Sora ReviewAmy Hazel
Have you ever started playing a simplistic enough looking 2D game and then quickly wondered how you already lost your character amidst a psycho-storm of LED light particles, lasers and mass explosions of ammunition? If so, then you have experienced whether it be on purpose or accidentally a genre of gaming known as Bullet Hell Shooters. Although it looks like utter insanity to most people, it is a genre of games geared towards those whose can find the perfect calm in a raging storm (though decent hand-eye coordination and a stubborn perseverance dont hurt either).
Created by Orange_Juice and Fruitbat Factory, Sora is but one of these such shooters; immersing players into a world of intense 2D aerial combat that is as rewarding as it is punishing. Primarily set in the darkened skies above, you play as a small girl named Sora whose incredible fighting power has landed her in the middle of a violent war that she truly wants nothing to do with.
While the story may not make a whole lot of sense, it is but a simple set up for the true spotlighted aspect: the gameplay. Being part of the Bullet Hell Shooter family, there are certain elements that must be in play and Sora displays them exceptionally. It is a fast paced shooter where the player will control Sora through an onslaught of bullets, lasers and debris to take out all enemies, whether they are enemy ships, weaponry or other combat enhanced girls (these girls are primarily the bosses of each level). Oftentimes, the dialog of these girls gives an interesting side note to the overall war-torn story.
Although taking out the things causing so many bullets to fly in your general direction is a recommended objective, oftentimes dodging takes the forefront of offensive action. A Dash ability allows Sora to move quickly about the screen dodging safely through most artillery fire; however, this comes at a price as the longer the dash is used the higher Soras heat gauge increases. As you may have surmised, a higher heat gauge means that Sora will take more damage if struck, but you will surely meet an earlier grave if the dash ability is not used at all. It is a careful balance that players must learn usually through many, many deaths in order to truly progress in this game.
Offensive wise, Sora provides the player with an arsenal of weapons in which to go into combat with: a main, sub and special weapon. Although the player will only have access to one of each type of weapon at the very start of the game, additional weapons can be unlocked via two different methods. For those with a knack for this style of intense gameplay, weapons will be rewarded for attaining a certain rank upon completion of levels. For those still trying to get their footing for the fast paced combat system, fear not, weapons are also granted every five playthroughs of a level regardless if you live or die. It is an excellent system that rewards players for not giving up. Speaking of the weapons themselves, having a certain weapon set up for specific levels can make all the difference. One variance that Sora displays in regards to many other Bullet Hell Shooters is the inability to run-and-gun so to speak. When Sora is attacking or firing her weapon (she has both ranged and close combat attacks) she is completely vulnerable. She cannot move or dash but is rooted in place for the duration of the attack. Of course there is a skill in itself of breaking out of firing using dash or switching weapons and itll take some practice to truly get the feel of it. It is in no way a bad feature but rather adds an additional level of difficulty when players may be more accustomed to dodging and firing all at once.
Aesthetically, Sora is a grim yet beautiful game. The anime style artwork of Sora and the other girls in comparison to the almost 3D rendered ships and enemies further separates the boundaries and division of sides in this war regardless of the circumstance. In the background of dodging bullets en masse, riveting techno music will accompany the player through each level further driving the frenetic action into overdrive. Lets just say the music is good enough that the soundtrack can be purchased in addition to the game. It is an odd combination of bleak backgrounds paired with vibrant urgency that somehow just works out perfectly.
Overall, Sora is a game that seems simple enough from the outside, but has a surprising depth hidden within. With varying difficulty levels, weapon unlocks and some uniquely difficult achievements to complete, there is enough challenge and fun to be had by all. Players will probably realize fairly quickly that easy mode really isnt all that easy, with death and level restarts becoming a normal occurrence but dont let the difficulty scare you away from trying this unique and wonderful title. Dying repeatedly only makes winning all the more sweet, after all!
Disclosure: We are provided copies of games from the game companies for some games that we review.
Just a happy-go-lucky girl working in the gaming industry and spending nearly all her spare time writing, recording music, working on cosplay, watching anime and horror movies, and trying not to obsess over getting that 100% completion rating on every game she touches.
About the Author: Amy Hazel
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