The Vasara Collection from QUByte Interactive is split into 3 high-intensity screen scrolling shoot’em ups set around the time of feudal Japan, but with futuristic aircraft capable of melee attacks. 2 of the 3 games in the collection are remakes of the 2000 (Vasara) and 2001 (Vasara 2) games. The 3rd is a modernised combination of both games, with 4 player local co-op and eye-catching graphics.
As a fan of some of the Samurai Warriors and Warriors Orochi games, I have some knowledge of the famous samurai mentioned in this game like Nobunaga Oda, Ieyasu Tokugawa and Hideyoshi Toyotomi. So, with my eyes wide open, I jumped in on the original Vasara and discovered a few (skippable) intro scenes in Japanese which didn’t make a great deal of sense before the action kicked in. And, man, did it really kick in.
The first thing to notice is the original retro-style graphics. The playable screen is restricted to its original size, so the room for movement is not as big as you’re soon going to want it to be. There is no easing you in here; it’s pretty much carnage from the start. You’ll soon realise that unless you have full focus and impeccable reflex you are going to die a lot in this game. There are a lot of things to shoot at, power-ups to increase your bullet volume and power, and a melee attack to hit enemies with, which can also deflect bullets. But the enemies are relentless both with their spawn rate and their habit of filling any available space with bullets.
Commonly in games like this, you learn patterns to the bullets and waves to know the best spots to move to in order to not get hit. I could find no such pattern in this game, and so I assume it was implied – with the samurai theme – that you need to use your sword melee attack to deflect those impossible to dodge bullets more often. This would be fine, except you need to hold down the shoot button for about 1.5 seconds to charge the melee attack. Whilst you are holding the shoot button down you are not firing anything, so you are wide open for those 1.5 seconds… a lifetime in this game. By that I mean there is a good chance that my average lifespan for my first playthrough was about 1.5 seconds.
But the melee attack isn’t your only defence against the onslaught of bullets. You also get bombs, which are of limited supply, but when used make you invulnerable for a few seconds, as well as attacking everything around you in a small radius. You will need these a lot, though handily enemies occasionally drop extra bombs to use and when you die. The bombs also fill back up, so there is no point hanging on to them for tougher enemies – you won’t make it to them if you don’t.
Rounding out your arsenal is the Vasara special attack. But you must earn this attack to be able to use it. Every enemy you vanquish drops gems, and for every gem you collect a small part of the Vasara gauge fills up – though this will take a lot of gems. Once full, you’ll see a flashing Vasara sign to let you know it is ready. This attack supercharges your next Melee attack into a 5-second melee onslaught which hit enemies and swats away those pesky bullets.
But for every level, it seems to follow the pattern of a lot of enemies, a sub-boss, a lot more enemies and the final boss of the stage. Both the sub-bosses and the main bosses are extremely tough and take a lot of bullets, bombs and melee attacks to bring down. They also like to fill the whole screen with their bullets leaving literally no room to dodge. So, you would have to use a combination of your melee attack, bombs, impeccable reflexes and unrealistic luck to not lose a life there.
Fortunately, for Vasara and it’s sequel, there are buttons to load in more virtual coins into the virtual coin slot to continue if you lose all your lives. It is a good thing too, as I don’t think I would see past level 1 if there wasn’t. It is also a good thing it is a virtual currency – using real-life currency would see me bankrupt before I could get close to completing this game.
Both original Vasara games play quite similar in style and layout, and can both be played with 2 players locally, which only slightly improves your survival chances. The downside to 2 players is that you both can’t occupy the same part of the screen – you will find yourself getting in each other’s way looking for those gaps in the slew of bullets. But like with Vasara, Vasara 2 can also be played vertically or horizontally, and you can feed in the virtual coins to keep continuing after you die repeatedly.
This is different in the modernised version of Vasara, referred to as the timeless mode. It combines both Vasara titles, maximises the screen, modernises the graphics, allows up to 4 local players and allows you to select from 8 characters from both games. However, unlike the original games, there is no continues here so once you lose all your lives it is game over. That slightly ruins the experience for me as the modernisation of the game looks great and with more space to move around the chance for dodging bullets increases slightly. But the difficulty is still very high, as even when playing with a partner, they perished at the sub-boss whereas I made it to the final boss before I met my demise.
The Vasara Collection will appeal to the scrolling shoot em up fans as it combines both the old-style games and a modern re-imagining of the original games. It is far too difficult for anyone who is not experienced in this genre of games, and it can get old and frustrating fast after repeatedly dying in the game. But for those who like this style of game and like a hardcore challenge then this collection is packaged nicely just for you.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.Want to keep up to date with the latest Xt reviews, Xt opinions and Xt content? Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.