Developed By : Orbital Knight
Published By : No Gravity Games
Category : Arcade, Space Combat, On-Rails
Release Date : May 14, 2020
Us Nintendo fans are no stranger to the on-rails shooter. The original Starfox brought us one of the first 3D environments to fly through and shoot other ships and buildings down. Since then, games have progressed that full six-degrees of freedom flight is fully and easily possible, so there’s no real need to keep things on rails. But, as we know with the wave of bit-art retro style games, it’s always fun to revisit and try to recapture what we once loved. Star Horizon on the Nintendo Switch looks to bring back that love for the on-rails space shooter, so can it warm our hearts?
You’ll take on the role of the epically named John, amidst a struggle between the The Federation and the Rebels. You are a pilot for the Federation, but it’s a title only in name really. Alongside you is your ship’s AI, Ellie. Ellie controls everything, leaving you only in control of shooting down your enemies to bypass the AI’s rule of not being able to kill. When the Federation’s Mothership is destroyed, something funky happens with Ellie. Now it’s up to John to figure out what happened, and hopefully the two together can keep the galaxy on track.
Although your character’s role is reduced to just the shooter, you yourself will have some control of the ship. Mainly just basic flight controls and some dodge maneuvers. As for your arsenal you’ll have access to basic guns, missiles and bombs all of which can be upgraded throughout the campaign.
Fighting is pretty simple. Your ship has a decent sized aiming zone that moves wherever you float around. Whenever an enemy or boss weakpoint falls into this zone, a smaller reticle will appear locked on the target. Any shots you fire will be almost guaranteed to hit unless something gets in the way.
While the combat is a pretty heavy focus in Star Horizon, you’ll also get to deal with branching stories. Every so often, you’ll be given a forking path and two decisions. You’ll have five seconds to lock in your answer, and this will shape what happens not only immediately after, but can also effect the long run of the story.
With the exception of the game’s visuals, nothing about this title really stands out as incredible, or even fun really. The story could be a pretty great thing, but the sub-par delivery from the voice actors just makes it a bore and snore. To top that off, the game is pretty short only covering about ten missions, with none of them taking very long or offering much of a challenge, and some of the battles feel very ripped off. One of the earlier ones ends with a dogfight through some massive trenches, and culminates with firing a very powerful weapon through the port hole of a large ship. Striking any familiar notes?
Promising to be a “reboot of the on-rails space shooter”, all this title did for me was serve to remind that there are much better games out there to be played. We’ve entered into an age where not only do we have six-degrees-of-freedom flying, we can also enter the cockpit in an immersive VR setting. If you really are clamoring for the days of Starfox this can be a feeble reminder at best of what once was, but otherwise this roller coaster ride through space is more of an upset than anything else.