AKA TO BLUE ($7.99) by Tanoshimasu is a console-quality bullet hell shoot-em-up (shmup) game that brings back the magic of the old CAVE shmups that graced the App Store back in the day. If you're a fan of games like the recently released Danmaku Unlimited 3, then you'll love what AKA TO BLUE has to offer.
Whenever I hit arcades, I usually tend to go for the Japanese bullet hell shmup games because I love the intense shooting action that they're always jam-packed with. They're great stress relievers for me, and I always like to test out my skills when I can. I was a big fan of the CAVE shooters that were released years ago, including DEATHSMILES, Dodonpachi Resurrection, and ESPGALUDA II, so when they stopped releasing new games, I was quite saddened. However, there have been other great bullet hell shmup offerings lately, such as Danmaku Unlimited 3, and I've been hearing about AKA TO BLUE this week. Once I learned that AKA TO BLUE was made by former CAVE developers, I had to get my hands on it. Needless to say, it does not disappoint.
App Feels Like
App Feels Like
AKA TO BLUE's graphics are sharp and stunning on the Retina HD display of my iPhone 8 Plus. The art style in AKA TO BLUE falls under Japanese anime, with the main protagonists and antagonists having wild, colorful hair and stylish outfits. The game world is full of incredibly detailed and polished enemy ships, backgrounds, and insane explosions. Despite all of this, the bullets are bright and neon colored so it's easy to spot them among the chaos. Animations are smooth and fluid on my iPhone 8 Plus so I had no issues of lag. The game also has a head-banging rock soundtrack that's sure to get your blood pumping as you play, and the sound effects are fun.
To top things off, AKA TO BLUE also has a full cast of Japanese voice actors. There are fierce dialogue exchanges between characters on each stage, which only adds to the overall excitement. Unfortunately, it's all done in Japanese, so unless you know how to speak Japanese, you won't understand what's going on.
Like other bullet hell shmups, AKA TO BLUE features a stage system, and there are five levels to get through. While this does not seem like a lot, the game is fairly difficult and each stage is lengthy, with challenging boss fights. So even though only five stages may sound short, it will take some time before you beat the game.
Before you start each run, you can choose between two characters: Fire Bird (AKA) or Blue Owl (Blue). They both have their own distinctive weapons, with Fire Bird having a bullet spread, whereas Blue Owl has a precise weapon that only fires in a straight line. Both characters have their own high scores, so there's plenty of reason to play both.
The controls in AKA TO BLUE are pretty simple and intuitive, even for newbies. To move your ship around, just drag your finger on the screen. The ship automatically fires as it moves, so you don't have to worry about that. As you take down enemies, your Bomb Charge gauge will fill up, and once it reaches at least level one, just tap anywhere (or double-tap) to unleash a Bomb. The higher your Bomb Charge Level, the further your bomb flies. You can also refill it by cancelling enemy bullets with a Bomb and destroying destructible black bullets.
As you destroy enemy ships, you'll get "Score Items." These shiny gold emblems are worth valuable points that get added to your total, so it's vital to grab as many as you can when you see them. Another way to get more points is to aim for chain bonuses — the more enemies you kill in a short amount of time, the bigger your multiplier. When you aren't attacking and taking down foes, the chain drops. So make sure to get rid of as many enemies as possible to maximize your score.
While dodging bullets is also important, the trick to AKA TO BLUE are the bombs. Since the characters don't have secondary weapons like other games, you only have your standard attack and the bombs to work with. The bombs cancel out enemy bullets and wipe out your foes, and also recharges the gauge again for another bomb.
An over the top bullet hell shooter from ex-CAVE developers.
AKA TO BLUE is a solid bullet hell shmup that does things a bit different from the norm, and that's a good thing. I love the anime art style and the detailed graphics during actual gameplay. The soundtrack is also outstanding, as it does a great job of getting your adrenaline going. The voice acting also adds a whole new layer of depth to the action, as it makes me think of an epic battle in a mech anime as I play.
The challenge in the game comes from the fact that there are only two characters that you can play as, and they have different weapons and play styles. There's no secondary weapon aside from Bombs, and those are key to survival. It's different, but AKA TO BLUE breaths some new life into a tried-and-true genre.
While AKA TO BLUE is a great game, it's not perfect. There is only one difficulty level, so it may be difficult for novices or too easy for veterans. I would have preferred seeing at least three difficulty levels so that players can pick one suited for their skill level.
Even though I love the Japanese voice acting, I don't speak or understand Japanese. I would have liked it if there was an option for English voices, so that I could understand what the characters are saying when they speak.
I'm used to having two weapons and bombs in most bullet hell shmups, so AKA TO BLUE is definitely one I need more practice with to fully adjust.
Overall, as a bullet hell shmup fan who misses CAVE games, this is a great addition to my collection. The visuals are super polished and look amazing on my Retina HD screen, and the music is downright fun. Controls are easy to learn and can be customized if needed, but it's friendly enough for even newbies. The concept of bombing instead of dodging to survive is interesting and unique, making AKA TO BLUE stand out from the competition. It's challenging, and has high replay value. This is definitely a title that won't disappoint bullet hell fans.
I highly recommend checking out AKA TO BLUE if you're craving some epic bullet hell shmup action. You can find AKA TO BLUE on the App Store as a universal download for your iPhone and iPad for $7.99. There are no in-app purchases.