May 29, 2024
Roguelite elements grafted onto a retro Shmup sounds fun, but is Nova Strike worth the endless runs, or should it be decommissioned? The Finger Guns Review:

Nova Strike takes flight as a vertically-scrolling shoot ’em up without any discernible plot, thrusting players directly into the fray with a feeble single-firing cannon. If you’re expecting some heavy weapons and smart bombs to unlock pretty quickly like those found in more famous shmups, you’re going to be disappointed, as this is the type of precision shmup where your firepower remains totally underwhelming, making even the first foes you come across a multi-hit nightmare! You have to know what you’re getting into, and Nova Strike is more of a herald back to the 16-bit era, comparable to Xenon Megablast maybe, or Axley.

It’s a shame that graphically it can’t compete with either of those retro titles, instead relying on some uninspiring pixelated backdrops and very basic ship designs.

There are other weapons, but their firepower and ammo are severely limited. It takes a few runs before you realise the upgrade system is the key to mastering this game. It doesn’t rely on quick reactions and a trigger finger that goes for days. As you progress you can obtain one of a large number of secondary weapon types, more powerful but limited in ammo. The variety of these secondary weapons needs to be commended, ranging from missile launchers to electric wave projectors, Gatling guns to good old triple fire and plenty more besides.

Although these weapons are a massive help for a short burst, the main power ups come in the form of ‘chips’ you can add to your craft. Each chip is an upgrade that can offer different advantages such as increased health, better stealth, increase fire rate, higher resource rate drops, armour, repair, and quicker movement. Chips take up precious space in your armoury, with only a handful of chip slots provided. Annoyingly, you can’t install two chips of the same kind, so if you don’t use one chip category like say movement, you can’t install two weapon chips, which kind of hinders the choice it appears to give of playing the game with a more personalised play style.

As it uses a roguelite style, you can keep the upgrades, chips and weapons you find along the way, and on your next run you’ll be Harder, Better, Stronger and Faster than before. It also keeps things changing by having procedurally generated backdrops and levels, which increases longevity, at the expense of beautifully crafted level design.

The core of the game isn’t that long; three chapters dived into seven sub-stages. However, the length of time it takes to complete is more down to experimenting with the different combinations of chips to find a style that does work for you. Use the wrong chips and you will find the game a challenge. Thankfully the chip structure of the gameplay is the saving grace of Nova Strike. I found the shooting mechanics themselves lacked the compelling excitement I’d hoped for. The shooting is lackluster and tiresome. There is a degree of satisfaction from completing the levels and narrowly escaping a ton of bullets heading your way, but it’s nothing you can’t find in any shooter.

Being a lover of pixel art graphics, I was excited to see this game in action. Unfortunately, Nova Strike remains on the basic level of pixel art beauty, with the procedural levels offering no visual diversity and feeling like constantly repeating backdrops, which makes for a dull slog up the screen as you fight wave after wave of enemy ships. The music isn’t much to write home about, aiming for that retro vibe but not really hitting it.

For shooter enthusiasts, there is some fun to be had with Nova Strike thanks to the weapon upgrade system but mostly we’ve seen it before and done better. The roguelite style makes it fresh, but it’s still unlikely to keep gamers amused for more than a day or two. Due to this simplicity, it’s not really a game for those who like to visit bullet hell.

Nova Strike is available for PlayStation 5 (review platform) and PC via Steam.

Developer: Sanuk Games

Publisher: Nacon

Disclaimer: In order to complete this review, we were provided with a promotional copy of the game. For our full review policy, please go here.

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