Shogun – Abandon all hope, ye who enter Bullet Hell [Game Review]

March 8, 2012 | by Ben Crawford

Android App Reviews, Android Apps, Android apps, Android Games, Casual, Entertainment, Entertainment, Free apps, Paid apps, Reviews, Reviews, Video Reviews, Videos


Evaluated version: 1.2.4

Pros: Great controls, perfected precision timing, flawless gameplay

Cons: Few levels, visually mediocre

Smooth. How many shoot’em ups (shmup) have there been for Android? A few top-down shooters and a few side-scrollers to be sure. Now, how many of those ran without hiccups? The last question definitely limits the competition, and when we’re talking about an actual “screen-full” of bullets, nothing competes with Shogun. Games like Air Attack HD are great games at the top of the genre, but the Japanese (and some American masochists) love bullets, bullets, and more bullets. No easy routes, no peon enemies, and lots of death.

Shogun: Rise of the Renegade is one of the most complete top-down shooters I have played on Android. From graphics and style to an innovative control system, Shogun has all of the quality traits of an arcade shmup. With a very concise opening screen, you can throw yourself straight into training and all of the levels within the first few moments of playing the game. Luckily, the Shogun developers gave us this mercy before throwing enough bullets at you to cover the world a couple of times. I must get the only downside of this game out of the way quickly; their are only four levels not including training. While each level has two bosses, Shogun is too short to be as superb of a game as it is.

The smooth gameplay cannot be stressed enough, and I was amazed at Shogun for the sheer amount of objects on-screen before I even completed the first level. Some mobile games hiccup at the thought of two objects on the screen, and games with less action stutter on consoles. Shogun, however, does something extremely rare – it packs more action and on-screen objects than you can dodge while never dipping in frame-rate. If you’ve ever played a top-down shooter before, you know how important timing and anticipating can be for staying alive. These bullets are on set paths at specific times so most of the game depends on you finding and getting to the perfect hiding spot from all the bullets at a precise time. If you don’t get there, you die, which is why any lag or stuttering severely destroys the credibility and enjoyability of a bullet-hell style game. Shogun has shown no slow-down whatsoever. I can’t say that about many games much less games you would expect to have a little lag.

The art in the game is completely influenced by the 80s and 90s arcade games. The ships are mech-style enemies, very colorful, and full of gears, blades, armor, and guns. While the enemies do show tons of detail, your ship is tiny runt with just a splash of red. It would’ve been nice to see a little more detail and imagination put into your ship, but admittedly you’re not really looking at your ship that often. The backgrounds aren’t too detailed, but they give you a good setting which the enemies can resemble. For example, in the desert, the enemy ships have a dustier, more rugged look to them. Shogun doesn’t blow you away visually, but it achieves its goal of faithfully mimicking the 90s era arcade shmups, and that was satisfying enough to me.

Shogun’s controls are the most innovative part of the game, especially for mobile devices. In many top-down shooters, whichever power-up you get, that’s your weapon. Shogun gives you three different weapons from the get-go along with an EMP and some wing-men. Instead of gaining power-ups or having a weapon-wheel at the bottom of the screen (which would take your focus away from the bullets), Shogun semi-pauses the game whenever you take your finger off the screen. In the background, the game moves at a snails pace, giving you enough time to select your weapon, but not completely stopping the game to give you an unfair advantage. The three guns are laser, spread, and a homing weapon which is by far the best weapon. The homing gun almost makes the game unfair as well because it is very powerful and strikes enemies you otherwise may not reach.

When trying to grasp the essence of a game that a generation of gamers remember fondly, it’s best not to deviate too far from the path. Shogun balances the old-school precision and mechanics of a truly needy genre with an updated control scheme, updated graphics, and the lofty goal of reviving a niche market. Shogun is the best pure bullet-hell game I’ve played on Android, and without any frustrations from a gameplay standpoint (besides a few too many deaths), it’s time for all Android-nation to to travel through the Four Circles of Bullet Hell.