Tag Archives: Hucast

Ghost Blade Review

Ghost Blade ReviewGhost Blade (Available exclusively on the SEGA Dreamcast)
ESRB Rating: N/A
Number of Players: 1 to 2
Genre: Shoot ‘em Up
Publisher: Hucast Games
Developer: Hucast Games
Release Date: September 27th, 2015

Parent Talk: The ESRB doesn’t rate independent releases, but I can tell you right now this would get an E for everyone rating as it’s a 2D sprite-based shoot ‘em up, that doesn’t feature any harmful violence except the explosion of thousands of tiny ships.

Plays Like: Ghost Blade is a vertical shooter that pits you against a massive onslaught of enemy ships. Dodge all the bullets you can, and destroy everything that moves. Simple as that. Ghost Blade shares a lot in common with other shooters such as DoDonPachi and Mushihimesama, although is nowhere near as difficult. As a matter of fact, this game is directly aimed to introducing new players to the genre.

Review Basis: Completed the game on Novice and Normal modes.

In 2001 SEGA officially discontinued the Dreamcast in North America, it’s now 2015 and the platform continues to see new releases thanks to the efforts of independent game developers all over the world. Ghost Blade is another in a long line of indie releases that shows the dedication and love the community has for the Dreamcast. Many of the Dreamcast games that get released today are shoot ‘em ups that aim at pleasing fans of the early 90’s, and this release is no different. That being said, it’s not without its controversy too.

Ghost Blade was announced back in April 2013, with pre-orders opening for a limited to 300 (eventually raised to 500) copies of a Collector’s Edition. After that, the game saw one delay after another, and eventually its Caravan mode was completely scrapped before the game was eventually released in September 2015. Sadly those that did pre-order the Collector’s Edition still haven’t had their version of the game released, as only the regular and limited editions (contains the game’s musical soundtrack) are currently in stock. What we’re left with is a five-stage two-player shmup that was delayed by over two years. So as I said, lots of controversy. Controversy aside, let’s see how the game holds up.

Ghost Blade 1The Great:

If you enjoy shooters, you’re going to really enjoy this one. You begin by selecting one of three female pilots, each who controls a different ship. Your mission is to destroy a rogue AI that is out wreaking havoc on everything. Each ship has a different firing system in-place, as well as movement speed. There’s the classic spread shot, a wide shot with a missile-combo, and finally the all-powerful straight laser shot. You also have access to a screen-clearing bomb. The weapon system is rather unique. If you press the A button to shoot, you end up earning stage stars which boost your score, however if you use a focus attack, the X button, all of your firepower is streamed into a forward attack, which also slows your ship down, and that nets you tech orbs. These orbs fill a meter that, once full, grants you another stage-clearing bomb. So it’s nice how you juggle between the two modes of fire, which becomes even more important once you factor in the point system, which I’ll tackle in just a few.

Ghost Blade 2The Good:

  • Novice mode is a complete cake-walk, especially if you use the focus fire and continuously get new bombs. As an added bonus in this mode, if you happen to be touched by an enemy, you automatically deploy a screen-clearing bomb instead of blowing up. If you run out of bombs, that’s when you lose a life. I really thought this was a great way of introducing new players to the genre. Even those who have never played a shooter before should have little trouble clearing the game on Novice mode.
  • Normal mode doesn’t automatically release a bomb, but I still found it fairly simple to navigate the game within a few hours of practice. This isn’t a hard shmup, and that’s ok, because it plays very well. If you’re here for difficulty, this won’t be the shooter for you.

  • The point system is based a combo chain system. The more enemy kills you string together, the higher your combo. If you die, it reverts back to zero, so you really don’t want to do that. This isn’t a game where your main goal is to finish it, as honestly you can do that in under half-an-hour. Instead this is a game that requires you to play it over and over again to chase that ever illusive high score.

Ghost Blade 4+ I hope you enjoy kick-ass music, because you’re going to get it. Rafael Dyll who composed the music for other recently released Dreamcast games such as Last Hope, Gunlord, amongst others, is back to give this game a rip-roaring soundtrack that will stay with you long after you finish the game. I would highly recommend you check out the Limited Edition, because it comes with the game’s soundtrack on a separate disc. There were only 1,000 of these printed, so be sure to act fast before they’re all gone.

  • Graphically the game shines in VGA-mode, although there is a lot of slowdown when too much is going on. There are also times where you really have to pay attention to differentiate between enemy bullets and orbs and stars flying towards your ship. It isn’t too bad after a short period of time, but all of these sprites make the Dreamcast come to a grinding halt, especially if you shoot out a bomb while all of this is happening on-screen. Backgrounds are varied, and detailed, and overall the game looks quite sharp, and runs well for the most part. I should also mention Ghost Blade supports a TATE mode, where you can play on a vertical monitor for the optimal experience.
  • As you’d expect the game supports the VMU, where little icons are displayed, as well as the arcade stick. This is extremely important for those of us that like to relive the glory days of the arcades in our homes.

