STAFF REVIEW of Sky Force Anniversary (Xbox One)

Monday, December 19, 2016.
by Brent Roberts

Sky Force Anniversary Box art Growing up in arcades when I was younger, my quarters loved to find the machines that were classic top down scrolling shooters. I would waste hours upon hours shooting for top scores (editors note: pun intended), stacking quarters on the side for next game, etc. I had a chance to relive those glorious moments of my yesteryear with Sky Force Anniversary, out now on the Xbox One.

Originally released in 2004 by Infinite Dreams, Sky Force has seen numerous releases on numerous platforms throughout the years it has existed, and then in 2014 Sky Force Anniversary launched, and it too has seen release on various platforms.. Now almost 3 years later, this top down shooter comes to the Xbox One for the low price of $9.99. So after a decade, is there enough polish on this release to warrant a purchase?

Over the many, many years of gaming, top down shooters have always been sort of a nostalgic trip down memory lane, and when certain releases come out that are done incredibly well, they are herald as a resurrected force for many childhood memories. When Sky Force launched it received much praise for its quality work, and thankfully we see this here today as well with the "Anniversary" edition.

Sky Force Anniversary essentially boils down to you fighting a bad guy in a very big plane, but to get to him you'll need to tackle 9 levels of increasing intensity first. These games have really never been much about story and plot lines, but rather focused on screen filling action, a tense white knuckle grip on the joysticks, and the repeated smashing of the fire button. Thankfully Sky Force Anniversary does just that in spades. This is in part to the control layout which is very easy to pick up and play.

There is an opening sequence that will get you acclimated to Sky Force Anniversary's controls and mayhem. The Left Stick controls your ship while the Right Trigger fires your weaponry, and so on. This means that you don't have to split your focus between a screen filled with laser fire and a series of confusing and complicated menus. From there you'll see that the first level helps get you adjusted to the unending repetition that you will find throughout the rest of the game. Sky Force Anniversary is built around the premise that you shoot everything you can, then scroll forward and do it some more. You keep this simplistic pattern going until you come across an end boss, or the end area of the level, then you rinse and repeat. While some would say that this would be incredibly boring, I'd almost say that I agree with you; however, you soon realize that Sky Force Anniversary will hook you like a drug. Let me explain why.

See, most companies have issues creating a game that offers replayability, especially in this genre. This is why a lot of successful shooters are focused only on multiplayer, because you have to find a way to keep gamers playing even after they beat the main game. Sky Force Anniversary's hook is that it somewhat forces you to collect stars throughout your levels which act as your currency to spend on upgrading your ship. This means you can replay missions over and over again if they yield a high star output and you can then start building and crafting your ship and its upgrades into an incredible force of power. This feature plays right into the game's own trophy system where each level rewards you for certain things, like rescuing all the people in a level, destroying 100% of the enemies in a level, or even avoiding any damage in a level. While tasks that seem menial at first will quickly become very challenging should you decide not to upgrade your ship. However, in the middle of this, there is an issue or two to be dealt with.

One of the big issues with the upgrade system is the system itself. Let me give you an example. Let's say you want to put side guns on your craft (everyone loves more guns). Well that's great but it will set you back 900 stars to put them on. Then if you want to upgrade them you have to start paying in incremental increases of stars. The first upgrade will set you back 90, then 135, then 180, and so on, and by the time you get that stat maxed out, you will have sunk numerous hours just doing the same thing in tremendous repetition. When you factor all the upgrades themselves, and their initial start cost, and then upgrade cost, Sky Force Anniversary will have you hooked for weeks if you want to upgrade everything. But even though you'll be grinding harder than Miley Cyrus, you'll at least be having and enjoyable experience. This is thanks to the whole "Anniversary" touch.

As we've come to expect in today's world, when a company throws around the words like "Anniversary" you get the sensation that things might be improved upon. We saw inklings of this when games like Halo Combat Evolved Anniversary released, and Sky Force Anniversary is no different. There is a tremendous amount of visual improvement to where Sky Force is quite visually stunning. Even though there are only 9 levels, each one is done with a beautiful coat of paint and overhaul. This treatment also continues to every facet of the game, from the aircraft to weapon effects, all of which deserves high praise, for it truly is tremendous work. To accompany this graphical accomplishment Sky Force Anniversary sports an energetic, blood pumping, electronic, retro synth heavy soundtrack that will pulse throughout every mission and help keep the intensity driving.

For $9.99 there's no question that Sky Force Anniversary is a highly welcomed game on the Xbox platform. Infinite Dreams has done a great job providing quality entertainment that will literally make any extra time you thought you had disappear. Although I wish there were more variety within the game, overall Sky Force Anniversary is a must have game if you enjoy these classic top down shooters and it is a one of the better investments you can make for $9.99 on the Xbox One.

Overall: 7.8 / 10
Gameplay: 8.0 / 10
Visuals: 8.0 / 10
Sound: 7.0 / 10


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