Amiga-esque shmup Sky Force Reloaded is out now

Sky Force Reloaded

As a shmup aficionado, The Sky Force games have always sat on the periphery of my awareness. Despite Polish developers Infinite Dreams‘ origins working on Amiga games, their platform of choice for their flagship shmup series was the iPhone of all things. It seemed foolish, and I initially dismissed the original game as being entirely unsuited to the platform. I was wrong.

Against all odds, the genre flourished. Even Japanese bullet-hell monsters Cave began porting their arcade classics to phones and tablets, and the Sky Force series became one of the better-known mobile shooter franchises. Now, Infinite Dreams have come on home to PC with Sky Force Reloaded, and might just have a thing or two to teach us about accessibility in the genre.

Sky Force Reloaded is an interesting blend of eastern and western shmup design, with some chunky bullet-soaking enemies, but also some interestingly intricate bullet patterns and a relatively unforgiving health system. The closest point of reference I can give would be Grasshopper’s Sine Mora, minus some of the visual creativity and soul-rendingly bleak storytelling. Mechanically, it adopts a few traits from the likes of Raiden and 1942, especially the way it handles enemy waves and powerups, and the whole blend is neatly spiced with a very Amiga-styled pseudo-chiptune/tracker soundtrack.

The end result is a very polished, if slightly straightforward shmup. Rather than play the entire campaign in one sitting (it’s quite lengthy at 15 levels long), you take on stages individually as you see fit, replaying and mastering them to fulfil achievement requirements, and spend the golden star pickups you accrue on permanent upgrades to your fighter. While this could throw off balance easily, true completion of a level requires zero damage taken and 100% of enemies cleared, which is a difficult feat even with a fully tricked out fighter. Mercifully, even failed runs will give you some more money to pour into your long-term upgrades.

Still, the fact that it offers varying degrees of success for any given level opens this one to a much wider audience. Merely surviving to the end of a level is relatively easy (at least early on) but mastery is encouraged. Perhaps a side-effect of the series’ gestation on touchscreen devices, the lower requirements for entry means that the game can turn up the heat more gradually. Even if you’ve no experience with the genre, you’ll be weaving through bullets in no time, assuming a little determination.

Sky Force Reloaded is available now on Steam for £7.19/$10, minus a 10% launch discount.

9 Comments

  1. Aspirant_Fool says:

    Didn’t they already come to PC with Anniversary a few years ago?

    • runonce says:

      Yup, that’s true. Sky Force Anniversary was released on Steam in 2015.

      Though still great to hear we are getting a new version on PC.

  2. hansschmucker says:

    Oh god that takes me back to when I was testing the original version on PalmOS… what’s great about SkyForce is that eventhough it has hopped platforms a few (PPC,Palmos,iPhone,Android,PC) times, along with a totally different rendering engine the game has stayed true to itself. It’s still as accessible as it always was with smooth visuals and smooth controls, without it actually being easy. There’s plenty of challenge, but it doesn’t come by way of clunkly controls or missing contrast. It’s just that you have to play well in order to beat it.

    The only thing that’s become a bit of an issue is progression. I can’t really fault them for that… after all they do have a bussiness to run and by now grinding-for-reward-which-lowers-difficulty-so-you-can-progress has become more accepted than straight beat-to-progress-the-limit-is-your-skill. But it’s a pitty this has been carried over from mobile to PC. But then again, I’m happy it was released at all and if they had to change the whole progression system they probably wouldn’t have bothered.

  3. Eight Rooks says:

    I don’t know that the bullet hell genre “flourished” on mobile. Cave backed out of the English-localized market for good, went EA monetised-to-the-hilt F2P only in Japan, and left all their English releases to be lost forever when iOS went 64-bit only. The most popular games seem to be rubbish like Phoenix II – again, grinding the same dull levels to play the gacha for more ships to do it all over again. There’s a couple of bright spots, like Aka to Blue from ex-Cave devs or the Danmaku Unlimited games, but they’re hardly tearing up the charts.

    Which is a crime, because the Cave iOS ports were absolute masterpieces, and I’ve argued this at length elsewhere… Easy settings on those were actually easy, and the progression from one set of bullet patterns to the next did a brilliant job of encouraging the player to keep going (i.e. “Hey, I beat that on one credit! That was awesome! Let’s see if I can do it again, but a bit harder”). No coin-collecting or wondering if the game is/was actually “fair” required.

  4. goodpoints says:

    Tried a version that looks like this when it was a PS+ game on vita and played through the first few stages. SkyForce’s Blizzard-esque aesthetic is what really turned me off, and the uninspired level design and soundtrack couldn’t redeem that. Also, vertical-scrolling shmups just don’t work on a landscape screen. I’m not really a big shmupper though I do like running through the classics (with sparing use of save states), mostly to appreciate the artwork and music. (The criminally underappreciated Thunder Force III is the greatest FM-synth OST. Yeah, better than Super Metroid, MMX2, or SoR2.)

    Anyway, not sure why anyone would play this when you can flip your monitor sideways and play the original unsurpassed DoDonPachi via FB Alpha. (and be prosecutedt to the full extent of the jam)

  5. Premium User Badge

    Neurotic says:

    I’ve been enjoying it recently on the PS4, having bought it for cheapness a few weeks ago. It’s the kind of thing I’d never play on PC, but on the telly with a gamepad it’s joyous. And yes, very pleasingly 16-bit!

  6. IndigoAK says:

    Correction to this article:

    Sky Force as a series actually gestated on Pocket PC and Symbian. Sky Force Anniversary was a remake of the original game released ten years prior.

    • Dominic Tarason says:

      I’m pretty sure that the original Sky Force was released on iOS too, around the time the first gaming-capable iPhones were being released. I remember playing it a looooong time ago, but I didn’t check the exact release order of the various versions.

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