Sky Force Anniversary review (PSN)

Sky Force Anniversary is an ode to the classic shooters of the eighties and nineties – how well does it work on modern platforms?

Having ‘anniversary’ in the title generally gives gamers the idea that they’re dealing with a timeless classic, but Sky Force is a relatively unknown title to a lot of console gamers – or even arcade gamers, where the shoot ’em up genre was very big. The reason for that is that Sky Force was originally a title for mobile devices, even though it saw releases for other platforms as well. Sky Force Anniversary isn’t a port of that version, but rather a remake with different platforms in mind. In this case, it’s a cross-buy title for PS4, PS3 and Playstation Vita.

It seems that a lot of shooters these days – at least of the vertical scrolling kind – are of the bullet hell variety. On a personal level, this is a shame, because I grew up playing classics like 1942 and later enjoyed games like Raiden as well. Sky Force is a lot like those games, but uses modern technology for a boost in the audiovisual department. There’s a story, but the only relevant part is that you start out with a bare bones ship and have to upgrade while fighting your way through hordes or enemies.

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Sky Force is full of all the usual staples of the genre, while also adding a few modern ones. You can unlock extra weapons as part of your basic loadout, as well as gaining access to special weapons like powerful bombs. You either pick them up or pay for them in an in-game “store” and that’s how you arm yourself against levels that continuously get tougher. You can also upgrade basic stats (like life/shield force), which also makes surviving a bit easier.

The novelty that Sky Force brings to the classic genre is its use of objective/achievements. Whereas in most shooters it’s enough to survive and make sure the end boss doesn’t, Sky Force gives you a variety of extra objectives that allow you to gain bonus points – which can in turn be used to upgrade your ship. The goals are diverse, ranging from completing a level unharmed to making sure you take down every enemy thrown at you.

These mechanics, while obviously a way to introduce a bit of grinding as well, gives the game a little more lasting appeal. After all, most classic shooters were also over in an hour or less… or whatever could be done using a handful or quarters. Sky Force Anniversary is a great throwback to that classic era, and this time it doesn’t stumble on the mobile gaming conventions that held back the PSP port. A must-buy for fans of retro-type shooters.

Score: 8/10

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