Wings of Bluestar – Nintendo Switch Review

Overview – developed by Shinu Real Arts and published by Eastasiasoft, Wings of Bluestar is an anime styled bullet hell scrolling shooter. Take on the challenge with two distinct playable characters, chaotic action and visual novel storytelling with multiple endings to unlock. This title is available on all platforms, with a link to each version of the game available at the bottom of this review.

Disclaimer: before I get into the review, I would like to thank Eastasiasoft for providing the copy of Wings of Bluestar that was used for this piece. The provision of this software has not influenced the contents of this review, all thoughts and opinions contained within are my own.

Now with the introductions out of the way, let’s get into the review. I will be skipping the story segment as this game has a visual novel narrative, with multiple plot threads and branches. So I will be going straight into the gameplay section.

Gameplay – Wings of Bluestar is a scrolling bullet hell shooter with intense action, challenging enemy patterns and large scale bosses to fight. The game takes place over 8 stages, with two different protagonists that the player is able to use. There are several modes that the player can select from in this release. Here is a breakdown of the different modes that are included in Wings of Bluestar;

  • Story –play through the narrative of the two playable characters. These stories play out over the 8 stages for the game, with visual novel style sections between the stages. There are dialogue choices that can affect the way the story unfolds, leading to different endings.
  • Arcade – play through the stages without the story segments, challenge yourself to get through the tough stages and set the highest score you can with limited credits. If the player runs out of credits, the game ends.
  • Two Player – play through the 8 stages of arcade mode with two players at the same time. The game plays the same way as the standard arcade mode with a shared pool of credits. Once all credits are used up, the game is over.
  • Bonus Mode – this is a special menu, where players can use risk points earned through play. These points can unlock Boss Rush where the player fights the bosses under a timer, a sound test and the risk shop where additional unlocks like extra credits can be purchased (the game starts with only 3).

The action of the game itself is very similar to that of other bullet hell shooters, but there is a catch with this title. When starting the game, the player is limited to only having 3 credits to make it through the game. This can lead to the player getting game overs repeatedly, leading grinding being needed to earn risk points for extra credits to be purchased. This can become a repeating cycle of frustration, as the player needs to grind over and over to keep earning credits.

This frustration can also be extended to the story mode, as when the player gets a game over they must play through the story chapter for that stage again. There is also no way to skip the story effectively, meaning that there is increased downtime from the game over to getting back into the action. This issue wouldn’t be as severe if there was a skip option for the narrative segments.

The game can feel like a war of attrition as the difficulty level is very high in this title, with a hail of bullets on screen consistently, as well as enemies that can appear behind the player. This can be mitigated to a point with the power-ups that the player can collect. These are weapon power increases, a shield that can be deployed as an ultimate attack and turrets that can be moved to attack in different directions.

There is a high level of challenge that the stages throws at the player. This is due to the enemy patterns, the bullets that fill the screen and the bosses/sub-bosses that appear to kill the player. The enemies and attacks follow preset patterns, which means players can learn how to get through the stages. However, this can take a long time as a lot of practice is needed for players to learn the route for each stage in the game.

The arcade challenge can possibly be eased by playing the game in the two player mode, but there is an additional downside to this. There is the limited pool of credits that the players share, which can lead to quicker game overs if players are unprepared. In both single and multiplayer modes, when a player ship is destroyed, power-ups will be dropped for them to be recollected by players when respawning.

There is a lot of content in this title, with several endings that the player can unlock during play and extra modes/gallery images that can be purchased in the Risk Shop. The player can also challenge themselves to obtain the pieces of an image in the stages, with a risk point bonus for collecting all pieces. Image pieces can be in difficult to reach places, making it tougher for players to get these picture pieces, but it is rewarding to get all of them.

So with the gameplay covered, it is time to move onto the other aspects of this game, starting with the controls.

Controls – the controls for this title have a very arcade-like feel to them, with a simple lay out that can easily be picked up. These inputs are comfortable to use, with functions mapped to the face/triggers and movement on the d-pad/thumbstick, as well as the turrets being controllable with the right thumbstick. The game is best played with a d-pad as it provides better precision, but the game is easy to play with all different controllers, including an arcade stick.

Difficulty – this is a very tough title, with no settings to modulate the level of challenge that the player can take on. The limited credits increase the difficulty, with the only way to ease this being to grind out points to purchase additional credits. There is a need to practice the different stages in this game, which can be off-putting to players who want a game they can just jump into. Which can be frustrating as there is a lot of time needed to learn all the different stage patterns.

Presentation – Wings of Bluestar is very pleasing in from a visual standpoint, with animated cutscenes, anime style pixel art for the visual novel segments and slick sprite work for the gameplay. The game runs smoothly, but there is a lot of slowdown when there is a lot of bullets on screen at once, which can cause some potential lag. The sound for this title is solid, with a soundtrack that works very well, fitting the stages of the game and limited voice samples that are featured.

Final Thoughts – I do enjoy scrolling shooters of both the traditional and bullet hell variety, so I was excited to get to grips with this title. However, I found this title to be a little disappointing, due in part to the way that the games credit systems work. The limited number of credits can lead to repeated defeat, which is not just a source of frustration buts means that players need to grind in order to unlock more in the Risk Shop.

I can only recommend this release to fans of bullet hell games specifically, as I don’t know if general players will get much enjoyment out of this release. This is unfortunate as the game does something that isn’t often seen in the scrolling shooter genre. The visual novel story segments and branching narratives are really good, but if the player doesn’t enjoy the gameplay portion then they are likely not to struggle through for the story.

In the end, I give Wings of Bluestar a final score of 3.5/5. This is a tough as nails bullet hell shooter, with branching narratives, visual novel storytelling and frantic action gameplay. Unfortunately, the need to grind points to unlock additional credits, gameplay modes and gallery content hampers the overall experience. If you want to check this game out for yourself, a link to each version of the game is below.

Link to Nintendo Switch version (HERE)

Link to PlayStation version (HERE)

Link to Xbox version (HERE)

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