Natsuki Chronicles - PS4 Review

Natsuki Chronicles by developer Qute and publisher Rising Star GamesSony PlayStation 4 review written by Nick with a copy provided by the publisher.

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

Natsuki Chronicles is a fantastic horizontal shoot-‘em-up game that fans of the genre will absolutely want to add their collection. It has an enjoyable blend of old-fashioned gameplay mixed with some modern design that gives the title a great balance that makes it a whole lot of fun to play.

Set in the same universe as last year’s Ginga Force (another shooter from the same team, but vertically oriented instead of horizontally), Natsuki Chronicles is a more polished, deeper spinoff. That being said, Natsuki Chronicles can stand alone just fine, with plenty of exposition baked into this game as well. The devs deserve some credit for trying to tell a story, even if that’s not really something the shooter genre is particularly well known for.

One of the areas where Natsuki Chronicles is lacking for me personally is the constant dialog that tries to explain what is happening – because there is no English voice acting option. Granted, that’s not unusual in a game like this when it comes over to North America, but it’s pretty hard to try and read the text in the upper right corner when everything on the screen is trying to shoot you dead at the same time.

Beyond that quibble however, the presentation is pretty slick. Visuals are bright with clean graphics and the soundtrack is appropriately catchy and fits the pacing of the game. There are plenty of options that help you to customize the experience as well, such as bullet tracking and more. As is the norm for these genre, there is an awful lot happening on the screen at any one time, with the screen perpetually moving, new enemies entering from all directions and bullet spray covering the screen. Each stage culminates in a boss battle, and they – like the stages – become more intricate as you progress through the campaign.

Early boss battles amount to little more than dodging their bullets and shooting them as you get openings. Later though, they come at you in a variety of different ways. Some of them use different types of attacks, others jump behind your ship while others certainly give a ‘throw the kitchen sink’ feeling. Stages become more intricate as well. Earlier stages pretty much just scroll left to right, but later stages add obstacles at ground level to be avoided, or narrow passages to fly through as doors open and close to the screen moving up and down for short bursts as well as horizontally. This really impacts the pacing and difficulty in positive ways.

This ties into the fantastic weapons systems in Natsuki Chronicles as well. There are three types of weapons your ship is equipped with. One is your primary weapon – think what you fire forward. Highly concentrated laser, homing missiles, angled attacks, large wave shots and more get unlocked and purchased with credits you earn by playing through the stages. There is also a secondary attack which functions very similarly and tends to be focused more on shooting behind you or at angles. The early stages can pretty much be aced with a focus on forward firing, but from about stage six and on? You need to be able to deal with threats that come up behind you, because your ship can’t be turned around or pointed in any direction except to the right.

Lastly, there is a ‘special’ weapon that has a few different flavors but is primarily a shielding mechanism. You can unlock different types of patterns from the default ‘block your front’ to protecting top and bottom or having orbiting protections and more. These run on a recharging shield mechanism that causes damage to opponents and blocks their fired attacks, helping to compensate for otherwise very tight spaces that might be impossible to escape cleanly. It helps that this is not a one-hit-and-you’re-dead kind of game. You have shields, and they regenerate slowly as long as you’re not getting hit.

The variety and purchasable nature of the weapons is one of the more modern, RPG-like aspects of the game, but Natsuki Chronicles’s actual gameplay is very much like an old-school arcade shooter. Just tough as nails, constant pressure coming from all directions. However, Natsuki Chronicles tries to make itself as accessible as possible. As you unlock stages, you can revisit prior ones to earn more credits and experience. Each stage has multiple levels of difficulty you can choose from as well. Higher difficulty has greater experience modifiers. And as I just mentioned… experience. So that’s an RPG-lite element to Natsuki Chronicles that I thoroughly appreciated. There are actually two different experience systems at play here.

There is the player level, which unlocks new weapons for purchase as you gain them. There is also stage experience, which is one of those areas that marries classic punishing difficulty the genre is known for, with a more modernized progression. When you play a level over and over again, you start to learn the patterns and you simply get better at the game. That’s how the genre has always helped the player improve. However, stage experience gives you some additional shields at the start of the level. You can earn up to fifteen of them on any given level, and those extra hits along with your improved knowledge of the stage’s enemies made me feel like with enough patience, I could always push through the stage no matter how much was thrown at me.

For those looking for a more traditional, skills-based arcade experience with less of the other stuff, there is an arcade mode as well as the story one, with ranked leaderboards for those who really want to show off their skills.

Natsuki Chronicles is a smooth, polished shooter that has some great, modern RPG-lite features that make it accessible despite the shoot-‘em-up genre being one traditionally known for being brutally challenging. A bit more effort in localizing the audio would have gone a ways for making the in-stage narrative easier to soak in, but that is a pretty minor complaint about an otherwise very entertaining game.

Score: 8.5 / 10



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