Zerodiv is essentially the Hamster Corp. of arcade shoot ’em ups. The Nintendo Switch has already received a bunch of these throughout its short life so far, much of which came from the archives these people have been sitting on. The latest (until Tengai is re-released, anyway) of these are Samurai Aces and Sol Divide. Let’s go over the former first; this one’s a 1993 shooter hailing from Japanese arcades. It has all the quirks that come from being a Japanese arcade shoot ’em up from 1993, from the co-op multiplayer to the insane mayhem that occurs onscreen.
As a game of its era, it has the looks down pat. Crisp, smooth 16-Bit visuals cover the arcade window as the rest of the Switch’s screen is occupied by elements of the HUD and other kinds of background material. Much of Zerodiv’s re-releases tend to be structured like this, but there are options such as flipping the window to a vertical view (preferred for portable play).
Although difficult to notice at first glance (what with the shooting action going on and all), fans of the SEGA Genesis/Mega Drive’s sound capabilities are sure to enjoy what Samurai Aces has on offer. This game’s OST has a rockin’ tone that sounds at home at the former house of Sonic. Some songs even make a heavy use of the synthesized bass instrumentals that blatantly embody those vibes.
If you’ve yet to play one of these, here’s the gist: You blaze through several auto-scrolling gauntlets with rapidfiring weapons and a limited amount of special moves for tight occasions. A normal playthrough will take under an hour, but mastering these levels and figuring out how to get around hazards without losing a lot of your lives adds to the replayability. This gets amplified by the difficulty slider at the beginning, although even the lowest will provide a heavy challenge. In fact, I think Samurai Aces gave me the worst trouble out of all the Psikyo shooters so far.
The hook with Samurai Aces appears to be in the many different endings that can occur. There are twenty-one in total, and they are dedicated to each of the playable characters and pairings when two players are taking control of them. The characters have subtle differences between one another, but they all take on the same gauntlets in similar fashions.
Maybe it’s because of the amount of shooters from Zerodiv I’ve covered by this point, but it’s getting harder and harder to identify anything new that could hook me on a game in particular. As fun as these games are, most of them are made up of the same mold and it shows. These additions certainly make for a variety of options on the eShop, but it would’ve been nice if there were a lot more ways to distinguish them from each other. I do recommend this game for pleasant arcade fun, but that same recommendation can apply to Strikers 1945, or its sequel, or Gunbird, and so on.
I think it would be interesting to see some more varied entries from Psikyo’s catalog be brought back. Although I considered Gunbarich to be slightly inferior than the shooters, I found it refreshing since it was a chaotic take on Breakout instead. This is just food for thought, anyway. For what the game is worth, it at least has all the good qualities of the other shooters; the gameplay is fast-paced, the sprite-based graphics are gorgeous, and the sound design is fundamentally hectic.