There's something about rediscovering classic shoot 'em ups that always makes for an interesting time. However, was Sol Divide worth digging up from the past? Study up on your magic and let's find out.
Before you begin playing Sol Divide, you must select a character. Kashon, Vorg, and Tyora each play differently with their own strengths and weaknesses so it's a good idea to play a few stages with everyone before deciding who clicks with you best. I enjoyed playing as Tyora because her long-range attacks were quite useful. The basic gameplay isn't far removed from your average shoot 'em up as you dodge projectiles and shoot. Where things become interesting is that you have to slash your melee weapon whenever enemies get too close. There's also a magic system that essentially acts as Sol Divide's bombs because each spell uses up a substantial amount of MP and is impressively powerful in its own way. When you combine the different characters, melee attacks, and spell system, you'd think that Sol Divide would be a pretty great shmup so let's see if the gameplay actually holds up.
Unfortunately, as you may have guessed, Sol Divide doesn't even come close to the quality of other Psikyo shmups. The most glaring issue is just how sloppy and boring the gameplay is. For starters, your character is fairly large and doesn't have an obvious hit box so you have to deliberately get hit a few times so you can memorize where the bullets actually hurt you. Strangely enough, it seems to be only in the chest so feel free to get shot in the head all you want. Anyway, the stages basically consist of a whole hodgepodge of enemies that either shoot the odd stream of projectiles at you or confront you face-to-face. Obviously, mashing the melee button while avoiding attacks from other enemies just isn't enjoyable. After a few brief rounds of that, you'll fight a boss. The bosses definitely look cool but they're not entertaining to battle in the slightest. It all comes together to make one tedious and messy shoot 'em up.
On the plus side, the graphics are rather unique with sprites that look like they're rendered via stop motion as they're detailed yet their animations are choppy. I enjoyed these visuals thoroughly and appreciated the detailed bosses and environments. Even some of the spells result in awesome effects such as a giant skull that attacks your foes. On the audio side, the sound is well done with stereotypical effects and orchestral music that verges on being epic. The vocal grunts are pretty embarrassing but everything else sounds decent enough.
When it comes to longevity, Sol Divide: Sword of Darkness is probably the shortest shoot 'em up that I've ever played. Each playthrough only lasts about 10 minutes. On top of that, there isn't any replay value besides playing it through with every character and making a different decision between a couple stages. As with all these classic arcade game releases, there are no extras to be found either.
Considering Sol Divide is so short, it's cool that it poses a significant challenge. However, if you play cooperatively then it becomes far too easy. Finishing it solo even on the easiest difficulty is an accomplishment but completing it with a friend is a breeze due to the fact that each player can continue right where they left off as opposed to having to start the whole stage again while playing single player.
I'm glad that so many classic Psikyo games are being re-released. However, Sol Divide: Sword of Darkness is one that only completionists should purchase because it's one of the most disappointing shmups that I've ever played.
- + Neat mix of shooting and slashing
- + Varied arsenal of useful spells
- + Unique and detailed visuals with a somewhat decent orchestral score
- - Boring and sloppy gameplay
- - Multiplayer makes it too easy
- - Ridiculously short with very little replay value and no extras to explore