Sky Force: Reloaded Review

The amount of reboots, remasters, reimaginings, and re-whateverelses coming out across every field of entertainment is staggering.  While some might look at it and find it lazy to bring back old properties, I personally find it important. With the digital boom and rise of social media, great games that once were ignored or forgotten can find a second life and reach cult status or even critical acclaim. Infinite Dreams has decided to keep the ball rolling, porting Sky Force to the Switch to share the title with more players. So with Sky Force: Reloaded, do we have a revitalization or a lazy turd?

One of the initial thoughts I had was about how easy it was to pick this title up and play. Unlike many games, Sky Force: Reloaded has a cold open: giving us a powered-up ship, we decimate enemies left and right until the game throws a brick wall of a challenge that, unless I’m just bad at gaming, is a ‘supposed to lose’ fight.  This drops your power levels back to zero, making you have to build your way back up to power.

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Each level has a set sequence of events: enemies emerge and attack in pre-timed patterns and your task is to destroy them all.  What makes this difficult is the speed and pace being out of your control.  While you can move your ship throughout the immediate screen, the scrolling maps and baddie placements mean you need to plan your approach and execute it with precision.  The enemies that move in paths across the map, combined with the bullet hell-styled attacks, create a hectic map that can at times be difficult to traverse.

As you blow up your foes, they will drop various items, most consistently being stars, the game’s currency.  These create more of a risk/reward system during missions as you need to get close enough to collect them.  It’s important to grab as many as you can, because fail or succeed, you get to keep what you collect.  This design choice is key to the game as it encourages trial and error, and makes even a failed run successful.

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These stars are what you use to upgrade your ship’s weapons, health, or install fun new gadgets to help you blow up more enemies and earn more stars.  A magnet skill can be unlocked and upgraded to help bring the stars to you, while lasers, energy shields, and missiles can be installed to give you an offensive boost.  However, to use these during combat you’ll have to buy the ammunition or pick up some during the matches.  This feature I was not fond of, as the prices were insanely high and took away from other resources.  While the power they wielded could be one-shot devastating, I found it more worthwhile to pump points into weapons, armor, and my magnet.

And you’ll need that increased survivability, as the missions have a spiking uptick in difficulty. Even moving from one mission to the next is a spike that often will have you underpowered compared to the enemies, and having to keep grinding older levels for stars.  While this might sound like an issue, the game handles these curves very well.  Level progression is tied not just to beating a level, but collecting medals.  These are earned for defeating 70% or 100% of enemies, saving all the humans on the map, and beating a level taking no damage.

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These medals create a loop of conquest that drives the game perfectly.  The need for the medals gives you goals in-game, with each mission taking several attempts to earn them all. Not only that, but difficulty modes unlock for each level when you collect all four, meaning that each level grows in replayability.  Not only that, but various rare collectibles can also drop that give you power-ups both permanent and temporary, and even unlocking new ships.  It can’t be stated enough the smart design choices made on the whole.  By giving you something to do and strive for at all times, be it upgrading your ship, working on earning medals, or even hunting for collectibles, there was never a feeling of hopelessness or pointlessness I had while playing.

Visually, the aesthetic is consistently charming.  Each level has differing themes and colors, yet despite the stark contrast in location they all feel part of a homogeneous world.  The enemies and ships aren’t anything special, but they stand out from the backgrounds and have a protruding presence on the map.  The only hiccup when it comes to visuals is the occasional clustertruck of mayhem.  Explosions and enemy bullets mix with your own shots and stars in some levels, making it easy to lose track of your ship.  It’s not a major issue that frequently happens, but once you’ve attempted a level several times, it's bound to happen.

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Sky Force: Reloaded was a game that truly surprised me. Despite being several years old, everything feels modern and polished. While it can be challenging, it never deterred me from playing thanks to brilliant design choices that kept me motivated rather than frustrated. It’s an easy game to recommend and one that I see coming back to for a long time to come.