Review: Kyotokei (WiiWare)

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery

Horizontal shoot 'em ups have become quite scarce in recent years, even on the WiiWare and DSiware services, so when one does pop up from time to time, fans of the genre tend to sit up and take notice. With Kyotokei, Microforum have crafted a fairly basic shoot 'em up that borrows heavily from such classic shooters as Ikaruga and Cotton. And while the game doesn't bring many new features to the table, the familiar feel and simple control scheme does offer up a rather engaging shooting experience for fans to tackle.

As far as horizontal shooters go, Kyotokei doesn't stray too far from the norm. You fly through the sky atop your trusty bird, firing your magic spell shots at enemies that are constantly coming your way. At the end of each level you'll square off against the boss of that particular area, and it's here where you'll have to make use of your entire arsenal of gameplay moves in order to best them and move on to the next level. Of course a few continues doesn't hurt either.

Much like the classic shoot 'em up Ikaruga, you have the ability to change the orb that surrounds your character between black and white with just the press of a button, which will in turn determine what colour of spell shot you'll be firing. Since enemies all come in monochrome, it becomes important to choose your colour wisely: you'll absorb enemy spells of the same colour, filling up your homing missile gauge. The more you fill the gauge, the more devastating the homing missile shot will be when you unleash it.

The game also makes use of a combo multiplier, which allows you to rack up more points for chaining enemy kills in groups of four like-colours. This will be yet another incentive for you to learn how to switch your polarity on the fly according the the ever-changing situations you'll find yourself in, particularly important during boss fights. You can even bring in another player at any time to help you out in a two-player cooperative style of play.

Any shoot 'em up fan will tell you that responsive controls are an integral part of the overall experience and Kyotokei doesn't disappoint. Whether you choose the Wii Remote on its side, the Classic Controller or even the GameCube controller, the controls are always smooth and easy to make use of. There's three different levels of difficulty and enough continues for players of just about any level of skill to be able to finish the game, too.

The game's vibrant visual theme really helps it stand out and although the scenery lacks a bit of detail at times, the speed with which the backgrounds scroll by does give the game a really impressive sense of speed. And when you combine all of this with several different layers of scrolling, you get a nice display of depth as well. The characters and regular enemies are all very well drawn, but you won't truly appreciate the presentation until you reach the game's rather bizarre bosses.

While the soundtrack does a more than adequate job of carrying the light-hearted theme the game employs, there aren't really any standout tracks that will stick with you after you've put the game down. It doesn't help that many of the musical pieces sound very similar in style either. The same can pretty much be said of the game's sound effects and voice announcing, both of which are decent, but certainly nothing to write home about.

Conclusion

Even with its lack of originality, Kyotokei's simple playability means there's still plenty of classic shooter fun to be had. The intuitive and responsive controls do a solid job of allowing players of all skill levels to enjoy the game and although many enemies are repeated throughout the five levels, the unique bosses offer up plenty of incentive to keep coming back for more. Kyotokei won't set the video game world on fire, but fans of the genre should find plenty to like with what is easily one of the more enjoyable shooter titles to appear on WiiWare to date.