Shoot 'em ups are usually a fantastic way to test your classic gaming skills. Shikhondo: Soul Eater has you control one of two ladies in order to fight demonic forces but does it provide a worthy challenge?
You play Shikhondo: Soul Eater as most shmups are played. Dodging enemy projectiles while blasting your foes away is quite tight. One complication is that you can hold a shoulder trigger down to move slower and focus your shot. This helps with both navigating through clouds of bullets and taking out tougher adversaries. While in this mode, you can graze past projectiles in order to increase a meter and once it's full, you can unleash Soul Collect mode by tapping the other shoulder trigger. This mode makes you temporarily invincible and more powerful. Also, if you use a bomb while in Soul Collect, you'll perform an ultra-powerful attack. Aside from this mechanic, you can change up the gameplay slightly by selecting one of two characters who have different attack patterns: Grim Reaper or The Girl. Overall, it's rather simple stuff but the two characters and Soul Collect feature definitely mix things up a bit.
Shikhondo: Soul Eater certainly doesn't have the most striking visuals for a shmup. In fact, its stages are quite boring. Flying over the stereotypical and repetitive hand-drawn Japanese backgrounds is nothing short of forgettable. The same could be said about the soundtrack. There are a handful of quirky tunes that blend classical instrumentation with dubstep and drum and bass but nothing really stands out except for the music that plays during boss fights. That energetic tune is sure to get you pumped when you fight a boss but the fact that there's only one song and not different tracks depending on the boss is pretty disappointing. The bosses consist of different woman / demon hybrids that transform halfway through each fight but their attacks are never anything distinct or exciting.
On the plus side, the graphics in Shikhondo: Soul Eater are unambiguous (unlike a lot of other modern shoot 'em ups) so you will never find yourself squinting or trying to find your character. On another positive note, you can play cooperatively with a friend in Local Coop Mode which is always a welcome inclusion. Besides the 5 stage Arcade Mode campaign, you can also work through Boss Rush Mode if you want to tackle the bosses one after the other. These modes aren't anything innovative but they do extend the replay value.
Shikhondo: Soul Eater is a very short game and can easily be completed in one sitting. This is true for a lot of shoot 'em ups but whereas many other shmups are fun to play through multiple times, Shikhondo doesn't really provide enough of a rewarding challenge. As a result, shoot 'em up enthusiasts will likely play through once then move on to more challenging endeavours. The biggest contributor to Shikhondo's lack of rewarding gameplay is the fact that enemies rarely seem to home in on you. Therefore, you can often comfortably park yourself and be fairly confident that you won't get shot even with hundreds of bullets flying around. In other shmups, you could never get away with this because your foes will quickly fire a fast-moving homing shot to end your lazy existence.
Newbies who are easily impressed with any game that looks retro might enjoy Shikhondo: Soul Eater. However, if you're a hardcore shoot 'em up fan or even have some familiarity with the genre, you'll be rather disappointed with this offering.
- + Tight shoot 'em up gameplay with a cool Soul Collect mechanic
- + Unambiguous visuals streamline gameplay
- + You can play co-op with a local friend
- - Lack of effective enemy homing shots takes a lot of challenge away
- - Soundtrack could use more tunes
- - Very short with unmemorable stages