Vasara Collection (Nintendo Switch) Review

By Gabriel Jones 15.10.2019

Review for Vasara Collection on Nintendo Switch

For many years, Japan was gripped by the chaos of war. With just the slightest provocation, brothers took up arms against one another, and entire cities were lost to unrelenting bloodshed. It is in these dark times that the "Great Unifiers" rose to power. Nobunaga Oda's brilliance in military tactics was matched only by his endless cruelty. After crushing all of his enemies, he sought control over the entire country. Unfortunately for the warlord, his plans were thwarted by a small resistance group led by Akechi Mitsuhide. This betrayal spurred Ieyasu Tokugawa to action. Several years after Nobunaga's death, his most loyal ally attempted to seize the title of Shogun. He too was thwarted by three heroes, including Yukimura Sanada. If this retelling of the Sengoku period seems rather inaccurate, just wait until you discover the weapons that they were using. The Vasara Collection consists of three shmups. Enter a war filled with vicious generals, huge warships, and a never-ending barrage of bullets.


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Vasara
Originally released for arcades back in the year 2000, Vasara takes after popular STGs of the time. At first glance, you might even mistake it for one of Psikyo's offerings, such as Sengoku Ace. Enemies of all shapes and sizes clutter the screen with a plethora of orange-coloured bullets. The general idea is that large spreads are thrown about to perplex and throw you off. The most dangerous shots are fast and to the point, making them difficult to avoid by reaction alone. Bosses wait at the end of each stage, and tend to transform after taking enough damage. In accordance with genre standards, a single hit means death for our heroes. Screen-clearing bombs are available in limited supply. Only make use of them, when the situation becomes desperate.

Where this game sets itself apart is that it places an emphasis on close-range skirmishes. Alongside cannons and their perpetual supply of bullets, adversaries frequently take to the skies, in the hopes of taking the hero down. Though contact with a flying vehicle isn't fatal, it is possible to get pushed into a bullet. Some high-ranking generals carry swords or spears, which are deadly to the touch. If the player chooses to stay at the bottom of the screen, relying entirely on their guns and dodging skills, then failure is inevitable. An aggressive approach is the only way through the chaos.

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By holding down the fire button, the hero will ready their blade. After a short pause, releasing the button will execute a devastating melee attack. Not only does this do immense damage, it also deflects bullets, and awards bonus points. Once players gain an understanding of this powerful weapon, they're liable to take advantage of it, whenever possible. That's a perfectly fine strategy. After all, it's not as if there are any limitations or penalties for overusing it. There is however a rhythm to it that must be figured out. If the melee-attack is unleashed at the wrong time, then one can find themselves vulnerable to a swarm of bullets. "Timing is everything" as the old saying goes.

It's this mechanic that makes Vasara appealing. There's satisfaction in slaying multiple foes with a series of slashes. The same could be said for blocking a nearly-inescapable wave of gunfire. While riding this thin line of destruction and survival, players will be working towards that optimal scoring route. Cutting enemies will result in gems, which charge a meter located at the top of the screen. Once charged, the "Vasara" attack can be unleashed. It's difficult to utilize this move at the right moment, because it'll always override your next melee attack, but it can result in huge chain bonuses.

Still, there is one aspect that holds this back. The level-design is less than ideal. In most cases, players can freely spam the melee attack without consequence. On one hand, the difficult mid and end-bosses ensure that this strategy isn't particularly viable. On the other hand, there's not enough of a build-up. The stages don't present much of a challenge, so you're not mentally prepared for the tough battles. It's also unfortunate that a number of deaths are the result of cheap traps. There are occasions where enemies will ram the heroes from behind, shoving them into bullets. Any indication that such an attack is inevitable would've been nice. Altogether, this is still a fine STG. With some refinements, a sequel could turn out to be really good.

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Vasara 2
The secret to this sequel's success can be easily summed up with one word: confidence. Confidence in a video game is the developer's commitment to its concept and mechanics. This can sometimes mean pushing away elements that might be more palatable to the general audience, and that's fine. The first thing players are liable to notice upon starting this is that there aren't any bombs. If they need to escape from a bad situation, then they'll have to use a 'Vasara' attack. Now, up to three can be held at a time. Recharging them is simply a matter of gathering the gems that erupt from defeated enemies.

