Oh Take, These Mighty Wings of Bluestar

Don't trust A.I. - it'll only byte (heh) the hand that feeds. Blast the menace away in Wings of Bluestar.

Elon Musk is quite the herald, saying that one day mankind will be left behind by A.I. If Wings of Bluestar is anything to go by, yeah, you can’t trust it. It’ll only turn on its maker. Do what we do best, send out a crack pair of pilots and destroy it! 

What, you think this can be solved over Tic Tac Toe, Mr Broderick? No, a shmup is the answer, and Shinu Real Arts’ shooter is now available on consoles (PlayStation, Xbox, and the Switch) courtesy of our good friends, Eastasiasoft. This review is based on the PS5 version.

‘Story-driven’ is as good as a nun flashing me her underwear – you’ve got my attention. However, let’s loosely skim over this, as it was the weaker part of the game. Why is that? It’s a visual novel that dragged a little and interrupted play for a bit. Of course, this is only in the Story Mode, but it didn’t add much to gameplay other than the multiple endings.

Wings of Bluestar Review - Splash damage
Splash damage. Source: Eastasiasoft

Wings of Bluestar Review PS5

It didn’t help that the voiceover introduction was battling for attention from the musical score, so perhaps that’s why there was a lack of interest. In short, you’re one of two pilots – a veteran and a rookie – that set out to destroy the threat, thus being home in time for the next Netflix binge. Cabinet of Curiosities is my pick.

Wings of Bluestar is a side-scrolling shmup in the style of R-Type, where you can control either of the two pilots. Aya is the trainee pilot. The polar opposite of most games, this ‘youngster’ isn’t nimble but a defensive powerhouse. The controls are a standard shoot and a special. Hers isn’t immediately available, but in collecting shields, she’s further protected or can launch into the enemy as a devastating projectile. This works particularly well against the bosses.

Zarak is the veteran. Though his defence skills are lower, a.k.a. health, he’s faster and more of a heavy hitter – especially with his power-up beam, which decimates enemies, and again – works fantastic against the bosses. Pending you have them in your sights. There’s not much in the way of strategy, but the gameplay is enjoyable, nevertheless.

Wings of Bluestar Review - In space...
In space.. Source: Eastasiasoft

Bish, Bash, Bosh

It can be pretty monotonous to hold down the fire button and hope for the best, but mobility is restricted, so it’s encouraged to press it intermittently or when needed. Regardless of what those twots tell you on social media, play games how you like to play them and go forth and mash. The game has multiple difficulty levels to adjust the challenge, but I advise against the easy mode as it makes it painstakingly slow and tedious.

What Wings of Bluestar lacked in storytelling soon makes up in gameplay and features. This almost comes across as a collector’s edition as there’s a lot on offer – some features are available from the outset, others are unlocked through progression and using the in-game currency called Risk. Risk is represented by stars on screen when enemies are defeated or collecting part of a Patema puzzle that awards bonus points if they’re all obtained.

Naturally, shmup fans will be encouraged to replay to get better scores and unlock the achievements, but it has to be said that the platinum is far too easy to obtain. Fortunately, Wings of Bluestar has many in-game achievements to unlock – not necessarily for customisable weapons or to make your penis bigger, but to keep you out of mischief.

Wings of Bluestar Review - This is hell!
This is hell! Source: Eastasiasoft

Extra, Extra

Investing in repeat playthroughs will undoubtedly provide more Risk points to unlock extras such as a gallery, sound tests for FX and audio tracks, the option to purchase more credits for your runs, and a Boss Rush Mode. At the start of the game, the Arcade Mode is available to play (if visual novels aren’t your bag), and a two-player mode. The latter is good; the only downside is you share the credits, so if the other player is a rookie, don’t expect to get as far as the bosses.

But best of all about Wings of Bluestar is the scanlines options. No, this isn’t the best feature, but scanlines are sexy. I’m not arguing. It made the game feel like one of those import games that used to grace the pages of Mean Machines or CVG ‘back in the day’. You know, ‘arcade perfect’.

Verdict

Wings of Bluestar isn’t arcade perfect as it’s light on the number of levels and lacks visual polish. However, the extra features add to the longevity, and the two-player option is most welcome. Wings of Bluestar doesn’t reinvent the genre, but it matches expectations.

Also, make a note that Eastasiasoft is publishing the superb Hyper-5. Easily one of my favourite games of 2022, now coming to consoles.