Nighthaw-x3000 Review -- When Shmups Are Dipped in Vaporwave
Games, whether intentional or otherwise, tend to correlate closely with other mediums like books, real life, or films. In the case of Nighthaw-x3000, it's music.
Nighthaw-x3000 stars James Pilecki, an ace pilot with personal issues. He suspends his days of suspension with beer. If being foul-mouthed and angry were quality traits James would be a real charmer. But things get sour when aliens attack Earth and our hero heads to the skies to shoot them down. Official orders be damned, the beer is in danger as far as James is concerned.
So what genre of music does AAG Studio's shmup (arcade shooter) parallel? Well that would be vaporwave. For the uninitiated, vaporwave is a subgenre of electronica and an internet meme that emerged around 2010. The genre focuses on styles from the 1980s & 1990s. These styles include the entertainment, technology, visuals, style aesthetic and music of that time period. This shooter boasts said 1980s aesthetics in every facet.
To jump right into things, the game is similar to most shoot em ups. There's a light story that provides you a reason to defend the Earth. Like most games in the genre, it's a top down game that scrolls horizontally. The main goal is to achieve a high score. Your score increases as you play through the story, shoot down groups of foes, deal with increased difficulty, and reach the end of a level.
The game oddly enough has a lot in common with Space Invaders (hmm prominent in the 1980s). Your movement isn't very fast and must be rather methodical at times. One minute you need to sway from enemy fire and obstacles., and in the next moment you use a shield to protect yourself until you lose hit points. As you're shooting down enemies you gain fuel. This fuel allows you to use a boost which allows you to move and shoot faster. You can dodge fire with a well timed dash, and you also have a special attack that summon forth a line of ships that provide cover fire.
Each stage ends with you fighting against a giant boss. They all possess their own theme but should not be taken lightly. That being said, it feels awesome taking them down.
"Kicking ass 80s style" is one of the game's tag lines. Its visuals and art style live up to that motto. Stages use an assortment of very bright colors. Objects, ammo, and so forth are highlighted/outlined in neon. To present a pseudo 3D look, everything appears to be a cutout object placed on a scrolling stage. Everything stands out nicely due to this unique juxtaposition.
The art style as seen in the story also carries a cyberpunk feel--an aesthetic that was made famous in the 80s as well. From the title screen to the ending credits; the game looks loud and oozes with every color of the rainbow. Its visual candy like no other.
Vaporwave stylistically focuses on music such as lounge music, smooth jazz, R&B, and elevator music. The majority of the music throughout the game falls into any of the categories. You'll be left wondering, "...Am I being charged to stop alien invaders or am I in a club." The music is thumping and fitting given all the other 80s vibes. This kind of music is hard to not like given the genres it blends into.
The game also features a good deal of content as well. For instance, your retro adventure isn't just a solo affair. You can initiate 2 player co-op at anytime during a single-player game. Another perk is the upgrade system. As you move along the story, you'll be rewarded with upgrades. You also have story mode, boss rush mode, hard difficulties and a leaderboard. All the features here will make you come back for more -- like watching your favorite 1980s movies.
Like a good album, everything doesn't come across flawlessly. A few of the game's shortcomings are due to the difficulty. Depending on the setting, you may either enjoy a smooth ride or get rather stressed out. This is inevitable with shmups. Another reason why someone may not enjoy the game is the speed at which you move. It feels like the ship moves too slow in comparison to everything else. Despite these minor concerns the game is still fun.
Closing Up The Club
There is no question about the impression Nighthaw-x 3000 leaves. This shmup is one of the most vaporwave-esque (1980s) games you'll ever play. The game is challenging and rewarding at the end of the day. The drive to achieve a high score is always in reach and hours of fun. The art design and music possess a special kind of cool you can appreciate.
If you need a game with an assortment of unique aesthetics which is also challenging look no further than Nighthaw-x 3000.
Note: The developer provided a copy of this game for review purposes.