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Iro Hero (Nintendo Switch) Review

By Gabriel Jones 07.06.2018

Review for Iro Hero on Nintendo Switch

The year is 2306. One century ago, mankind learned the secrets to unlocking its full potential. It seems that inner energy can be channelled into electricity. The possibilities of such a miraculous discovery were once thought to be infinite, but now everyone has realised that it serves only one purpose: humans are nothing more than batteries. They exist solely to power everything from mega-corporations to alien warships. One man seeks to break this exploitative cycle, even if it means taking on an armada. The hero's name is Iro, and the game is Iro Hero.

The appeal of a shmup is three-fold: weaving in-between waves of bullets, destroying an overabundance of enemy forces, and problem-solving. Much like a clever puzzle, uncovering the secrets of an STG and finding a solution for every possible scenario is actually a lot of fun. This can involve finding the hidden "safe spot" during a boss' most dangerous attack, or figuring out a ridiculously complex scoring system. It's no surprise that numerous games with more pronounced puzzle elements have released.

Screenshot for Iro Hero on Nintendo Switch

Inspired by genre favourites such as Ikaruga, Iro Hero gauges the player's success on whether or not they can master polarity switching. By pressing the right trigger, Iro's ship will switch between red and blue. This allows him to either destroy enemies of the opposite colour, or absorb like-coloured energy. Later stages complicate matters by introducing purple enemies, which are invulnerable to both red and blue attacks. The only counter against these foes is yellow energy, which tends to be conveniently placed for such an occasion. All nine stages are made up of a series of life or death situations. It's up to the player to solve these "puzzles" while dealing with the near-constant presence of enemy ships and bullets.

The scoring system revolves almost entirely around combos. By destroying at least four enemies in quick succession, an orb appears on-screen. The orb grows in value as long as the combo is held, so as soon as it ends, the orb will start to drift towards the bottom of the screen. It's entirely on the player to catch the orb before it disappears, because that's what awards the bulk of the points. Most of the time, Iro's cannons only fire straight ahead, so good movement and knowing what to expect are required in order to achieve a high score.

Screenshot for Iro Hero on Nintendo Switch

Although this game has an intriguing concept and solid fundamentals, there's a good chance that players won't stick around to see everything it has to offer. In its efforts to present a level of difficulty that fans of such a niche genre would appreciate, Iro Hero went too far. First off, there aren't any continues in arcade mode. While the option to "try again" is offered after the last life is lost, all that happens is that the player is kicked back to the very beginning. In a vacuum, this wouldn't be a deal-breaker, but a series of frustrating design-decisions ensure that even the most patient and determined will lose interest.

In most shmups, extra lives are awarded by reaching score milestones, or discovered in hard-to-reach locations. This title goes a different route by allowing players to replenish lost lives for a substantial amount of points. It seems like a friendly gesture, but if almost all of the points earned in a stage are spent on lost ships, then playing through that stage really didn't serve much of a purpose. Anyone chasing after a high score is better off ignoring this feature entirely.

Screenshot for Iro Hero on Nintendo Switch

For those out there who just want to see the story to its conclusion, being able to purchase lost lives seems like an acceptable compromise. Unfortunately, figuring out how to get through some stages involves trial-and-error. What's most likely to happen is that, even with a full set of lives, it's possible to lose them all in the span of stage, or even on a particularly nasty section of it. Now, in order to figure out what they are supposed to do, the player will have to try again. However, they are also starting over from the beginning, and it can take 10 to 20 minutes before they reach the area that they are having problems with. There is a practice mode for trying individual stages, but a stage only unlocks when it's completed in arcade mode. That's inconvenient, to say the least.

Here's a suggestion: save the arcade mode for a post-game unlockable. Instead of forcing players to complete all nine stages with very few mistakes, make it so that each of them can be individually challenged. If they fail to complete a stage, then allow them the opportunity to retry it. Once every stage is beaten, then it's time to move on to arcade mode. This way, the person holding the controller knows what to expect and can focus on maximising their score. Also, the option to purchase lives would be more sensible, as they would have the necessary knowledge to determine if it's a wise investment. In its current state, this game is simply too punishing.

Screenshot for Iro Hero on Nintendo Switch

Cubed3 Rating

4/10
Rated 4 out of 10

Subpar

In short, if a developer wants to design a methodically-paced game that relies on the player's aptitude for problem-solving, then they should also present an option to easily retry difficult sections. Iro Hero already has its own identity, so there's no need to stray further from the pack by implementing so many strange design-decisions. Having to sit through several minutes of "filler" just for another crack at the real obstacle is not fun or challenging. This shmup is only recommended for those out there willing to put up with a lot of tedium.

Developer

Artax Games

Publisher

Artax Games

Genre

Shooter

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  4/10

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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