It’s been a long time since I have played a shoot’em up game. The genre seems to be taking a back seat, reserved for arcade machines or bowling alleys. Shikhondo: Soul Eater is from indie developers DeerFarm and combines bullet hell with a beautiful oriental design. Has DeerFarm rekindled my love for shoot’em ups? Here are my thoughts, read this Shikhondo: Soul Eater Review and find out!
Platforms: Windows PC, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch and reviewed on Playstation 4
Price: £11.49 (PS Store)
In terms of story, Shikhondo doesn’t give much away. Rather the game draws on your knowledge of Asian Mythology and Yokai. You are given the choice of two female characters: The Grim Reaper and The Girl. You are plunged into a gorgeous yet bizarre world filled with escaped yokai (in layman terms – demons) who are causing chaos and stealing souls. Your simple yet effective role is to destroy all remnants of these evil invaders, rescue the souls they have trapped and defeat 5 bosses across the land.
Each stage is intense and takes on a hand-drawn, paper like art style. The colours are vibrant and can sometimes send your eyes in a tiz as you try and avoid the multitude of attacks. Although absolutely stunning, the art style can be a little nauseating. Since you need to keep a careful eye on a tiny blue dot where your character is, in order to avoid projectiles, the art style can make this more challenging. There are far too many colours to focus on and they clash, at times, with the background.
In terms of yokai and characters, this game is definitely interesting. The Grim Reaper is noticeably different from The Girl and you get a vibe, purely from their design, that they are unique in their own ways. Each mob is bizarre and spooky with a clear indication that they are drawn from Asian Mythology. Although the fast-paced nature of the game made it a little hard to really get a good look at what you’re shooting at, the glimpses that you did get were aesthetically pleasing and memorable.
At the end of each stage, you came across a Boss. These bosses were fantastic. They were thoughtfully created and although, when the game zoomed in the artwork would go very pixelated, I still enjoyed their design. They were all quirky females, with a mild amount of nudity on one boss, who would transform into a darker version of themselves after one bar of health. The demon versions of the bosses were a welcomed shock factor during my first playthrough.
Gameplay is simplistic which is completely understandable given the genre. The basic premise is to use ‘X’ to shoot and work your way through each stage until you reach the boss whilst avoiding any enemy projectiles. You are given lives and soul attacks. Soul attacks can be activated at any time and are similar to bombs which can clear the area of enemies.
You are also given access to a special attack. You can only achieve this attack by charging up the wheel that forms around your character. You do this by getting near to the enemy fire. Once activated it offers a monstrous attack which is extremely useful at getting you out of tight situations and dealing damage against bosses. You can even combine this special attack with a soul attack to double the damage output.
The Grim Reaper and The Girl have different ways that they fire. The Grim Reaper has a widespread attack whereas The Girl’s attacks can hone in on the enemies. I found The Girl to be much more effective especially during boss fights. Neither character seemed to make a huge impact on the souls you could accumulate.
The stages are vertical and your character has free reign to fly across the screen. Although challenging at times, I got the hang of the mechanics very quickly and most of the time I died because I had made a mistake not because of the game itself. If you lose all your lives you can choose to continue or to restart.
The boss fights were extremely unique to anything I had played before in the shoot ’em up genre. This quality alone makes Shikhondo stand out among everything else in the market. The bosses have unique patterns of projectiles and, as mentioned previously, would go through a transformation after one bar of health. Their second phase would be much more challenging but was also predictable.
After defeating each stage you will come across a Results screen and then a Reward screen which will grant you with an extra life or an extra soul attack on the next level. This is extremely handy if you are trophy hunting and trying to defeat all levels without using a continue.
There is a multitude of modes to choose from at the initial game menu. These include Arcade, Local Co-op, Boss Rush, Customise, Novice and Hardcore. There are difficulty settings from Easy to Extreme so although the replay-ability isn’t there, you can up the ante by selecting something a little harder.
There is also Rankings which is a nice addition especially if you are competitive like me! This leaderboard did seem to be more based on Worldwide standings rather than among your friends.
My main concern with Shikhondo is that it is incredibly short. With only 5 stages I had completed both of the characters arcade modes (essentially the same story) in about an hour. The most time consuming parts will, of course, be the boss. For this reason, the replay-ability is just not there at all. Boss Rush gives an interesting spin in that it’s only back to back bosses but again, they are the same bosses you’ve been fighting the whole game. It would have been nice to have a different campaign for The Grim Reaper and The Girl. Possibly a heaven and hell scenario? Who knows.
Music and Sound Effects
I thoroughly enjoyed the music throughout the entire game. It felt fast-paced and dramatic which complemented Shikhondo wonderfully. The Soundtrack came with a bit of a shock when the menu music is so soft and dainty and then you are thrown into a love child of heavy metal, electro and drum ‘n’ bass. However, it did make me feel super pumped throughout each stage. This was particularly apparent when you get to the boss and the music gets gradually more dramatic during the two phases.
I was a little bit disappointed with the sound effects in the game. During the first boss, there was screaming which I found to be pretty intense. Although it was the same one tone scream over and over, I didn’t mind much. However, by the second boss, there were no sound effects from the boss at all. Once defeated there was the same high pitched scream across all bosses but I felt like this could have been varied especially since the bosses were so unique.
I found that during the second stage the music sounded quite grainy and would cut out and come back into focus a lot. I was a bit gutted as it ruined the immersion.
All in all, I enjoyed my playthrough of Shikhondo: Soul Eater. It was a fantastic re-introduction into the shoot ’em up genre. I fell in love with the oriental design and how unique the mobs and bosses were. It was an intense, crazy experience that will forever be memorable. I was disappointed at the length and absence of anything that could improve the replay-ability but am excited to see where DeerFarm takes the game next. Anyone who is a fan of this genre should definitely give it a go.