Bullet hell shooters such as the Touhou series are frightening affairs to me, but a lot of people consider them to be fun and hectic games that provide a solid challenge to gamers worldwide. Ether Vapor Remaster is a recent addition to this genre. Brought to English-speaking audiences by the publisher Nyu-media, Ether Vapor was originally released in 2006 by the doujin company Edelweiss. I managed to snag a copy from a friend when it first came out, and upon hearing about the release of the ’remastered‘ version, I knew I had to try it.
SHMUPs (shoot ‘em ups) aren’t commonly seen in the industry and it’s probably due to their high difficulty curve and the fact they are fairly straightforward and one-dimensional in terms of gameplay. However, Ether Vapor is stunning in the fact that the game uses multiple perspectives. Nyu Media touts this game as a “multi-perspective 2.75D shooter.” This tagline is aptly added due the fact that the game alternates creatively between horizontal, vertical, and other modes of view. At one point, I was shooting down missiles that were trying to down my ship in a flythrough cinematic sequence. With the usage of 3D, Ether Vapor utilizes both the foreground and background to display enemies.
In terms of gameplay, the game definitely has a learning curve. The Remastered Version only allows for two continues in order to complete all of the levels at first. Needless to say, I died multiple times in order to get used to playing the game again. It is possible for gamers to complete this game, but it’ll take the more inexperienced people, like myself, extra time to do so. The good news is, like most arcade games, if you get farther in each level, you will get more shields, more lives, and more credits to continue.
The steep learning curve is probably due to the fact that there is no tutorial of any kind, and it is up to you, the player to figure out what weapon to use during certain situations. The ship that you pilot has three unique weapons: the gatling gun, the windershot, and the lock on shot. In addition, each gun has a charge up shot that you can utilize. Enemies will also fly at you from every angle possible in various formations, so use your weapons wisely.
The graphics in this game are very reminiscent of PS2 era games, but they are still nice to look at. Enemies have different designs and are fully rendered. As stated before, the 2.75D view adds a unique spin on normal bullet hell SHMUPs. The developers have managed to give the genre a modern twist by shifting the camera angles periodically. With the amount of enemies that can fill up the screen, there are times when the game will lag, however. There was also an issue with the fact that with all the explosions and enemies, it was hard to distinguish the enemy shots amongst all of the visuals.
The story wasn’t anything really special as the plot is told through pilot babble. Young pilot Luca pilots his lone ship in an attempt to rebel against the Chaldean empire. Seeing as this is a game mainly known for its visuals and gameplay, I didn’t expect very much out of Ether Vapor plot-wise. Overall, the dialogue was very bland.
Ethor Vapor’s soundtrack is typical of most games in the genre. The music did well to help add to the game’s frantic atmosphere as the cues switched from techno to rock. Sound effects were decent as well. However, there are no voiceovers for the dialogue cut-scenes.
Overall the game has unique SHMUP gameplay, with a solid soundtrack and design. If you don’t mind a weak story, feel free to give Ether Vapor a shot yourself.
Things I Loved:
- -Multiple Perspectives
- -Reminiscent of old SHMUP games
- -Modern twist with 3D visuals
- -Tactical usage of weapons
- -Solid OST/SFX
Things I Hated:
- -Very weak story
- -Only seven stages
- -Weak and bland dialogue
- -Learning curve takes getting used to
- -Only given two credits at the start
- -Frustrating deaths due to screen clutter
Disclosure: A review copy was provided by the distributor
Images copyrighted: Edelweiss/Nyu Media