PlayStation Plus Highlight Review: Sky Force Anniversary
I first learned about Sky Force from a friend about a month ago.
It's a long-running series of vertically scrolling arcade shooters, but with a layer of modern progression design on top.
Now, one of the newer entries, Sky Force Anniversary, is free on PS Plus. It's very good and I think you should play it.
Sky Force Anniversary is designed for one or two local players. You pilot a ship that constantly scrolls up the screen, and you shoot enemy ships and vehicles. As you do, stars come out of them. You collect the stars, and spend them to upgrade your ship.
The game has a steep-but-fair difficulty curve that never feels cheap. Levels that seem hard at first become much easier with upgrades over time. Each stage has a number of optional objectives you can complete for score bonuses, and to open up harder versions of that stage that multiply the number of stars you earn.
Later stages add new wrinkles like different enemies or twists on previous gameplay mechanics. For example, there's an EMP submarine that can completely disable your weapons for the rest of a level, turning the game into a completely defensive exercise. Some of these challenges can feel frustrating at first, but the variety is nice.
Since it was originally a mobile game, levels are short-but-sweet. So it's a good game for shorter play sessions.
Sky Force Anniversary has a very nice, colorful look to it. It's easy to discern enemies from the background, and the overall visual look is very much in line with arcade classics from the 90's.
It's not going to wow you if you're the sort who demands only the latest in graphical effects....but it's very clean and runs at a very high and consistent frame rate.
I've played the game on both PS4 Pro and previously on Xbox One S, and there's no major differences between them visually. The PS4 Pro does load the game a bit faster but that's it.
I love the soundtrack in this game. It's a fun, retro-inspired affair with lots of satisfyingly crunchy synth sounds that would be right at home on old computers or a Sega Genesis.
Sound effects are clean and crisp, and the mixing makes effective use of stereo separation. Audio feedback is essential in a game like this, because you can't always be watching every part of the screen.
Voice acting fairs less well, but not because of performance issues. Rather, there's a scratchy filter over all of the voices to make them sound like they're coming in over a radio communication system...but I think the filtering is overdone. It added a lot of loud distortion to the audio, and I think that makes these samples rather fatiguing/annoying to listen to.
Sky Force Anniversary is a great game for its normal $10 price, and even better for free. The mobile version is free-to-play, and includes a load of microtransactions to help reduce its grind. This console version is much less grindy, but it still has a fun sense of progression and several hours of content.
If you like classic arcade games, you're in for a treat here. If you've never tried a game like this, the modern progression/skill tree system makes this a fun place to start.