It is Dangerous To Go Alone
With 8-bit visuals and arcade quarter munching gameplay, Quad Fighter K on Nintendo Switch is an action packed four-player co-op new old school shooter. With a strong emphasis on co-op gameplay and priced under $10, this Aksys Games published vertical shooter can satisfy that arcade itch.
The gimmick behind this shooter is the constant four-player gameplay. Ideally played with you and three of your friends, AI bots will fill out the rest of the roster if buddies are not available. In fact, you can set all four positions to AI and watch each space craft eventually get picked off one by one by the brutal difficulty. Each ship can be controlled independently or can be joined together by bumping into another co-op ship to create one super ship. When combined, firepower and speed can increase, only one player takes control, and the ships now become a larger target. It is a give and take system because sometime you will want to link together to take down a boss but then separate to avoid the bullet hell.
This joining mechanic makes gameplay interesting and hasn’t really been seen since Aegis Wing on XBLA. However, linking to another player is simply a matter of bumping into them which can result in many accidental joins. In the heat of gameplay, the screen will also fill with enemies, layered scrolling background with some interactivity, and tons of bullets. At times, it can be difficult to distinguish friend from foe, let alone the positioning of your own ship. As chaotic as the screen can become, it is refreshing not to experience slow down or flickers like in so many old school shooters.
There are two gameplay modes but both are essentially the same thing. Kyogeki mode designates one ship as the VIP vessel while the other three ships are escorts. The escorts have infinite lives but once the VIP goes down, it is game over. Attack mode shares the same stages as Kyogeki mode but yields game over when all lives are lost. Both modes are broken down into Arcade and Battle modes. Each option is the same only Battle lets you start at any stage previously reached.
In addition to ship joining mechanic and VIP ship, the other unique gameplay element is found in the power-up bombs. Occasionally, enemies will drop purple circles with a white pattern on them. This white pattern indicates the direction of explosion when the bomb button is pressed. However, these collected purple orbs can also double as a shield of sorts as they can absorb some incoming fire. It is an interesting gameplay element that brings something new to the shooter table. Do you collect as many purple circles for defense, or do you spam them to easily take down a boss? Also, upon death, these purple orbs scatter throughout the screen so your companions can potentially collect them for their own use, putting another emphasis on teamwork.
Quad Fighter K is a decent shooter once you get over the learning curve but it is not without its flaws. The 8-bit visual style makes it look like an NES game, which is pretty darn cool, but black lines found in-between each tile causes the visual presentation to suffer. The entire game is made tiles like Super Mario Maker but there is this awkward pixel-sized gap between each and every one; this becomes much more noticeable if playing in docked mode and sitting closer to your TV. It is cool that the game runs smoothly but this black line makes each stage seem busier than it really is. Since the screen will be cluttered with enemies, friendly ships, bullets, explosions, and scrolling backgrounds, not having perfectly transitioning tiles is not a good way to play. While it doesn’t completely break the game, it is an annoying feature to constantly tolerate.
This new old school shooter also has a very interesting mix of audio tracks. On one hand, the vocal tracks like the one reserved for the optional credits scene, is surprisingly good and honestly has no place being in a $7.99 eShop download. On the other, the music during the ship selection screen is not only awful, it is very short and doesn’t even loop correctly. To have a few outstanding tracks be tarnished by a couple bad ones is odd and jarring.
As one piece of bonus content, the included Cyber Ship Nakku gameplay mode is a single player only game. Unfortunately, this optional mode is brought down by extreme difficulty with its one-hit and its game over. Making matters worse, the play control is floaty at best. However, this is mode is an added inclusion and merely acts as a temporary distraction, it isn’t fair to knock it too much.
As a shooter, you can do a lot worse than Quad Fighter K. If you can get a few buddies to gather around your Switch screen and take this game seriously, then there is definitely some fun to be had. Single player is still enjoyable as the friendly AI is good enough to stand on its own for a while and you’ll probably be linking ships together anyway. I must say, however, if you have never played Ikaruga, just recently released on Switch via Nicalis, then play that instead. But if you are looking for a new shooter, Quad Fighter K is solid alternative.
Reminds Me Of: Summer Carnival ’92 Recca (NES, 3DS VC)
Also Try: Aegis Wing (Xbox 360)
Wait For It: Iro Hero