The classic shoot 'em up formula is hard to screw up. All you need is solid gameplay and over-the-top action and there you go; a decent shmup is born. So, where did Solar Shifter EX go so horribly wrong?
If you've ever visited this site before, you may know that I'm a huge shoot 'em up fan. From classics like Gradius and Xevious to modern interpretations like Caladrius Blaze and Dariusburst; I love them all. In fact, I've rarely played a bad shmup. The only one I can think of off the top of my head is Ice Cream Surfer. Therefore, when I had the opportunity to play Solar Shifter EX, I was looking forward to it. Little did I know that after playing it for a few hours, my enthusiasm would slowly turn to disappointment buried under heaps of frustration. While watching someone play Solar Shifter EX, it's easy to assume that it must be decent due to its flashy visuals, epic orchestral soundtrack, and satisfying effects. After all, these elements add up to create one action-packed feast for the eyes and ears. However, you'll see just how it all falls apart when you actually play it for yourself.
First of all, Solar Shifter EX's gameplay is incredibly tedious. Whereas other shoot 'em ups try to offer a wide array of weaponry, abilities, and enemy types that turn the otherwise mindless shooting into a more strategic formula, Solar Shifter EX only has one stand-out aspect. Besides shooting, you can shift around the bottom of the screen between a few designated locations. Don't get me wrong, it is pretty cool, yet it doesn't do enough to make up for the monotonous gameplay. Also, almost every shmup since the beginning of time has some sort of scoring system but there is no score to be found here. Instead, you collect credits that you can spend at certain times to level up your weapons. Honestly, I didn't notice much of a difference after spending my hard-earned cash so what's the point of having this system? In other words, the gameplay is not only void of variety; there's little incentive to put your skills to the test.
Solar Shifter EX features so many design flaws that it'll be difficult to list them all. One of the most annoying aspects is that you play within a rectangular field yet the camera keeps moving around to create a cinematic effect. You're restricted within that field so if you see an enemy to the side, they can freely shoot as you helplessly push against an invisible wall. Also, an enemy can randomly swoop in and end your life instantly. A necessity when it comes to shoot 'em ups is that the enemies actually shoot at you. So, how come the enemies here move along predefined paths and shoot at preset intervals? Even classics from the early '80s have enemies react to your movement. As a result of this, the challenge almost entirely consists of being able to memorize enemy patterns so you can progress.
The points I've already outlined should be enough to make you stay away from this poor take on a classic genre but there's more. Getting shot is usually a devastating event in a shmup. As you're flying through the air and weaving through clouds of projectiles, one stray bullet hits you and the resulting effect is enough to make anyone feel a jolt of disappointment. But, taking damage in Solar Shifter EX simply makes your health go down. You wouldn't even know it if you weren't actively staring at your health bar. My point is that whether it's a subtle missing aspect or an obvious design flaw, Solar Shifter EX messes up in so many ways that it's bewildering.
Solar Shifter EX is quite possibly the worst shoot 'em up that I've ever played. It looks quite good and has an interesting new gameplay mechanic but almost everything else about it makes it an unplayable mess of a game.
- + Shifting mechanic is nifty
- + Pretty cool visuals and sound
- - Simplistic and unvaried gameplay gets boring and repetitive very fast
- - Awful design choices make it unplayable
- - Challenge primarily relies on memorization