The scoring system has seen some slight revamps. The melee-attack is still essential. In fact, there's a stage-wise chain bonus for every enemy that is stabbed or cut. However, relying exclusively on melee isn't a good idea. It's important to utilize the ship's cannons, to weaken or eliminate those who try to escape. This is especially true for the generals. Most of them are fodder, with the only notable quality being the flag on their vehicle. Eliminating them all will result in hefty bonus points. Bear in mind though that there are four mid-bosses in each stage. It sounds like a lot, but they can all be defeated in seconds. Usually a few melee attacks or a single Vasara is enough.

Positioning and movement is more important than before. While there is profit in melee, staying back will up your chances of survival tenfold. You can get a better sense of the enemy's bullet patterns, the stage layouts, and discover openings in defences. This is especially true for the bosses, who are a bit more balanced, than in the previous entry. For these aerial battles, cannon-fire is the preferred method of attack. Melee should only be used to deflect the huge clusters of bullets that'll come your way.

Altogether, the level-design is a significant improvement. For one thing, those cheap enemies that attack from behind are nowhere to be found. Going from one sturdy mid-boss to four weak mid-bosses actually benefits the pacing. This also helps keep the stages relatively intense, so players aren't immediately blindsided by a tough boss. There's enough diversity in every stage to keep frequent play-throughs fresh. Since there's slightly less of a focus on melee, the strengths and weaknesses of each playable character are a little more pronounced. What else is there to say? Vasara 2 is a great sequel.


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Vasara Timeless
Included in the Vasara Collection is a special "Timeless" mode. While it boasts a number of neat features, such as support for up to four players, this probably isn't something you'll spend a lot of time on. Think of it as an odd yet amusing curiosity. Hang on a second. This isn't exactly a satisfactory conclusion, is it? How does a game become an "odd yet amusing curiosity?" Well, if you'll stick around for a bit longer, then hopefully the following explanation will suffice.

Upon starting this mode, you're immediately greeted by every playable character from the arcade games. Naturally, the Vasara cast gets bullet-clearing bombs, while the heroes of Vasara 2 can perform multiple Vasara attacks. The campaign that follows is an amalgamation, one where bosses from both games make an appearance. The big difference, besides the 3D graphics, is that the play-area has been widened considerably. Though this mode adds a dash command, the weapons and melee attacks still have about the same range as they did in the past. This can make the first couple stages feel empty. There's too much real-estate and not enough action.

Everything changes, once players reach the third stage. Enemies will start to clutter the screen with bullets. Melee attacks function as they did before, with an extra chain bonus for cutting large numbers of foes. Still, it's difficult to get any sort of rhythm going, simply because every baddie is firing at once. There's no real "flow" or sense of order, which hurts the replay-value. Also aggravating is that just like the first game, enemies will attack from behind. Again, physical contact doesn't result in death, but getting pushed into bullets is a frequent occurrence.

Somehow, the difficulty in this mode manages to be more uneven than in the original. If you're playing as a character that uses bombs, then you'll soon discover that they drop incredibly often. Having a full stock of bombs is quite the boon. However, you're just as likely to lose a bunch of lives to cheap enemies, or bullet-patterns that are a little too fast. In the end, the developer succeeded in creating something different, but most players aren't liable to connect with it. Again, this is an interesting curiosity, but not much more.

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The Collection
QUByte Interactive has done a fine job with the original games. Numerous options, such as dipswitches and TATE, are accounted for. Unfortunately, buttons can't be remapped. This isn't a huge deal if you're playing with the joy-cons or similar controls. Fans of arcade sticks or more obscure controllers, like the 8bitdo M30, might end up slightly annoyed by this omission. Still, for all intents and purposes, there aren't any issues with the games themselves.

Although this collection supports online leaderboards, most players probably aren't going to pay them any mind. The fact of the matter is that they're poorly-handled. First off, only the top 10 scores are recorded, everyone in the 11th or below may as well not even exist. Second, scores are recorded, even if the player opts to use continues. Since the final stage resets whenever you continue, this is the perfect opportunity to "farm," until you've achieved a completely ludicrous high-score. Interestingly enough, there aren't any continues in "Timeless," so the leaderboards for that mode are more sensible.

Cubed3 Rating

6/10
Rated 6 out of 10

Good

Baffling leaderboard support, lack of remapping, and wonky "Timeless" mode aside, the Vasara Collection is sure to find a home with any fan of arcade classics. The Vasara series, though short-lived, offers a unique blend of STG action and close-quarters mayhem. They certainly aren't a walk in the park. It'll take weeks of constant practice to clear them without continuing. The scoring systems are compelling, and there's a plenty of enjoyment in slashing everything in sight. Give this collection a shot sometime.

Developer

QUByte Interactive

Publisher

QUByte Interactive

Genre

Shooter

Players

4

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  6/10

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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