Vasara Collection – Nintendo Switch
Developed By: QUByte Interactive
Published By: QUByte Interactive
Category: Arcade Shoot’em Up
Release Date: August 15, 2019
As part of the
avengers #porteverythingtoswitch initiative, we have seen all kinds of gems appearing from gaming’s back catalogue on Nintendo Switch. There have been the usual suspects appearing such as classic Mario and Zelda, but there have also been classic titles which have never appeared on console until now.
Vasara Collection falls into this second category, and is a package of 2 classic Japanese arcade bullet hell shoot’em ups, originally developed by Visco in 2000 and 2001. Visco sadly decided to back out of the videogame industry some time ago and focus on manufacturing casino slot machines as well as TVs. But Brazil based QUByte Interactive obtained the licence to this classic franchise and have brought both Vasara 1 and 2 back from obscurity and to the west for the first time. Not only that, they have developed their own reenvisioning of Vasara called ‘Timeless’ (more on than later).
The Vasara games are set in an alternate 1600s feudal Japan, where robotic hordes of enemies are trying to take over. Armed with your katana, you must climb aboard your hoverbike and take the fight to them. Luckily you have more than a katana to take them all on, with upgradeable laser guns and bombs too (bombs are in Vasara 1 only, these were dropped for Vasara 2, no pun intended!). With these originally being arcade games, there’s not much more story to speak of. But you often don’t need a reason to start shooting in bullet hell shmups other than to survive.
Before you start you (and a friend if you want to play in 2 player local coop mode) choose your character, each with a rating out of 3 for power and speed. You have a laser gun which you can upgrade by collecting upgrades which appear on screen, and a katana which allows you to do a parry attack which parries bullets and lands damage on enemies while granting a short moment of invincibility.
In Vasara 1 and 2, both games share a similar mechanic: the balance between shooting enemies with projectiles and parrying bullets with your katana. This is tricky to perfect, but essential if you want to master these games. In fact it’s more or less essential to reach the end of each game as you will face waves of bullets which are avoidable unless you parry them with your katana. You also have your Vasara attack which unleashes a powerful attack on your enemies and provides you with a few seconds of invincibility. You earn Vasara attacks by collecting blue gemstones which enemies drop when you defeat them, which fills your gauge.
In each level you face waves of enemies and bullets, mid level bosses and an end of level boss. Throughout each level you can increase your high score by parrying projectiles and collecting gold bars, which are hidden in buildings you can blow up, as well as killing certain enemies and bosses which award you with a banner on screen when you’ve killed one of them. A lot of enemy placements are predetermined which will help you memorise their placement on each play through. But some aren’t and often the bullet positions themselves are randomised each time meaning that memorising enemy and bullet placement isn’t enough and mastering the parry using your katana will help you get that high score or merely survive.
Both games have been ported perfectly to Nintendo Switch by QUByte. For games originally released around 2000-01 they move an impressive number of enemies and projectiles around on screen nice and smoothly with no performance issues. The 2D art style still looks good after all this time with impressive looking bosses featuring throughout, and the 2D character headshot art which pops up every so often is nice. The original aspect ratio has meant there are borders on either side of the screen with some nice character art. But there’s also the option to play in TATE mode, a must for shmups on Switch, which allows you to play the game full screen with your Switch screen turned vertically (the guys at Fangamer have come up with the excellent Flip Glip to play in TATE mode without the need for improvisation).
Sonicly, the music is suitably ‘feudal’ with traditional Japanese music fuzed with classic 90s game midi music, as well as the sounds of rapidly flying lasers and frequent explosions and some gruff Japanese voice work for some of the bosses you face off against. Also in portable mode you may not hear it while you’re in the action (or with headphones on), but there is also the sound of your joycons’ HD rumble working overtime. This collection however has the option to turn off HD rumble as well as a host of other options allowing you to adjust difficulty.
Despite the option to adjust the difficulty, these games are tough and are difficult for newcomers to the genre. Unlimited continues are available via the Free Play option, but unfortunately when playing in Free Play you can’t play the final level and complete either Vasara 1 or 2. Compounding the punishing difficulty of both games is that you need to hold down the B button for a few seconds to use your katana, which allows you to parry bullets and land an attack. If there was an option to reduce the time needed to hold down the B button for your katana, that would make it easier for newcomers. There is a tutorial but it’s not quite what you might expect, as it is a series of still screens showing you the controls rather than a tutorial mode you can play. Instead practice of the controls needs to be done on the battlefield.
Both games won’t take you long to play through, but they may take a bit longer to complete due to their difficulty. However online leaderboards provide you something to keep coming back for. Vasara Collection also has a gallery with some nice high resolution art, as well as the previously mentioned Timeless mode. Timeless mode is a procedurally generated continuous mode which you can play with up to 4 players in local coop. It’s in 3D and widescreen which is a plus and it looks and moves nicely. Being able to play with 4 mates is a great addition and shows the potential is there if QUByte develop further Vasara titles in the future.
Your enthusiasm for this nice little collection may depend on your passion for bullet hell shmups. Both original titles have been recreated faithfully with the option of the excellent TATE mode, and Timeless mode is a welcome addition to the overall package. Difficulty can be punishing, and so it’s a shame the developers couldn’t have gone a little further with the accessibility options. But the fact that these games are here on console for the first time is a sign of the times. And for Nintendo Switch owners, times are good.