You may not have heard of Qute Corporation but they have made some phenomenal shmups and Ginga Force is one of them.
Ginga Force is a story-driven shoot 'em up although you don't really need to follow its story if all you want is some action-intense shooting fun. From what I gather, you're tasked with taking down a series of criminals and nogoodniks and you do so by mastering stages and fighting bosses. The core gameplay follows your classic vertical shoot 'em up formula and it reminded me a great deal of games like Raiden V and Bullet Soul, especially the former with its crisp visual style, 3D models, and constant chatter. Speaking of which, characters chat as you play yet they speak Japanese so if you don't speak the language as well then the dialogue will likely go right over your head as you'll be unwaveringly focused on the intense shooting action. Other than that, I enjoyed the strong sense of personality throughout.
Playing Ginga Force involves dodging enemy projectiles as you hold buttons for your primary and secondary weapons. Plus, you can toggle your ship's speed as well as hold a button to deploy a special weapon which can be a bomb or shield. There are 2 ways to play in the form of Story Mode and Score Attack. The former allows you to earn credits that you can purchase parts with while the latter merely has you choose a stage and preset ship from a selection of 3 and climb leaderboards. It's cool that there are only online rankings for preset ships as that levels the playing field. Anyway, there are 10 stages to master as well as 2 bonus Training Simulator missions which are all accessible via 3 difficulty settings. This is certainly a solid amount of content, especially considering just how long the stages are and when you factor in unlockable Gallery Mode items and challenges that you can do in some stages, you're left with a lot of replay value.
Ginga Force's gameplay is challenging and features tight controls which is perfect for a shmup. Dodging clouds of projectiles as you blow up enormous ships is incredibly satisfying stuff and one aspect that adds a great deal of reward to the equation is the ship customisation component. Whether you fail or succeed in completing a stage, you'll earn credits and you can use those credits to buy more weapons which come in the 3 previously mentioned varieties as well as engines that feature varying speed settings, colours that change the look of your ship, and extra items that offer boosts which you can equip 3 of. You don't often get this level of customisability in shmups so experimenting with different weapons as you carefully swap out parts in order to best match your play style is a welcome treat.
Finally, although Ginga Force is a smooth and enjoyable experience for the most part, some aspects can be quite frustrating at times. First of all, some enemy formations are rather irritating such as when a swarm of foes quickly swoops down then occupies the bottom of the playfield so you can't reach them unless you have some sort of homing missiles equipped. Other times, enemies are simply too far apart so it makes it nearly impossible to defeat them all as you'd have to fly between the extreme edges of the screen after each one explodes which isn't always possible to do. Finally, some projectiles are hard to spot, especially black lasers that are bordered with a thin red outline. Considering tons of colourful neon bullets are always flying around, spotting these dark ones can be problematic for sure.
Out of the hundreds of shoot 'em ups that I've played in my decades of gaming, I can easily say that Ginga Force is one of the best. Its combination of skill-testing stages, rewarding customisation, and lively presentation make it one must-have shmup.
- + Solid shoot 'em up gameplay with plenty of lengthy and challenging stages
- + Crisp visuals and strong sense of character
- + Equipping custom parts is rewarding stuff
- - Could use English voice acting since it's hard to read when you're playing
- - Certain projectiles are tricky to spot
- - Some enemies move in annoying formations