Developed By: Artax Games SL
Published By: eastasiasoft
Category: Action, Arcade, Shooter
Release Date: 6.7.18
I’ve always loved the idea of arcade shooters. Ikaruga, 1942, and Gradius always just looked like the coolest games. And I liked them quite a bit, except for how bad I sucked at them. Just… just so not good. In fact, games that require things like dexterity and quick reactions are a bit of a struggle for me. I’m just not that fast. So, luckily, I prefer strategy and puzzle games to action for the most part. But a cool-looking action game will always sucker me in, chew me up, and spit me out, and I’ll still come back for more. Iro Hero for Nintendo Switch is a good example of that.
In the Year 20XX… Sorry, I Meant 2306
In the faraway future of 2206, an alien race called the Nyayu come to earth and teach humanity how to harness the electricity generated within themselves. At first, it is seen as a gift to humanity, but then corporations began using humans as energy farms. Then other alien races like the Re-Wu (the main antagonists in the game) began kidnapping humans to use as energy sources. So, kind of like The Matrix but with aliens and corporations instead of machines. Our hero, Iro (get it?) has the ability to reverse the polarity of his electricity, allowing him to attack both red and blue electricity depending on which mode he’s in. Iro uses his power to defend the earth from alien invaders and their human servants.
Iro Hero is a classic side scrolling arcade shoot’em up in the vein of Ikaruga. Players control Iro’s ship as he, and he alone, takes on hundreds of enemy ships across nine levels of action. Seriously, you’d think the earth would have more than one defender, but no. That may be why they’re so easily victimized by alien races. Anyway, the controls are fairly simple; directional buttons or left stick to move, A button to shoot. You can hold the A button down for rapid fire, but button mashing fires faster. There are different types of shot that can be acquired as well, like the traditional double fire, among others.
Enemies are either red or blue, and pressing the R or L trigger shifts Iro’s color from red to blue and back again. This is called shifting polarity. Iro has to be red to shoot blue enemies and blue to shoot red enemies. Attacking a ship of the same color has no effect; luckily, that goes both ways. So, while Iro can’t damage a red enemy if his ship is red, red enemy ships’ bullets can’t hurt him either. Crashing into an enemy kills Iro no matter the color, so don’t do that.
There are different environmental objects that are introduced in new levels. In the first level, for example, the first obstacles introduced are flying bunkers that impede Iro’s movement and block his shots. If you get caught behind one and the screen moves too far ahead Iro will be crushed and lose a life. You only get three lives, so losing a life is not good. It’s also kind of cheesy that enemy bullets ignore these barriers, but hey; saving a planet’s not supposed to be easy. But not all environmental objects are bad. In the second level, for instance, reflectors that bounce Iro’s shots around barriers begin appearing. So that evens things out.
Destroying enemies nets Iro points, and occasionally enemies drop additional points as well. Iro can use these points at the end of each level to buy more lives, which is good because Iro Hero does not forgive failure very easily. Losing all three lives ends the game, and I mean it ends the game. After dying, the game will ask players if they’d like to continue. It’s a dirty trick, though, as the game lets you continue… from level one. That’s right, dying takes you all the way back to the beginning. For someone like me who kind of sucks, that’s a hugely disheartening state of affairs. I know the first level by heart by now, so getting past it is no problem, but it’s just a slog to have to redo it every time I mess up (which is a lot). I assume the same will hold true for later levels, if I ever get there. Did I mention I suck? I do.
Iro Hero’s visuals are a mixed bag. The in-game pixel graphics are fantastic. The ship models are distinct and pretty cool-looking sprites, but the real treasure is the isometric style pixel backgrounds. The backgrounds are sharp and detailed, and create a really awesome sci-fi backdrop for Iro’s dogfights. The art used in the cutscenes and character designs, however, are pretty amateurish. The designs themselves have some decent sci-fi elements, but the art style looks like an amateur manga artist’s DeviantArt page. It’s not horrible, but it really isn’t as professional-looking as the rest of the game.
The music is also a high point of the game’s appeal. The soundtrack features a fast electronic beat that sets a good tone for an action game. It really makes the game feel active even during a lull in the action on screen when Iro has a conversation with one of his companions who never help him fight. Seriously, future earth, get an army.
Iro Hero has no touch or motion controls, so it plays the same whether docked or undocked. I preferred to play it undocked as I felt the graphics looked smoother on the smaller screen, as do most pixel sprite based games, but that’s really down to personal preference.
TL;DR: Fun, colorful, and energetic shooter, but not for casual gamers.