We may not know what Homura means, but we do know that this is another retro-styled shooter from 505 GameStreet, originally published by Taito in Japan and developed by the team behind Psyvariar. The original Psyvariar wasn’t up to much, with stupidly short levels and hackneyed bosses, but its sequel – not released outside of Japan – improved on the formula in every way, shape and form to provide a brilliant bit of blasting. Thankfully Homura has followed suit, rather than going back to the developer’s old ways.
The shots to the right do Homura few favours, as with its tidy 3D backgrounds, good attention to detail and suitably lavish explosions this is easily as good looking as the genre-leading Ikaruga. It’s just as tough as Treasure’s iconic shooter too, mainly due to the absence of infinite continues and relentless – although pretty – bullet formations. Did we say pretty? Scrub that: they’re strikingly hypnotic, which makes weaving in and out even more of a devilishly tricky task.
We’ve always been pleased by how 505 GameStreet have handled conversions in the past, and Homura is no different, featuring a 60Hz mode, a gallery of artwork (believe it or not, other games of this ilk have had their galleries removed prior to release outside Japan) and the ability to rotate the screen 90 degrees. So superficially it’s fine, but not having a choice of characters – you can only play as a sword wielding flying angel – is a bit of a let down. He’s pretty well armed though – in addition to standard shooting attacks, a sword gauge is refilled every five seconds and lets you repel bullets and attack enemies from up close. If your timing’s right a combo can be executed resulting in all the enemies on screen being damaged.
The levels vary from a forest to a dojo-filled village, each with bosses and a choice of paths. Naturally this adds replay value, and if you’re playing to get a new high score then discovering which path offers the biggest payouts – so to speak – will also add incentive to return.
If you’ve read this far then the question on your mind should be this: is it better than R-Type Final, Gradius V and Castle Shikigami II? Although curiously addictive, the answer has to be a downbeat one, as it’s simply not as enjoyable or varied. Though for £15 you’ll get your money’s worth if you stick with it until the end.
Solid, but pretty bullet formations don’t make up for a lack of surprises.