Sky Force Anniversary (Nintendo Switch) Review

By Renan Fontes 24.12.2018

Review for Sky Force Anniversary on Nintendo Switch

What better time to celebrate a classic than an anniversary? Originally released in honour of its ten-year birthday, Sky Force Anniversary hits the Nintendo Switch just in time to celebrate fourteen years of shoot 'em up action. Sky Force was as traditional as they come, adhering to the standardized gameplay loop, and offering a consistent scale of difficulty. Its only real unique features are a level up system where each part of the plane can be upgraded and challenges for each stage in order to incentivize deeper replay value. Although time has perhaps made it less impressive than it was once, its Anniversary re-release shows that a good game is good forever.

There is a certain lack of "novelty" to Sky Force's overall design. On a purely surface level, the term "generic" might come to mind. Analysis must never be done on a surface level, however, and what may appear clichéd or trite, in actuality might be a refinement of a long established concept for a modern age. Sky Force Anniversary is just that: a tried and true formula repurposed for the 2010s. As for the core gameplay loop, it's as simple as it can possibly be for the shoot 'em up genre. That said, simplicity is not synonymous with sub-par. In fact, the sheer simplicity of gameplay is one of this title's strengths.

Screenshot for Sky Force Anniversary on Nintendo Switch

There is an ease to jumping right into play; flying and shooting are both incredibly smooth, prioritizing focus and hand-eye coordination above all else; and, at its most intricate, the level design bombards the screen with attacks. Even then, the colourful visual design ensures that players can always tell what will damage them. Initially, the controllable plane shoots uncharacteristically slow for the genre. Gameplay is still serviceable and quite enjoyable at the slower pace, but movement is clearly intentionally stifled at the start. Basically this is to make room for the upgrade system, as, throughout each stage, destroyed enemies drop stars, which can then be redeemed for upgrades.

Upgrading is not so simply as saving up stars to level up in one go, though. Rather, each component of the plane must be upgraded individually. Health and weapons must be levelled independently of one another, therefore, the plane will begin with only a single notch of health and a main cannon, but through upgrading, it is possible not only to enhance the stats of both, but to actually purchase wing cannons, a magnet, missiles, a laser, an energy shield, and mega bombs - each new upgrade more than valuable in their own right.

Screenshot for Sky Force Anniversary on Nintendo Switch

As to be expected from the genre, the campaign is split into stages which can be revisited once unlocked at the player's leisure. Unless one is able to master the gameplay immediately, revisiting will actually play a massive role considering that later stages are locked behind various challenges. Along with simply being clearable through a linear fashion, each stage features a set of trial which, when completed, award medals. Starting with Stage 4, medals are required to progress, necessitating backtracking. In theory, this is not all too problematic - after all, the shoot 'em up genre is one which prides itself on replay value driven by core design. Unfortunately, said replay value does not translate when the design encourages immediate replay of a singular stage ad nauseam.

Screenshot for Sky Force Anniversary on Nintendo Switch

Early on, there's quite a bit of room when it comes to obtaining medals, but in the last quarter medal farming becomes more of a needless grind, halting late game progression for seemingly no reason. On their own, medals would have made for a nice optional challenge. As a mandated part of the game, they ultimately detract from the experience. Worst yet, medal farming showcases one of the Sky Force's worst problems: variety. While the gameplay loop is strong in its own right, the level design too often falls into the same pattern of easing players into a stage and then slowly overwhelming them with more enemies.

Of course, this is what the shoot 'em up genre does amount to in its most base form, but the general design of each stage does little to hide the monotony, especially when playing the same stage multiple times in a row is a very real possible thanks to medals. This is not to say Sky Force is bad, however. Rather, it's a quite enjoyable shooter, with a great upgrade system and gameplay loop. Suffering through the medal farming might not seem worth it, but the core gameplay is strong enough where backtracking is nowhere near as bad as it could be. If nothing else, local cooperative play makes revisiting past stages for medals all the more bearable.

Screenshot for Sky Force Anniversary on Nintendo Switch

Cubed3 Rating

Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10

Sky Force Anniversary is an endearing, if a bit repetitive, take on shoot 'em ups. While each stage is visually impressive, the general level design leaves much to be desired in terms of variety and creativity. That said, the core gameplay loop, while simple, is bolstered by a welcome progression system where each component of the plane can be levelled up. The campaign itself will necessitate some degree of grinding depending on player skill, yet Sky Force Anniversary captures the classic shooter experience well enough to warrant at least one fly-through.


Infinite Dreams


Infinite Dreams





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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