it's pretty easy to "milk" bosses for a plethora of stars, the bonus for defeating them quickly is also quite substantial.

This STG is designed with accessibility first, but still maintains a fairly high skill ceiling. Extra lives are awarded at a frequent rate, but the player receives bonus points depending on how many of them they can actually hold onto. The harder difficulty settings offer more counter beam opportunities, provided that the additional firepower can be handled. The action tends to slow down when the bullet count gets really high, which makes those tight dodges quite a bit easier. Anyone willing to challenge themselves further can disable this feature. Altogether, this makes for a game that's approachable at any skill level.

Screenshot for Graze Counter on PC

One of the most appealing aspects of Graze Counter is that it captures the perfect "feel." Everything from the movement to the mechanics instantly clicks into place. The simple act of playing the game is very natural and gratifying. This is especially apparent in the pacifist mode. The only weapon available to the pilot is the counter beam, so they have to actively seek out every grazing opportunity. When making the most out of a nightmarish situation is both simple and exhilarating, one can really appreciate just how well all of the elements flow together.

This shmup also features multiple playable ships. Two are available from the outset, with more being unlocked every time the game is cleared. Some have unique traits, such as the Kirisame Blade. This fighter uses a powerful sword to slice through the toughest foes in seconds. However, half of the unlockable ships are just a little too overpowered. Some of them even lack a proper break mode, essentially removing a layer of depth from the game. Still, they're fun to play around with.

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If there's one truly disappointing aspect of the game, it's that the final stage comes up a bit short. In this genre, a great finale can make all the difference. Unfortunately, this one is just a bit too uneven. There are a few cut-scenes that interrupt the action, so the pacing never really gets established. It would have been preferable to see a longer stage, one that really puts all of the player's skills to the ultimate test. On the bright side, the final bosses are quite good.

Rounding out the package are the mission and omake modes. Most of the missions aren't terribly difficult, but they give players a better understanding of how everything works. What they learn can then be utilised in the main game to obtain higher scores. To put it simply, the omake mode is a boss rush. The only goal is to smash all of the big baddies in as short a time as possible. Finding the right methods for quickly eliminating these foes is pretty rewarding.

Screenshot for Graze Counter on PC

Cubed3 Rating

7/10
Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10

All in all, Graze Counter is a STG that's well worth checking out. The various scoring systems gel quite nicely, offering plenty of replay value. Admittedly, when it comes to grazing, I'm not a big fan. However, this is one of those rare shmups that gets the concept right. It incentivises risky play by giving the player agency. With every playthrough, the pilot will find themselves drifting closer to bullets, all in the pursuit of higher scores. This game is open-ended enough that anyone can devise their own routes. They won't be forced to navigate a constant ocean of projectiles, which gets pretty mind-numbing after a while.

Developer

Bikkuri Software

Publisher

Henteko Doujin

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   

Comments

Man...what is up with those graphics?  Looks like from mid 90s at best

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