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"Genre expanding."

Don't look now, true shoot-em-up believers, but there's life in our favourite played out genre yet! Zangeki Warp, a horizontal shmup with a tremendously innovative warp feature, has presently proven that. Coincidentally, I was recently tasked with reviewing Dimension Drive, a split-screen vertical shooter similarly built around warping about the playing field. That game had promise, but was ultimately an uneven effort. Zangeki Warp's take on the warp gimmick is far superior, despite coming along earlier.

Almost immediately, we're presented with scenarios which would be impossible to overcome in any other shooter, made possible here due to the fact that we can hold down the warp button, and as time freezes, drag a line through walls, through enemies, to safety, before releasing the button to complete the 'jump.' Enemies along your warp trajectory take 'slash' damage, which means that in addition to basic advancement (progressing beyond obstacles), you effectively use the warp function for defense and offense: evade a wave of ships by warping to safety well behind them whereupon you can pick them off or let them be, or draw your warp line back through them and end up behind their smoking hulls.

Zangeki Warp is one of those shooters where you power up over the long haul, RPG-style. After defeating an end-of-level boss, you're gifted with three upgrade points that you can plug in as you see fit between levels. You can choose to power up your gun, your slash, and the duration of your warp meter. Besides these basic attributes, there are a few other, more clever abilities available to your ship: when warping, you leave a decoy behind, and you can improve its function so that it lingers longer, drawing fire. (Of course, if you're an active, back-and-forth warper, longer decoy duration might unwittingly draw fire back to you.) There's also a less clever, but similarly notable bomb-like weapon that detonates as you complete your jump, so that all enemies in the vicinity take damage. The only drawback to what is a pretty interesting attributes tree, is that your choices as to where you allot upgrade points is permanent. You'll have to choose wisely.

Careful planning is of course, par for the course in a deliberate, old school shooter (read: of the R-Type ilk). These 'thinking shooters' invariably kill you in one hit and send you back to checkpoints, your hair in your hands, and Zangeki Warp is no different. Although, to its credit, there are a fair number of checkpoints and should you die thrice and need to continue, you'll still start back at one, and not at the beginning of the level. These design choices really help mitigate the game's extreme difficulty. Because Zangeki Warp is hard. Thankfully, you can even save your progress, although upon loading a saved game, you do lose your checkpoint progress.

I don't know if it was a conscious decision by Astroport's developers to make a game that is exacting and sometimes frustrating look the part: the palette does trend towards darker, sometimes unpleasant colours. It's not the pretty game that Astroport's own Satazius is, for example, but it does boast interesting enemy designs that come off as satisfyingly alien. Regrettably, though tunes are usually a big selling point for shooters, aside from one or two of the later level themes, Zangeki Warp disappoints in this area, serving up tracks that are more ho-hum than hummable.

With some better looking levels and a few more memorable tunes, this might have been one of the very best shooters on Steam. As it is, Astroport has created a remarkably innovative entry in a genre starved for good innovations, and an all around excellent game. Zangeki Warp notches a spot for itself just beneath the top tier efforts like the aforementioned Satazius and the amazing and surprising Super Hydorah. It's not better than those games, its very best contemporaries, but it can stand in their company.


Masters's avatar
Staff review by Marc Golding (July 31, 2018)

There was a bio here once. It's gone now.

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