Writing this Spacewing War review has been difficult. Being objective about game design has never been considered easy. However, with Spacewing War it’s particularly challenging. This is because if you’re a gamer of a certain age it will pull at those heartstrings. Not because it’s an emotional journey or any such nonsense – the game barely has a story – but because it will undoubtedly remind you of your childhood.
Retro-stylised games are nothing new. In fact, as the years go by they seem to become more-and-more common. However, many are just that: stylised. They can often play with a more modern or learned set of mechanics then was capable on earlier hardware. Not so with Spacewing War. This is for all intents-and-purposes a Game Boy game that happens to be released on modern consoles.
While the game supports a number of different colour palettes and sound options, the default setting is black-and-white accompanied by basic chiptune. And it’s in this fashion that we recommend you leave the game. A simple shoot-’em-up scrolling from left-to-right, there are actually several interesting mechanics including hidden routes. This alternative paths are only detectable by slight differences in visual design, and some colour palettes make them more obvious than others, taking away the risk/reward challenges of ducking and diving into spaces before the screen catches up with you.
You have four weapon types at your disposal to take out enemies units. A basic shot is accompanied by some very powerful yet slow boomerangs, a devastating bomb and a triple shot. The boomerang and the triple shot also fire behind, so will likely be the weapon of choice for more players. The bomb takes a few moments to detonate and, while the most powerful of all weapons, can also damage your ship. You have been warned.
Each life has a number of health points which can be restocked by collecting hearts during levels. You can also gain extra lives in the same way, or by crossing some undesignated points thresholds. Should you lose all of your hearts you’ll restart the latest section of the level. All of your lives being taken will restart the entire level. So far, so videogames.
Here’s the kicker though. If you choose ‘main menu’ from the in-game pause screen, a warning will tell you you’ll lose ‘all data’. In modern times, one would assume this means since your last checkpoint. But no. Spacewing War is a Game Boy game in the fullest. Returning to the menu – or indeed, restarting the game – means erasing all data. It’s as if the game has arrived on a cartridge with no battery backup, and even no password system.
As stated at the start of this Spacewing War review, it’s been a tough game to form an opinion on. On the one hand it’s an elegant recreation of a beloved time gone by. On the other, if you want to player a Game Boy, why not actually play a Game Boy? Spacewing War doesn’t do anything but this. It’s never going to give R-Type a run for it’s money, nor is it going to challenge Sine Mora‘s depth. But then, it’s not supposed to. It has a small target audience who will undoubtedly lap it up. For everyone else, there’s no reason to give Spacewing War the few hours it takes to complete.