Thanks to Qubyte for the review code
Title: VASARA Collection
System: Nintendo Switch (eShop)
Release Date: 08/12/2019
In this compilation of three vertical shooters, you take control of warriors who set out to defeat Shoguns that are trying to take over Feudal Japan! From Oda Nobunaga in the second game, to many other bosses loosely based on historical figures, there’s some familiar faces you’ll run into during the game.
Being a compilation of two Arcade games that were in a vertical display, alongside a brand new vertical adventure, Vasara Collection needed to make sure that those titles had the proper display options that retro gaming fans could come to expect by this point in time. Thankfully, this collection mostly does a great job at offering good presentation options. For the retro games, you have the option to play them in a horizontal format and two vertical modes, meaning that if you have the means, you can play them in their proper resolution via handheld mode, and they look absolutely fantastic only if you turn the filter to Sharp.
For some baffling reason, the two arcade titles default to an ugly smoothing filter that makes the games look like they were smeared. While you can turn this off, I’m just confused as to why it’s even an option to begin with since all of the in-game text looks hideous with this filter on, completely destroying any point in using it. To make matters worse, I’ve had a repeating bug where even when I set the filter to sharp, re-opening the games lead them to running in the smooth filter despite the options saying otherwise. It takes an in-game restart in order to fix this issue, and that’s not even counting the other misc issues I’ve had with the games, including the Collection’s menu theme continuing to play in-game, and glitches with the leaderboards.
Still, when it comes to the actual games themselves, they look pretty good for games made in the early 2000s. Vasara 1 looks more like a late 90s game due to the overuse of CG sprites with not much in terms of memorability, but Vasara 2 is a significantly better looking game, making use of better animations, gorgeous character portraits and backgrounds, and a pretty good soundtrack. Playing these horizontally adds a border around the games, which looks decent, and you can turn it off if you don’t care for it, though you sadly can’t change the screen size itself.
Last but not least, is the brand new addition of Vasara Timeless, this strange 3D Remix of sorts that keeps the vertical gameplay of the original games while stretching the entire thing into a new 16:9 widescreen adventure. Having not seen too many horizontal vertical games, (the only two I remember are Salamander and Terra Force) seeing something like this in widescreen is a big treat, and the game actually works very well with this super wide display, leaving you with plenty of space to dodge enemy projectiles, along with more room for enemies to flood the screen. However, Timeless has the look of a very low budget game, with 3D models that look downright ugly or too plastic-like at times, and the music isn’t all that special. Still, I’ll give them props for nailing a successful transition from a small vertical display to a wider, horizontal display. There’s also a gallery mode here, but it’s nothing too out of the ordinary.
Unfortunately, there is one example of horrible design, and that comes from the game’s leaderboards, believe it or not. While local leaderboards for the arcade titles display the in-game leaderboards as if nothing happened, the online leaderboards bring up this hideous “modern” leaderboard that shows you the top ten scores in the entire world for each game… And nothing else. Timeless uses this awful leaderboard for its local mode as well, and it’s even more confusing there since you don’t really get to enter your name or have any idea who’s who. As a score chaser, this was the biggest disappointment of the collection for me, since other retro rereleases have done a far better job with both local and online leaderboards.
In terms of gameplay, all three games play mostly identical, although the first game has several gameplay changes compared to the latter two. Like a standard shooter, you have a normal rapid fire shot and a charged normal shot, which are both used to mow down enemies. You also have a traditional bomb that can clear the screen of projectiles and deal damage to bosses, which there are a lot of. In Vasara 1, collecting red crystals that fall from the sky will lead to a small meter filling up, and once it’s totally full, you can use your charged attack as a VASARA attack, which makes your charged move bigger, stronger, and longer, which can be a great way to turn the tide around.
Besides that, Vasara 1 offers pretty standard shooting action, although the game does gain a slightly competitive element in co-op play, since defeated enemies and bosses are tallied up at the end to reward a score bonus to the player with the most kills. Each character has their own special moves and attributes, but no matter who you pick you must clear the game on 1CC in order to see the true ending to the game, so you have to put your skills to the test and work for that ending.
Vasara 2 on the other hand is a far superior game, thanks to a faster, more frantic pace and a bigger focus on score chasing. Right from the get-go, you can choose from whether the main game lasts for one or two loops, and once you pick your character you set off to take down evil! Ditching the big meter from the first game, your bombs are the Vasara attacks this time around, meaning that collecting blue gems to refill your bomb meter will be crucial if you want to survive for as long as possible to deal more damage. Like before, every character has their own charged and normal shots, and two player co-op returns with the same sort of competitive scorechasing you can expect.
Thankfully, you do not need to 1CC the game in order to get a true ending, but you do need to beat the final stage without continuing in single player to see it, although co-op negates this restriction and you can see the ending there too. Clearing the second loop will also do the same. However, I need to stress that I encountered a very annoying bug with Vasara 2 in particular that made the local leaderboards really irritating to use. For some baffling reason, entering your name in Vasara 2 and then confirming it will sometimes lead to the score being added without a name associated to it, which is pretty frustrating after a good run, especially one in multiplayer. Alongside that is an odd bug that was also in Vasara 1, where sometimes the game just refuses to add your hi-score if it’s lower than a score with the same name, even if it would place on the leaderboard regardless. Considering how Vasara 2 has a score chasing focus, these bugs destroyed my desire to play it more than once, and that’s sad.
When it comes to Vasara Timeless on the other hand, the gameplay is still relatively the same, only this time you can choose from characters from both Vasara 1 and 2, and they’ll even play slightly differently depending on what game they come from. You also have the ability to do an air dodge now, which helps during bullet swarms due to the expanded screen space. Not only is the local co-op here, but now it has support for four players, which is a really great addition if you have that many people over. Still, two player co-op works fine as well, though this game doesn’t let you continue, likely due to a bigger focus on score chasing. Unfortunately, that aforementioned horrid UI for the leaderboards along with the very restrictive online leaderboard makes this not practical to play for score chasing in the slightest, which made this a mode I skipped over in favor of the first game, despite the cool concept.
In conclusion, Vasara Collection is a decent collection of two really fun scorechasers alongside a brand new game. However, several irritating bugs and leaderboard problems make this collection incredibly tough to recommend to those wanting to play this game for the sake of improving their scores. Still, the two included games are great co-op shooters, although the standard $10 price is tough to recommend in this compilation’s buggy stage, especially when you can get other shooters with proper leaderboard support for only $2 less via the Arcade Archives line. Timeless is a great idea, but it really doesn’t look too hot and fails to engage, especially with the confusing leaderboards in that game. Fans of these two games will at least get to enjoy them for what they are, but if you wanted to best your hi-scores or take the battle online, you’re better off waiting to see if they fix all the bugs with that.
I give Vasara Collection a 6 out of 10.