ETHER VAPOR Remaster is a strange shooter. It's a Japanese indie game for the PC that boasts some fairly impressive visuals, crazy camera work and a pretty solid soundtrack. Hell, there's even a story present if you're into that kind of thing in your shoot-em-ups.
All these seemingly cool elements come together to form a fun but frustrating experience.
Follow me after the break as I try to dodge ETHER VAPOR Remaster's hard to see gunfire.
Trying to describe the way ETHER VAPOR Remaster plays is actually more of a challenge than it might seem at first glance. It would appear to be a 2D vertically scrolling shoot-em-up in the first moments of the game, but that doesn't last very long. You see, Remaster often changes the camera's perspective, resulting in some fairly cool cinematic sequences. For example, in the first stage you come under fire by a massive barrage of missiles. The camera shifts to show you your ship dodging and flying parallel to the missiles, while giving the player control of a reticle that allows you to lock onto enemies and use your homing lasers. The second stage then changes the style of the game even further, turning into a purely horizontal scrolling shooter. This kind of gameplay transformation happens at least once in every single stage.
There are both negatives and positives to this style though. On the plus side, every stage gives you a new experience. Bosses will swoop in and out of the foreground and background, perspectives will change and explosions will fill the screen. Part of the reason I was compelled to finish was because of how crazy Remaster can get in its best moments. The negative side to this is that it's often extremely difficult to keep track of enemy fire.
It's incredibly frustrating to be dodging bullets left and right only to get hit by a stray laser beam that blended in with the background graphics. This happens far more often than it should, because the actual visuals for the lasers are typically thin and difficult to make out. I do get that Edelweiss was going for a more grounded kind of look and probably didn't want bright dots flying everywhere, but I think they could have done more to help the gunfire stand out from the background.
Remaster is actually relatively basic once you peel back the layers of gloss provided by the cinematic camera. You have three different weapon choices that are all always available. You have a lock on shot, a spread shot and a more focused shot. The first two options have charged versions as well. There are no power ups to be found and no bombs to speak of. You're given all your tools the moment you start the game up. Depending on the type of gamer you are, this could be a major blow, but I didn't mind so much. I'd be lying if I said I didn't find myself wanting a little bit more variation later in the later levels though.
Despite the sometimes difficult to track gunfire, Remaster is actually a very solid looking game. Edelweiss is a small indie developer so going in expecting the production values you'd find in a Cave shooter or elsewhere would be a bad idea. None the less, the 3D ship models and environments are clean and attractive and the bosses massive and interesting. The cinematic camera also tends to frame the action in a way that best compliments the visuals. The music is fairly catchy and is a bit more relaxed than players might be used to with games in the genre.
For those of you who absolutely can't play a game unless it has a story to grip and move you to tears, fear not! ETHER VAPOR Remaster has an actual story. I highly doubt you'll remember/understand what the hell happened after you finish it, but I know for a fact I won't be forgetting about the dreaded "Decider" anytime soon. Be careful folks, it decides things. I'd also be remiss if I didn't give a special shout out to the main character; he's an incredible asshole who basically sticks his middle finger up to anybody who sells hello. It's awesome. In addition to the main mode, you can also choose to play Remaster without any of the story sequences, making it a pure arcade experience. Other features include online scoreboards and the ability to unlock different types of ships.
ETHER VAPOR Remaster is a fun shooter with some notable flaws that hold it back from being great. For $7.99 however, it's hard to not recommend it when it does so many cool cinematic things in every single level. The experience might not stick with you in the long run, but I definitely think shooter fans should give it a try. There's still a lot here to like.
7.0 – Good. Replayable, fun, but nothing innovative or amazing. The game potentially has large flaws that, while they don't make the game bad, prevent it from being as good as it could be.
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