It’s hard to start speaking about a game that released 18 years ago without mentioning its history, and of course, a bit of nostalgia. Vasara 1 released in the year 2000, with its sequel, Vasara 2 coming a year after. Both games were released by Visco as arcade exclusives for Japan at that time. Fast forward 18 years into the present and now both titles are releasing to the West and are part of the Vasara Collection. The title is releasing on both, PS4 and PS Vita by QUByte Interactive, which provided a code for this review. It has been long for Vasara, is it ready to rock in 2019, or should it had stayed confined to the arcade cabinets of the 2000s? Let’s dive into this matter!
Vasara Collection proves Shmups are well and alive
Both Vasara and Vasara 2 are shmups. The Shoot’em up genera is famous for its difficulty level and tons of on-screen enemies and Vasara stays true to this defying trait. In a simple description, you control an aerial ship and try to shoot every enemy on screen to get power-ups and finally defeat a boss at the end of the level. Still, even when it is a shmup at heart, it manages to introduce a good amount of gameplay elements that set it apart from others in this category. Vasara has not only a boss fight but several mini-bosses as you progress through each level, making the whole level an exciting ride that culminates in an awesome boss battle.
To my surprise, there’s even a melee attack mechanic that allows you to deal great damage at the same time it protects you from upcoming projectiles. In addition, you have a Vasara attack unique to each character and consumes a power meter that reloads with energy defeated enemies left behind. Vasara has a story, but just as you’re not going to a fast-food restaurant for lobster, you aren’t playing Vasara for its narrative. You can enjoy putting all the pieces together and see why every main character and each villain play a role in this story, but the game is also pretty straightforward and enjoyable without trying to put the story together.
From arcade to 4K widescreen
Vasara and Vasara 2 are both intended to be played in a vertical screen. This is mimicked in the game by adding borders to your widescreen TV and leaving just a portion of it for gameplay. This mode is definitely for the arcade purists, or for those with curiosity or nostalgia for the old arcade times. Both games can be played in classic mode, and they are a blast to play in their retro glory. Both games look good even though they are now being played on a screen with a much superior resolution than when they originally released. If you’re not into pixel art and the game seems too dated for you, well, the Vasara Collection got you covered.
In addition to both original games, you can play in a new 3D version of the games called Timeless mode. In Timeless mode, you can play as any of the heroes in Vasara 1 and Vasara 2. The whole game was reworked with high-resolution textures, new animations, and crisp 3D models. There was for sure a lot of dedication and passion put into creating this mode, as it elevates the classic experience and brings it up to speed with our current UHD era. Even though the game looks crisp and modern, its art direction manages to stay true to what Vasara is and makes it feel like an upgraded version of a timeless classic era. Hence, the timeless moniker.
Nostalgia on every tune and explosion
Vasara Collection did an amazing job with audio mixing. Every composition has been adapted to perfection and all of them are catchy and compelling to all the action that’s going on on-screen. Every enemy on screen and projectile being shot is well translated to the audio department, making each level a chaotically exciting experience. I strongly suggest you use either a good pair of headphones or crank that surround system up to get the best out of each great theme and audio effect Vasara Collection has to offer.
It’s dangerous to go alone
One of the best things about Vasara Collection is that you can play with your friends. Depending on the mode you choose, you can play with up to three friends. I had a great time with the classic Vasara arcade style. Although, it was the Timeless widescreen mode with 3 more friends that amped the experience to its peak. Vasara Collection truly shines bright when played with friends. Even though you might have help, the game still manages to pose a challenge for you and your peers. Each of you must know when to use special attacks to defend the others and when to simply fall back and dodge upcoming attacks. It gets hectic with one player, four literally translates to madness with so much going on screen.
Fortunately, the widescreen support allows enough room to accommodate four players and still find sense within all the moving enemies and projectiles. The only downside is that there’s no online mode. You can only couch co-op with your pals. There is an online leaderboard though, just in case you are competitive and want to immortalize your name on the top of the ranking.
Arcade homage done right
In summary, Vasara Collection has everything an arcade relaunch should offer. It gives the arcade retro fans a true adaptation of an 18-year-old arcade classic. While offering new exciting modes that bring the franchise up to speed with technology for those who aren’t so fond of the old arcade times. Vasara has a learning curve, just as most shmups, but what sets it apart is how fun it is to learn from your mistakes and just dive right again into its well-designed Japanse style. Vasara Collection is arcade homage done right and at its best. Even if it has been 18 years, the wait was worthwhile. If you’re new to shmups, now is your time to jump in. If you are an arcade fan, you’re in for a treat!