15 February 2017

Review: Psyvariar Complete Edition (Playstation 2)

Risk and reward. A concept often used in shoot 'em ups. But Psyvariar was one of the titles that brought it to a whole other level. This collection consisting of Psyvariar: Medium Unit and Psyvariar: Revision once upon a time paved the way for me in to loving this genre. Let me tell you about it.

(Medium Unit is the first version of Psyvariar, then they made some revisions to the gameplay and design and put out Revision. Even though they are very different in both pacing, enemy design and, to some extent, gameplay I will be focusing on Revision in this review since it is the only version I am playing.)

I was fresh out of my first shoot 'em up ever, Strikers 1945 II on Playstation, and I was looking for the next step. I found Psyvariar Complete Edition on eBay for practically nothing and picked it up. At the time I still had this vague image in my head where shoot 'em ups were unvaried, shallow and stale. Something to eat quarters at the local pub. I fired Psyvariar up and everything I ever thought I knew washed away.

Psyvariar is a vertical shoot 'em up with colorful enemy bullet patterns like many others. But the famous risk and reward is brought to a point in Psyvariar through two aspects. The first, obvious, way is to choose the harder stages (yes, we can often choose path between stages) and through this get bombarded with more enemies and points to earn. The second is the core mechanic of Psyvariar. The buzzing. Buzzing (also called "grazing", "scratching" and "scraping") is when you fly close to enemy bullets on purpose, to rack up extra points/increase in level. This means that a novice can choose the easier way through the game and avoid buzzing to simply reach the end and then start to push the limits. Personally I started to experiment with the buzzing on the easier stages until I was comfortable with it, then I went for the more difficult stages and my highscore skyrocketed.

During the gameplay the ship goes up in level which means that it transforms into a new shape and more importantly changes attack pattern. My favorite form is where I look like a cone with wings - where I can shoot from the sides as well when not focusing my shot for power. Oh, that is right, I forgot to mention that there also is a focus mode to the attack. If the player wiggles the joystick quickly from side to side the ship starts to spin and the attack becomes more powerful at the cost of ship speed. It is much like the laser attack from the Donpachi games in that way.

If you beat the game on one credit while always going for the hardest stage available at each impasse you unlock a secret final level which I have yet to see because I am not that good yet. But one day I will see it. One day...

So what do I think of the game all in all? In one sentence: It is great fun. Adding a second sentence: If you have a Playstation 2 and like shoot 'em ups then I see no reason not to get this game.

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