  • The packaging is classic retro goodness. If you’ve purchased any other games from Hucast you know what to expect. You get a DVD case, which fits nicely with Hucast’s other offerings like DUX and Redux: Dark Matters. You also get a full color instruction manual, and in the case of the Limited Edition, you get a fantastic pressed audio CD featuring the game’s soundtrack. Speaking of pressed discs, the game disc itself is also professionally pressed.

  • Ghost Blade 3The So-So:

    +/- A training mode, two-player co-op mode, and the five-stage campaign is all she wrote for Ghost Blade. While it’s fun chasing high scores, I can see people wanting a little more after a few days with the game. Unless people want to partake in a high score tournament, I just don’t see this being in one’s Dreamcast for months to come.

    Ghost Blade 5The Lowdown:

    Ghost Blade is a brand new Dreamcast game released in 2015, you have automatically get brownie points just for that. Sure there was some controversy surrounding the release of the game, and yes some might say the game can be a little light on content, but it remains a truly enjoyable shooter to play, and that’s key here. New fans to the genre would do well in checking this one out as it makes for a great introduction. I can’t wait to see what Hucast has in-store for Redux 2.

    Final Score: 8/10

    Redux: Dark Matters Review

    ReduxRedux: Dark Matters (Available exclusively on SEGA Dreamcast)
    ESRB Rating: N/A
    Number of Players: 1
    Genre: Shoot ‘em Up
    Publisher: Hucast
    Developer: KTX Software & René Hellwig
    Release Date: January 27th, 2014

    Parent Talk: Given Redux is an indie release, it was not submitted to the ESRB, and therefore has no official rating.  It’s a spaceship shooter, which is bright and colorful, features no blood or other violence except for countless explosions.  Technically that’s violence, but seriously these are the types of games I grew up with, and children shouldn’t find anything here damaging.  They might find it incredibly hard though, because it is.

    Plays Like: Given this is a remake of DUX it plays pretty much the same.  There’s a charge shot, a standard shot, the ability to absorb enemy bullets, and depending on the difficulty you select, an R-Type-like power pod.  Dodge billions of enemy bullets, and destroy everything in your path.  ‘Simple’ as that.

    Review Basis: Hucast was nice enough to send me a review copy, and I managed to get to the fifth stage, and will return to try and finish the game, but I’ve seen more than enough to review the game.

    Redux: Dark Matters is a Kickstarter success story.  It managed to score a whopping $53,121 dollars, and is a complete remake of DUX, which I happened to have reviewed last year.  While the core gameplay mechanics remain largely the same, the graphics have been completely overhauled, an entirely new stage has been added, and a second, and much more difficult ship has been added.

    Redux1The Great:

    The soundtrack is utterly fantastic.  Being composed by Andre Neuman, with creative input from Turrican and R-Type composer Chris Huelsbeck, you really have to hear the full soundtrack in all its glory to truly appreciate how amazing it is.  I highly, highly recommend you pick up the soundtrack along with the game because this is one OST you’re going to want to have on your mobile device for sure.

    Redux2The Good:

    + Same excellent gameplay as DUX 1.5, yet new at the same time.  You’ve got access to a charge shot, the typical standard shot, directional missiles, the ability to soak enemy bullets, and the power pod.  Sounds familiar right?  It should as this is all from DUX.  The new feature here is that the soak ability no longer just sucks in enemy shots.  Now a targeting reticule appears on all enemy ships within a certain distance of your ship.  Pressing the R-button will then repel the bullets back to the enemies.  It makes everything old feel new again.

    + There’s also an entirely new ship to play as, which ditches the power pod, making the game far tougher as a result.  Instead of the power pod you’re given a spread-like blaster which makes clearing the stages a fraction easier, but dodging incoming bullets virtually impossible.  It makes the game feel distinctly different than playing on Normal with the standard ship.

    + Dark Matters is extremely tough, but never feels cheap.  The slow-paced nature of the game always makes you feel like you can get out of any situation, so when you die, you know you did something wrong.  This challenge is what keeps you coming back for more.

    Redux3The So-So:

    +/- I loved the revamped graphics, new backgrounds, and higher level of detail, but there’s a bizarre blur effect that makes everything appear much more pixelated than DUX 1.5.  It’s not too distracting once you get into the game, but it’s bizarre that the sharpness and contrast appear to have been affected by the upgraded graphics.

    +/- As with DUX it can be a little hard to make out power-ups and enemy bullets once the action really gets intense.  Keep in mind you’re dodging not only enemy bullets, but spaceships, and often the very stage itself.  Sometimes it becomes a bit too overwhelming and can make seeing exactly where you have to go more of a challenge than it should be.

    The Bad:

    – I was a little disappointed that they couldn’t add some sort of splash screen intro in order to explain the story.  Any silly arcade-like storyline would have sufficed.

    Redux4The Lowdown:

    Redux: Dark Matters is an extremely enjoyable shmup.  It has a couple of shortcomings, especially with the new blur effect on the graphics, but the core gameplay is very fun.  It’s challenging without being cheap, the two difficulty settings/ships are unique enough to make the game feel almost like two distinct games, and it’s fun enough to keep you coming back for more.  If you have the chance, I certainly recommend you check out Redux. 

    Final Score: 8.3/10