At its best, Space Elite Force is a simple, exciting blitz of colors and explosions. At its worst, it’s a frustrating grind against the wall with no hope of advancement. Both of these aspects frequently combine in the best ways, bringing satisfaction to hardcore shmup fans and casual arcade players alike. Moraes Studio’s fantastic arcade space shooter, along with its sequel, have just released on the Nintendo Switch eShop, giving everybody an opportunity to take to the skies and raise some bullet hell. We got a chance to play through SEF, so let’s talk about what to expect.
STORY – NO TIME TO EXPLAIN
Taking into consideration that Space Elite Force is a shmup, there is a storyline. Earth has been attacked by Klyvu forces, aliens out to destroy humanity. Humans anticipate that another attack is imminent, and so form the Space Elite Force, laying in wait until the Klyvu return to finish what they started.
Players take control at this point of the story, piloting a ship and repelling the Klyvu to ensure Earth’s safety. It’s important to note here that this game is merely chapter one. The narrative appears to be planned to continue in subsequent titles. There’s no doubt that it does in Space Elite Force II, also available from the Nintendo eShop. Keep in mind that developer Moraes Studio is a Brazilian game developer, and there are some minor typos and English errors in the story text. However, this doesn’t take away from the gameplay, which is where the game shines.
GAMEPLAY – TRIGGER BREAKING TECHNIQUE
Like any good shmup, SEF doesn’t require much to get the hang of it. The controls aren’t complicated, you fly through the level automatically and are really just tasked with shooting the enemies and dodging their shots. The challenge comes with keeping yourself in one piece as you soar through space in the name of humanity.
The entire screen will get lit up with energy shots and death will be avoided by impossibly small movements. Many ships will die in the process, and the satisfaction when finally destroying a large frigate is a great reward. At the end of each level, it’s time to upgrade your ship to blast more effectively. Starting out with one measly machine gun, within a couple of levels players will have a massive, multi-gun fighter that can do some serious damage. But don’t get bloodthirsty; you still need to keep your shields up to snuff to survive the later bosses.
There are three different modes to choose from. “Normal Mode” is the recommended starting point. It’s a short jaunt through the game’s seven levels, but it gets you into the rhythm of the game. This also gives a chance to become familiar with what path through the upgrade tree you’d like to take. There is also a “Hardcore Mode”, which ramps up the difficulty, and “Infinity Mode”, which pits you up against enemy ships for as long as you can survive.
Each mode has its own leaderboard, allowing you to see where you stand against players from around the world. It will take skill to get to the top, but SEF is easy enough to drop in to that finding time for a quick session should be easy.
Speaking of easy, Space Elite Force supports up to two player local co-op. Setup is particularly easy, just push a button on a connected controller to drop in to the action. Player two is blue rather than orange, making them easy to note on-screen, and hopefully, they have your back.
AUDIO AND GRAPHICS – CUTE AS BULLET HELL
The art style of Space Elite Force is super cute. The colors are vibrant and nothing gets muddled or lost on screen. You know where your ship is at all times and the enemies are distinct enough in size and appearance that you don’t get confused. Fired shots and laser beams are all clear and crisp while firing in every direction.
But one thing that’s missing is some variety, in all aspects. There are only a handful of enemy ships, which quickly become commonplace. Boss ships are all essentially the same model, with slight variations and sizing changes. The shots that enemies make at you are also incredibly similar. There are no customization options for the player ship. Keep in mind that this is a small arcade title and most of your time is spent thinking fast and reacting faster, but even the level atmosphere is limited to only a couple different settings.
The sound design definitely gives the vibe of an arcade space title. The music is high energy and the sound effects blend along with the soundtrack, fitting in well with the pacing of the gameplay. The controls and the audio aren’t connected as they are in, for example, a rhythm game, but they go hand in hand and they fit together well.
Space Elite Force was reviewed on Nintendo Switch. A review key was provided by QUByte Interactive.