A solid package of Japanese-themed shoot em’ ups.
VASARA Collection combines early 2000s arcade vertical shooters Vasara and Vasara 2 with a special Timeless mode to provide a healthy dose of destruction and bullet hell. What sets these titles apart from others in the genre is their use of melee attacks to deflect bullets and deal massive damage to enemies and bosses. The Japanese theming of the package includes cheesy comic book-style cutscenes and catchy traditional-sounding music. But is it worth adding another collection of shooters to your Switch?
The short answer is: yes, the gameplay and multiplayer options make all three entries in the VASARA Collection worth playing. Vasara 1 (as it’s referred to in-game) features three playable characters with different weapons, both guns and melee, and different speed and power stats. Across six stages, you encounter a variety of basic enemies, mini-bosses and a final boss at the end. The movement and shooting feel good, and you have bombs that cause mass destruction and a super meter that slowly fills up as you collect crystals left behind by defeated ships. Unfortunately, this VASARA meter, which allows you to do an extended, screen-clearing melee attack, takes a little too long to charge up, so you rarely get to use this ability.
Vasara 2 has four playable characters (with an unlockable fifth) and replaces the bombs with the ability to store three VASARA attacks. Fortunately, the meters for these attacks fill much more quickly. At the outset, you can choose between an Easy route that has six stages and a Hard route that has 12 stages. Like in the first game, the sixth stage of either path must be beaten on a single credit; losing all your ships and continuing takes you back to the beginning of the stage. Overcoming this can be a serious challenge, and I would have liked to see an option to toggle it on or off. Vasara 2 also looks and feels better than the original, despite releasing only a year later. Present in both games are a variety of smaller bosses leading up the final one, and they often appear in large mech suits or screen-filling ships. These warm-up fights offer a good challenge before reaching the ultimate one at the end of each stage.
Vasara Timeless changes up the formula in some interesting ways. While Vasara 1 and 2 allow for two-player co-op, Timeless ups this number to four players. You can also choose from eight ships that play similar to how they do in Vasara 1 or 2. One key difference is that Timeless features no continues at all; you do get extra lives a little more often in this mode, but once they’re gone it’s game over. The graphics and music have also received a significant overhaul to bring them into the HD era, and the action takes place across the whole screen with much more horizontal space to maneuver. I think this mode loses a little bit of the arcade charm of the original two games, but it’s a great addition on its own, especially if you have three friends to play with.
It’s worth mentioning the variety of options in the pause menu. Because in standard mode Vasara 1 and 2 only take up the middle third of the screen, a Flip Grip accessory for TATE mode is highly recommended. I found it a little easier to play on my TV with a Pro Controller since everything was easier to see that way. There are four difficulty settings as well: Easy, Normal, Hard, and Hardest, and you can change your number of lives. There are also online leaderboards, but they only show the top 10 scores.
For the high-score chasers and shoot em’ up fans among us, VASARA Collection delivers a classic experience with some cool features. The customization could definitely be stronger, and the delay on the basic melee attack makes it frustrating to use, but the overall package is pretty compelling. As yet another example of older and possibly forgotten titles getting a second chance on a modern platform, the three Vasara games represent a worthwhile investment, even if they aren’t at the top of their class.