A cute but challenging shoot-’em-up with some nice customization options.
In the age of digital storefronts and games of all shapes and sizes coming to the eShop, it’s easy for many titles to fly under my radar. First appearances can be deceiving, and with a genre like the vertical or horizontal shooter, it can be difficult to discern the overall quality from a few screenshots or a brief trailer. Given the chance to try out Barrage Fantasia, I came away largely satisfied with this light-hearted vertical shoot-’em-up that exchanges collectable power-ups for a range of loadouts you choose at the outset.
As with most entries in this genre, the story is effectively non-existent; gameplay reigns supreme, and it’s fairly decent here. Holding down Y fires your basic gun while holding Y and B together increases your firepower, but also slows down your ship. A bomb-like ability can be unleashed with the R button, and charges for them fill up over time. Your ship also has a heart meter in the bottom right corner of the screen that indicates how many hits you can take. It recharges over time as well, and occasionally you can collect heart items floating on screen to help fill the meter faster.
From the main menu, there are options for Arcade, Scoreboard, Short, Training, Config, and Manual. As you might be able to guess from choices like “Short,” there are segments in Barrage Fantasia that simply aren’t explained very well. “Short” is basically a mission select option, where you complete an individual stage of your choice rather than the Arcade’s five consecutive stages. The stages themselves don’t offer a lot of background variety, but the enemies and bosses are interesting enough. Most stages present multiple boss fights, and these imposing foes often have breakable pieces that are worth targeting in order to weaken their attack.
As you play more, you unlock extra challenge stages and new ships and bombs. I should clarify that you don’t actually get new ships, but new partner creatures and objects that float around your ship and offer support and added firepower. So far, I’ve unlocked eight different “servants” as they're called, from the powerful Dragon, to the homing-fire Bat, and the shotgun-like Arm. The next option is to choose a special attack: Bomber destroys enemy bullets and does damage, but it takes longer to charge up; Doll can function like a decoy or substitute to absorb all sorts of incoming projectiles. The final decision is almost like a difficulty slider, where you choose how many hit points you want to start with and how many special attack charges, with certain options provided quicker recovery or more powerful guns.
TATE mode, clean and cartoonish visuals, and some neat unlockables make Barrage Fantasia a fun, bite-sized shooter. The variety of loadouts make it a solid pick-up for veterans and newcomers, but the absence of online leaderboards and sometimes obtuse localization do hold it back to a degree. Sifting through the barrage of eShop entries in the genre, I would certainly put this in the upper half of shoot-’em-ups on Switch.