Borrowing heavily from one of the greatest shooters of all time is a surefire way to succeed... right?
A big concern with cheap, downloadable games is originality. For every Angry Birds, you have a swarm of equally irate clones attempting to cash in on the former’s success. There’s nothing inherently wrong with paying homage to a classic or popular game, but walking that fine line between tribute and rip-off can be tricky save for the most skilled developers. It’s worth bearing this thought in mind as I continue forward, reviewing Microforum’s Kyotokei.
Released in August, Kyotokei is a side-scrolling shooter in which players take control of brother Kyo and sister Kei on their quest to save Estaria from the evil Rika. Of course, you’ll only know that if you read the game’s listing on the Wii Shop Channel. Otherwise, your task is to simply and effectively shoot down countless cute anime-inspired baddies with either a guy on a dragon or a woman on a flying broom. As is the case with most classic shooters, story is virtually non-existent; mastering levels and getting a high score are your motivations for playing Kyotokei. Though, the high-score carrot at the end of the stick is hollow and plastic, as there are no online leaderboards whatsoever.
Still, playing Kyotokei is actually rather fun. Its main play mechanic is pulled directly from Ikaruga, where players must navigate through two different color enemy attacks. In Ikaruga, they were black and white, and in Kyotokei, they are red and blue. The player also uses these colors - his character can switch between shooting blue attacks and shooting red. The strategy of Kyotokei comes in choosing which color to use. If you are shooting blue, you’ll do less damage to blue enemies, but you can absorb their bullets to fill up your special attack meter. Conversely, you could choose to attack them with red fire and do more damage, but you leave yourself open to getting hit. You can change the polarity of your character from blue to red at any moment, and doing so effectively is the key to not only getting a high score, but also simply surviving as bullets are flying in all directions and in both colors.
There are five levels in total, and, in typical shooter fashion, continues are limited, so the player is going to have to make some real commitment to mastering the attack patterns of enemies in order to make it through to the end. Unlike Ikaruga, which scrolled vertically and had a variety of structures that needed to be carefully flown through, Kyotokei scrolls horizontally, and levels are open and unobtrusive. In place of avoiding space debris and flying through giant factories, Kyotokei uses its enemies to create obstructions that must be avoided. Enemies will not only shoot at you, they will also fly around the screen and launch themselves in your direction. Some will even come in behind you, forcing you to stay to the middle of the screen instead of to the edge. It’s an interesting workaround to having the environment play a role in the action, but it made things a bit too chaotic at times. I’d rather see what I’m supposed to fly through than have enemies suddenly appear and fly into me.
Unfortunately, while playing Kyotokei can be fun, looking at and listening to it is downright laborious. The level backgrounds are sterile and simple, and the enemies, while vibrant and easy to see, are uninspired. I can appreciate that Microforum didn’t simply copy the robotic, futuristic aesthetic of Ikaruga and instead tried to do something different, but it just didn’t work here. Of course, none of these elements compare to the downright atrocious menu screen. It is so bad that I would honestly be embarrassed to open this game in front of friends. Thankfully, the game is technically sound and runs at a very solid frame rate throughout.
Kyotokei wears its influences brazenly, and though it attempts to differentiate itself in a few ways, the best part of the game is still that which it directly borrows from Ikaruga. There is some fun to be had with Kyotokei, but ultimately, with only five levels to play and no online leaderboards, I can’t see how anyone but the most insatiable shooter fan would really enjoy it.