It’s been just over a month since G.Rev’s Kokuga hit the 3DS eShop, and now we’re already being treated to another shoot ‘em up with the release of G-Style’s Chain Blaster. Though shoot ‘em ups have been few and far between since the home console took over the industry and put countless arcades out of business, it seems as though developers have recently taken an interest in the 3DS as a new home for the genre. No one here is complaining though, as these types of games tend to be simple fun and are usually worth revisiting over and over again.
Unlike Kokuga, the gameplay in Chain Blaster is designed as a traditional top-down vertical shooter, with all of the action taking place on the 3DS’s upper screen. The thing that sets this game apart from others in the genre is its chain-killing mechanic. While your ship is equipped with a normal shot that can easily KO enemies, it’s your Chain Blast that really makes the magic happen. If this special shot makes contact with an enemy, it’ll immediately trigger a chain that engulfs all enemies in close proximity to the blast. Timing these attacks just right is crucial for increasing your score and making your way through the campaign.
Killing enemies is also necessary for filling your Blast Gauge, a meter located at the bottom of your screen that dictates how many Chain Blasts you have stocked up. Only three Chain Blasts can be held at a time, so using these strategically is essential. The good news is that if you effectively land a chain, then the enemies killed in that attack will go towards refilling your meter. If you can keep the cycle going, it’s actually relatively easy to always have at least one Chain Blast on hand. Portions of the Blast Gauge can also be used to activate Overdrive, a special attack that slows enemy ships and makes you momentarily invincible.
On the bottom of the screen adjacent to the Blast Gauge, you also have a second meter called an Extend Gauge. Simply put, this meter acts as a health bar. There are three portions on the meter that are also filled up but slaughtering enemy ships, but three deaths in succession without a portion of the meter filled will result in a game over. As there are so many enemies on screen at most times, it’s actually very easy to keep your Extend Gauge full. As long as you’re fast enough to dodge enemy attacks, completing the campaign shouldn’t be much of a problem for most players as health is abundant.
This is definitely the type of game that is reflective of an arcade experience and warrants multiple playthroughs. Featuring an online leaderboard that allows you to upload your highest scores, Chain Blaster makes it easy to see where your skills lie in comparison to the rest of the world. Scoring a certain amount of points in the campaign will also unlock an addition “advanced” mode that increases the game’s difficulty by changing up and limiting your weapons. Between the leaderboards and new challenging game mode, there’s easily enough reason to revisit this one, in spite of its relatively short campaign.
Chain Blaster controls simply. Your normal shot, Chain Blast, and Overdrive are assigned to the A, B, and Y buttons, respectively, while movement falls to the responsibility of either the Circle Pad or D-Pad. The soundtrack and visual style also lend themselves nicely to the shoot ‘em up genre, combining to creating a heart-pounding intensity that’ll keep your knuckles white. The stage backgrounds are a bit bland, mostly consisting of black space with slight details, but this actually helps to increase the visibility of enemy fire, so it’s a difficult complaint to make. The 3D effect is also used well to add depth to the otherwise flat stages - it’s not necessary, but visually pleasing nonetheless.
Chain Blaster may be flawed in that its campaign is short and not entirely difficult, but it’s still a whole lot of fun. It’s the type of game that reflects both the advantages and flaws of an arcade-based genre, but it does so with an irresistible style. Fans of shoot ‘em ups, especially of the bullet hell variety, should definitely give this one a shot.