I didn’t play the original Sky Force. I did however jump feet first into the Anniversary Edition which arrived on Xbox One back in 2016.
For the most part I absolutely adored what had been created and aside from the massive grind which was required in order to really see Sky Force at its best, Anniversary is still to this day one of my all-time favourite indie titles available on Xbox One.
Now though the teams at Infinite Dreams and Crunching Koalas are back and this time they are bringing a full-on revamped and re-imagined version of Sky Force; one which utilises the power of the latest consoles beneath it. But does Reloaded have the same draw and pull of the previous Sky Force games? Yes it does, and in fact, without a shadow of doubt, it has everything you could want in a shmup, whilst still bringing a whole lot more to the table at the same time.
A vertically scrolling arcade shooter that will see you trying to battle your way through 15 levels of pure unadulterated shoot em up action, Reloaded will most definitely test your reflexes and skills to the limit. Weaving in and out of a hail of bullets will very quickly become par for the course, and the latest Sky Force allows you to do this with ease. It’s as smooth as you can get, totally fluid and really does let any arcade shooting fan see the very best of the genre. Hell, even if you don’t usually go for these type of games, just five minutes with Reloaded will see you hooked.
A variety of difficulty levels ranging from Normal to Nightmare ensures the gameplay never stops, especially when you take into account the fact that each stage comes with four challenges for each rise in test. Whilst getting to the end of each stage is your primary goal – defeating numerous enemies and big bad bosses along the way – without focusing on these challenges, ensuring you kill a set number of enemies, rescue other pilots in distress, collect stars or manage to make your way through the bullet storm untouched, you won’t find yourself getting very far with Reloaded.
See, as with Anniversary, the grind is ever present, but just like that previous game it’s a grind that should be fully embraced, as it never fails to bring pleasure. This sees your time with Reloaded quite easily rolling over from hours to days to weeks. And should I be writing this a few months down the line, or years into the future, it would no doubt still be me telling a story of how I’m still heading back in for more – whether I’m doing that alone or with a local co-op friend beside me.
All this shooting action is done for a few reasons. Obviously progressing the fun story is at the forefront of things, but the draw of purchasing and upgrading weaponry is nearly as tempting. Initially equipped with just a simple health bar and forward firing main cannon, it won’t be long before you find yourself heading to the Hanger to purchase and upgrade wing cannons, homing missiles, lasers, energy shields and mega bombs so your next run through will see further progress made. As the enemy count levels up, and the variety of the attacks coming your way begins to come thicker and faster, you’ll need to utilise all the upgrades you can. Reloaded simply takes the same system as we saw with Anniversary but multiplies it tenfold. Each addition comes at a cost obviously, and the more stars you pick up in each of your attempts at taking down the enemy, the more you’ll be able to upgrade. Thankfully though that star collection becomes easier the more you pump virtual cash into the magnetism of your ship too, seeing pointy shiny things flying your way after every kill.
Away from the constant purchasing of new weaponry and there are plenty more things to keep you interested in Sky Force. The worldwide leaderboards and promise of a weekly weekend tournament are both great for showing your mates the way forward, whilst the addition of time limited and permanent bonus cards will see the game change up whenever you see fit. There are also Objectives to achieve, with targets ranging between killing a set amount of enemies, saving survivors, shooting boxes or using power ups. Each of these Objectives will then in turn deliver prestige points which unlock Technicians. Once more, each of these little guys will change the game again, with Gringo Star filling random crates with shiny stars, Kate Brush giving you an extra chance of staying ‘untouched’ and Burton Panic bringing his own power-ups to the party. There are eight Technicians in all for you to unlock, but simply put, if you’ve still not got access to all of them a good couple of months down the line, I wouldn’t be at all surprised. Like I’ve mentioned, the great grind with Sky Force is there.
To really push things on to another level and Infinite Dreams have this time included more than one ship for you to enjoy. Again, you’ll need to play through things and collect parts in order to create other ships, letting you then decide on which you see fit to use for certain scenarios and stages. But the promise of different ship types will again satisfy the reason for constantly having to go back over the same levels time and time again.
Holding all of these gameplay elements together is a standard that is way in excess of what should be expected from both its independent makers, and the super low price it comes with. The visuals are on point at all times, even as the biggest explosions are kicking off and the most bullets you can imagine fill the screen. The story is delightfully told with some great voice acting, and the sound effects never miss a beat. There isn’t an ounce of lag, I haven’t spotted a single glitch and even though I’ve obviously had to run through the same levels over and over again as I attempt to level up my ships to massive beasts of war, I’ve never been left with even an iota of dread.
If you haven’t yet guessed, I absolutely love Sky Force Reloaded. It has to be said I was pretty much a fan from the get-go, but now, after sinking hours and hours into the game, I’ve still got very little to complain about. I completely understand that it won’t be for all, and the amount of hours you’ll need to throw in just in order to get access to new ships is massive, but should you be prepared to invest time, or can entice a local co-op friend in to help you hit some of the harder objectives and take down some of the bigger bosses, then it very nearly delivers everything you could ever want in a scrolling shoot em up. It would have been great to see a proper online co-op option given, especially as the world we game in is becoming a constantly smaller space, and collecting Gamerscore and achievements will only really be picked up by the big game players, but I’m not going to hold either of those things against Infinite Dreams on this occasion.
The grind is real. The grind is great. Sky Force Reloaded is quite possibly the best arcade shmup money can buy.