VASARA Collection Review – Switch

VASARA is a bullet hell game set in the warring state era of Japan but with crazy technology including legendary figures from Japanese history wielding wild robotic flying horse type robots. The gameplay is absolutely as bonkers as the premise as it really lives up to the bullet hell name. VASARA Collection consists of the two original Japanese arcade games (which have never seen a Western release until now) and a brand new Timeless mode.

There's going to be a lot of dying.

VASARA is your typical top down bullet hell shoot ’em up. Except the game is madness incarnate, I lost where I was on the screen so many times. There is so much going on you just can’t keep track of it all. The chaos of VASARA is a fantastic beast, while you fire insane amounts of upgradeable with powerups weaponry you have billions of seemingly unavoidable bullets fired back at you. You got your bombs which rather handily for beginners like myself, dying gives you two fresh bombs. You have a melee attack that can deflect bullets but it takes so long to charge it’s extremely difficult to use and you have your super VASARA attack which needs to charge by collecting gems. In VASARA 2, there’s no bombs just the super attacks but you can charge up to 3 and still get 2 back when you die, phew.

Taste our VASARA attack

Both games are short and sweet and would’ve eaten an insane amount of coinage to actually complete in the arcade so we get a sweet deal being able to buy these classics wrapped in a bundle with added extras for the first time in the West now. VASARA 1 has 6 short stages (each about 3-5 minutes long) where you’ll see a lot of the same enemies over and over and similar backgrounds and it’s the perfect length as I didn’t find it repetitive. VASARA 2 has two modes within it, easy and hard, easy only being 6 stages and hard having 12, the same 6 again but harder. It also has a lot more variation in enemies and mini boss Gundam type enemies. I found it the much more enjoyable game. VASARA 2 also introduces purple bullets which can’t be reflected with your melee attack.

As this is a console release there’s added options of free play or coin play, you can change the difficulty, even easy is insane though, change the amount of lives per continue and bombs. It’s nice to be able edit but also expected of a console release.

Nice amount of options, hardest difficulty is insane!

There is a story in the games but it’s brief, VASARA you’re out to get Ieyasu Tokugawa and VASARA 2 is a prequel in a way as you’re out to get Nobunaga however in this one you can’t read all the mid and end game story if you’re playing free play or have any credits.

The brand new Timeless mode is a score attack where you only get one continue featuring new polygonal graphics instead of the sprites of the arcade games. To mix things up, it’s procedurally generated with a random boss at the end of each level. It’s much easier than the original arcade games but that’s to be expected when one continue can go by in a flash in the arcade versions. However the change in difficulty creates a strange mundaneness in comparison, it’s not necessarily a bad thing, in fact I really enjoyed Timeless mode but the change in pace is pretty severe from the super hectic arcade games. Also it’s 4 player which is really cool but if 3 players die they just have to sit and watch, still it’s generally only for a few minutes. Quite a lot of work must have gone into Timeless mode as it’s like an entirely new game a VASARA 3 if you will, but slimmed down to a single mode. 

You can dash to avoid the unavoidable in Timeless mode.

VASARA was made in the early 2000s when sprites were looking damn good, as such the sprites look amazing. There’s options to have smooth or crisp graphics with crisp being mor akin to the original but the smooth looking a bit nicer and being less strenuous on the eyes in the madness. Timeless mode has all new polygonal graphics that aren’t quite lot poly but more like a mid poly. It really depends on taste whether you prefer the old sprites of the arcade games or the polygons of Timeless because both look glorious in their own way.

The arcade games can be played in tate mode and are mind blowingly awesome when you turn that Switch on its side and plug in an arcade stick to relive those glory days of the arcade albeit with a smaller but much nicer screen.

The music is a perfect mesh of traditional Japanese and western epic orchestral in the menus. In the game on the other hand you hear the endless drum of bullets and explosions which over power the music to the point that when playing with a friend she said “there’s music?” If suggest turning the music up to 100% so that you can hear it because it’s a great soundtrack mostly consisting of upbeat typical synthy arcade music with a distinct traditional Japanese influence.

As with all bullet hell games the replay value comes from score chasing and climbing the leaderboards but this is one aspect where VASARA Collection falls flat as the online leaderboards only have the top 10 scores. While playing the game for review that was fine, I got 2nd in VASARA 2 and 7th in Timeless but where did I get for VASARA 1? Where will be once the world starts playing? I’d love to know but won’t. So you can only really score chase against yourself (unless you are the bullet hell king) which I find boring. To add insult to injury when playing multiplayer when you need a continue at the same time one or you might lose your score ruining a run if you are score chasing. If you enjoy the corny story there’s replay value in playing through as all the characters as they all slightly different upgrades, specials and melee attacks also to see each individuals short story.

Yep you fight some weird bosses.

I had a great time with VASARA Collection, you have to get over that it’s a coin munching most hellish bullet hell then you can let the good times roll and enjoy the sheer chaos. VASARA 2 is definitely the star of the show but I think in the long run the one credit short burst nature of Timeless mode is going to get more play out of me. I actually hope that the assets from Timeless mode are used to make a VASARA 3 because after playing VASARA Collection I am definitely down for some more mechanised Japanese 1600s bullet hell mayhem.

Timeless mode starts nice and chilled for a real change of pace.

VASARA Collection is available 15th August 2019 digitally on the eShop for £8.99/€9.99/$9.99 or if you move really quick you can still preorder it for half price. Thank you to QUByte Interactive for providing the download code.

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