Known as ‘Osyaberi! Horijyo! Gekihori: Anna Holinski saves the universe, alright?!‘ in full, this Japanese horizontal shooter lathers on gimmicks thickly, to the point where every single element has either a subtle twist or breaks convention. As shooters go, it’s also both messy and chaotic – with the screen filled with copious amounts of enemies almost constantly – and yet, it also manages to showcase genre mastery.
The plot seems a good place to begin, as the premise is also tied into a core mechanic. Anna is an avid miner who spends her days digging to find precious raw materials, which are then tossed onto her colossal ore mountain. This glistening loot pile attracts a race of grey-skinned aliens, who snatch up her treasures and take off into space. Armed with her trusty drill, Anna chases after the aliens to not only retrieve her stockpile but also discover their plans for it.
Anna excitedly yells – in Japanese, we should note – throughout the whole experience, rattling off one-liners and taunts, shown in English subtitles at the bottom of the screen. She mildly curses and throws a few meme and pop culture references into the mix too. If the constant jibber jabber ever becomes too much, the option is there to quieten her down. Another text box is located at the top of the screen, informing of incoming bosses, item drops, freighter loot, and more. Considering the hectic pace, this proves to be helpful and doesn’t distract from the action.
Set in space and on different planets, stages boil down to a mix of enemy shooting, bullet avoidance, mini-bosses, and stage-boss confrontations. To add variety, every stage features a few chances to drill through space dirt (?) to collect ore. These precious trinkets can then be sold at the infrequent shops, run by a talking fish, with Anna’s cargo hold also having a limit. All upgrades, which improve attack and defense, are permanent – meaning it’s possible to replay stages from the stage select screen, earn more ore, and revisit a shop to upgrade stats just as you would in an RPG.
This prevents the experience from being linear. I found myself making headway only to become stuck on a boss, and then returning to the game’s start with all upgrades intact to grind for new gear – all while amassing new high scores, and taking down mini-bosses that I wasn’t strong enough to defeat within the 30 second timespan initially. Having to grind isn’t aggravating in the slightest, as score-chasing is based around it.
The idea is that even if you’re a genre newcomer, you’ll see the ending screen eventually – it’s simply a case of buying enough upgrades until you become a powerhouse able to overcome anything thrown at you. Those well-versed with shooters, however, will find themselves breaking high scores and reaching new ranks far sooner and with less grinding. The challenge lies in trying to beat the game with Anna’s arsenal at low levels.
Colour changing orbs appear often, restoring health, granting a blast shield, and bestowing a searing laser that lasts for around five seconds. It’s wise to choose carefully – the laser may be able to finish off a boss, wrapping things up quickly. And even if health is low, the burst shield may see you able to withstand a barrage of bullets. Incoming fire is relatively easy to dodge, with most bullets traveling slowly. On contact they become trapped in Anna’s forcefield-like shield, giving a few seconds to move out of the way.
For its visual style, it uses bright cartoony sprites drawn with soft thin outlines. The game engine copes with the carnage well and there’s lots of scaling and rotation – with one boss taking the form of a spinning watermelon that spews red juice. A lot of the mini-bosses are recycled, however, merely remerging for the third, or possibly fourth time, in a ‘levelled up’ state.
Once the ‘Normal Mode’ is beaten, new modes unlock including a boss rush. This belated English translation also includes Umelda Mode, which was DLC in the 2019 Japanese release. Here you get to play the villain and witness the story’s aftermath, with Umelda having different attacks, including a two-way shot. With two campaigns to play through, the £13.49 asking price is more than reasonable. A second player can also join in, controlling Meteor – a small white cat who comes along for the ride. They can’t deal much damage to bosses, but they are useful at collecting ore.
Osyaberi! Horijyo! Gekihori delivers an experience that’s pleasingly chaotic yet always keen to reassure players that they’re in control. If you’re hankering for a shooter that’s lively and dares to do things a little differently, look no further.
Published by First Press Games, Osyaberi! Horijyo! Gekihori: Anna Holinski saves the universe, alright?! Is out now on the Switch eShop.