STAFF REVIEW of Shikhondo - Soul Eater (Xbox One)


Tuesday, September 25, 2018.
by Adam Dileva

Shikhondo - Soul Eater Box art I don’t like to brag, but I’m quite skilled at playing shmup (shoot-em-up) bullet hell titles, such as Ikargua, Deathsmiles and Radiant Silvergun, and dozens of others. These are the games where you pilot some sort of ship or character, and the screen is practically filled with enemy bullets, requiring some intense concentration and dexterity to avoid them. There are dozens of bullet hell shmups out there, but very few have done something supremely refined or uniquely enough to stand amongst the greats in the genre.

Shikhondo – Soul Eater is a Korean bullet hell shmup that is surely unique in its own way, one that doesn’t have you piloting a space ship as most, but instead, you use one of two girls, set in an Asian mythology backdrop, something completely unique and it's unlike anything that I have before. Even though the game is short in length, there’s lots of difficulty levels to try your hand at and an online leaderboard to work towards bragging rights.

Like most shmups, the story in Shikhondo – Soul Eater is paper thin, revolving around a demon army, known as the Yokai, who have escaped from Limbo and are stealing souls across the world. You must defeat these enemies and free all of the souls. Not having a strong narrative is par for the course in this genre, which is passable, as you play these for the gameplay more than anything else, which is true here as well.

You begin by choosing one of two young women, each of which have their own attack types. The ‘Grim Reaper’ utilizes a spread shot as her default attack, but you can focus the shot to be more condensed and powerful. The other option, simply called ‘The Girl’, shoots straight forward, but has two orbs that not only use homing shots , but can be utilized in a way that they can float near enemies and shoot at them more directly as well. Each of two 'women' play differently and needs separate strategies. For my playstyle, I enjoyed using ‘The Girl’ much more simply for her orbs.


You dodge and shoot across five separate levels, each of which will fill the screen with countless bullets. Each level also ends in a boss fight that will challenge all of your skills. I must say, having played lots of shmups and bullet hells, Shikhondo utilizes one of the most unique bullet patterns I’ve seen in quite some time. Most bullet hells simply put tons of bullets on the screen going in a straight line, but here, there’s tons of patterns and rhythms you’ll need to contend with, and of course, they will overlap at times for added difficulty.

Boss fights are exciting and quite challenging. The bullet patterns that these screen filling bosses employ will take a large amount of memorization and skill to overcome, and each will take place in two separate waves. Defeat the first form of each boss and you’ll then need to contend with its second, and more powerful, form. Persevere and win and you’ll get to choose from an extra Soul Attack (bomb) or an extra life (butterly). Both of which are equally useful, so it’s up to you to choose which would suit your play style better.

For a shmup, the hit detection is quite forgiving (on easy mode), and what I really found interesting is that you can actually see your character’s hit box as indicated by a small glowing blue orb in the middle of her body. That is all you need to worry about, and focus on, in order to not touch any enemy projectiles. It takes some getting used to, but you’ll eventually get a feel for it over time, but don’t get cocky, as you’ll most likely breeze through the first half of the game, but he second portion will have you most likely relying on infinite continues.

Another unique mechanic that I really enjoyed once I got used to it was the Soul Gage system. You shoot by holding down the ‘A’ button, but using the Right Trigger allows you to use your characters unique ability, focused shot for Grim Reaper or sending your orbs to attack enemies with The Girl. Now, when you hold down Right Trigger, you move much slower, maybe half speed, and in a bullet hell, being able to maneuver quickly is paramount. This is where a lot of skill comes into play, as sometimes you want that fine minute movement, but there’s also another reason to do so.


When you’re using your ability and moving slow, bullets you get close to and graze will fill a meter, which is indicated with a circle around your chosen character. Once this circle is full, as a result of ‘near misses’of a bunch of bullets, you can use the Left Trigger to activate your Soul Collect mode. Here your firepower is increased substantially and you’ll do massive damage to enemies and bosses for a short while. So, it’s a risk versus reward mechanic of utilizing your ability to charge your meter to then unleash when needed. It’s very tricky to pull off in the heat of battle, but worth the risk once you have the skills to do so when required.

While Arcade Mode is the standard gameplay, there are a few others modes to try out as well, including Boss rush, Hardcore, Custom Game and even local co-op. There are a handful of difficulty modes that are selectable, from Easy to Extreme, with the harder options giving a higher multiplier bonus for score attack. Hardcore gives you a single life, so good luck trying to complete it without any continues. Boss Rush will have you going head to head against all five bosses back to back, a great way to practice and improve your skills if you’re looking to improve your global score as well as achievement hunting for beating the game without any continues. And of course, local co-op is also available if you have a skilled friend to play alongside you.

Visually, Shikhondo is beautiful, as it’s all seemingly hand drawn and has a very distinct Asian style to it. It’ll take some getting used to, as enemies blow up into souls and automatically get sucked into you when defeated, but you’ll learn to separate the chaos the more you play. Bullets seem frantic and impossible at first, but you’ll start to learn their unique patterns, and at times they can be quite beautiful to simply watch. My only complaint is that it’s near impossible to watch your hit box orb during mass chaos, and so much of avoiding projectiles has to rely more on a feel than direct visual avoidance.


As for the audio, there’s not much here aside from the typical ‘pew pew’ sounds and explosions. I for one quite enjoyed the soundtrack though, as it was filled with a light electronic undertone, unique for each level, but given there’s only five levels, you’ll eventually grow tired of the same songs if you repeatedly play to improve your scores. There’s not much longevity to Shikhondo – Soul Eater with its short five levels unless you want to work on harder difficulties, and you could easily see it all in a single sitting or weekend, but it was an entertaining experience, one that I’m glad to have experienced.

It’s a little pricey at $13.99 for its short length, but for those that want to get the most out of it, there are enough modes included along with an online leaderboard to constantly strive towards climbing. With a distinct art style and near beautiful bullet patterns, there’s a lot of challenge included here for true shmup bullet hell fans, like myself, and it is a game that shouldn’t be overlooked, even if it won’t make many top 10 lists for the genre.




Overall: 8.0 / 10
Gameplay: 8.5 / 10
Visuals: 8.5 / 10
Sound: 6.0 / 10

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