You know, bullet hell!
While today's highly anticipated releases of Diablo 3 and Max Payne 3 are likely dominating your free time today, there’s another game hitting store shelves that’s bound to fly through a hail of bullets under everyone’s radar. The Cave-developed shoot ‘em up Akai Katana is also releasing for 360. This is the latest console port of a Cave arcade game, and is the first one to release at retail in America since Aksys Games’ release of Deathsmiles way back in June 2010. Deathsmiles II released through Games on Demand, and is, to date, the only 360 game to release through it without receiving a retail release in the same territory. And that’s not including the HD ports of Resident Evil 4 and Code Veronica X, which made it on there because their original iterations sold over one million copies.
The 360 version of Akai Katana comes with a bunch of extras over the arcade version, a normal trend for Cave’s home ports; it was known as Akai Katana Shin in Japan to signify this. The home version’s visuals have been redone in high definition, and now support 16:9 resolutions. It also has a new stage that culminates with a new boss. But for anyone who wants the original, authentic experience, the arcade version is also included on the disc, which also has an option for higher resolution graphics.
This is the first game coming from America’s newest publisher of niche games: Rising Star Games. You may have heard of them before, as they’ve been publishing a bunch of niche games in Europe for many years now. They recently established a base of operations in America to localize games for Japan. Aksys, who released the aforementioned Deathsmiles, is distributing their games for now. Hopefully they’ll stick around for a good while, because we could always use more niche game localization companies -- especially in a time when localizations becoming increasingly scarcer.
Upon taking a glance at the artwork, you might have noticed the prevalence of samurai. Akai Katana takes place in a fantastical, over-the-top version of Japan’s Taisho period, one whose inhabitants have discovered mysterious weapons known as Blood Swords. This is where the title comes in, since “Akai” means “Red” in Japanese. The swords possess incredible and destructive power, and have been acquired by a malignant empire to crush anyone who stands in their way. You heroes are a small band of brave rebels who have made it their goal to fight back against them, whatever the odds.
And man are the odds massive. This a Cave shoot ‘em up, meaning you’ll have to dodge loads of bullets your enemies spread out on-screen with quick reflexes, and whose levels all have a gargantuan foe waiting at the end. This isn’t really new territory for Cave, but it’s the kind of skill-based, intense gameplay fans appreciate, and it could be a little intimidating (but not impossible) for newcomers for get adjusted to. If you need any help, there are some tutorial videos on the game’s official website. They’re not quite as comprehensive as the ones on the Japanese website, but hopefully they get the job done.
The game should have shown up in all stores today, but some (like Amazon.com) may not get it until tomorrow. It’s also a niche game, so some may not stock it at all. The game’s cheaper than the standard price at $39.99, so that should make it easier to swallow on your wallet.
Update: Apparently Cave is currently experiencing a kind of hell too. In the last twelve hours, we've received plenty of evidence that they're not in good financial shape. Word from this week's Famitsu is that Cave cancelled both games they had in development for Vita. It also looks like their stock has been tumbling considerably in the last few months, partly due to the recent social game controversy in Japan. Lastly, we heard the company's Chief Operating Officer, Miko Watanabe, will be resigning at the end of this month. They're also in the midst of closing their online store, and will be having clearance sales this weekend. Hopefully they power through it, but with no more games in their back catalog that can be ported to 360 the dwindling arcade market in Japan, the situation looks dire for them.