Developed by Qute Corporation and published by Rising Star Games, Natsuki Chronicles is easily one of the best shooters I have played in a long time. With a leveling system that is addicting and approachable for inexperienced players but adjustable enough to challenge the best shooter players on the planet, there is something for everyone here all at a smooth 60fps.
The leveling system and wealth of unlockable is what makes this horizontal shooter so great. Instead of collecting a power-up during a stage, the player selects a loadout before the action begins. After every stage, the player usually unlocks a ton of extras that encourages experimentation. For example, one stage might become easier if you equip the wave beam to the primary weapon slot and rear firing missiles to the secondary action. Action isn’t as simple as shooting forward or shoot backwards either. Holding both buttons launches both attacks simultaneously but at the cost of strength. Adding even more strategy to the fast paced gameplay is the shielding system. One shield, for example, protects the player from front damage, another from above, and sometimes even rotates around the player. There is even a shield that can be launched forward after a charging time to damage enemies and absorb incoming fire. Weapon variety, both offensive and defensive, is vast and carries strengths and weakness for any given situation.
At the conclusion of each stage, the player earns experience points and credits to unlock more enhancements. In time, the player can even increase the amount of damage that can be taken which can make the game easier or turned off for veterans that want a true challenge. The best part is the player still retains the experience up to that point upon death, respecting the player’s time and encouraging players to try again only with new and better equipment. Even though the challenge is high, the sheer number of unlockables and options to adjust makes it easy to come back and try again. Each weapon is also displayed in a demo video as the player is determining which loadout to take into battle which makes selecting a breeze. Defensive shields also recharge overtime making the game even more forgiving.
Natsuki Chronicles has an optional feature when it comes to enemy attacks. Normally when an enemy launches any projectile, you simply try and avoid it by estimating its path. Here, bullets have a red laser pointer attached to them that forecasts their trajectory. This can make it easier to determine the path of each incoming bullet. As cool as this feature is, I turned it off after a few stages as I thought having more information on the always crowded screen to be a little distracting for my tastes but can see how some players might prefer this.
The only complaint comes from the narrative. Most of the plot is told during each mission through text bubbles in the upper right corner of the screen. Reading these are impossible as the player needs to focus on the high amount of action happening on screen at any given time. The voice work is only in Japanese so there isn’t a good way to determine what might be happening unless you record your gameplay and read it later. Transitioning from each stage back to the hub screen also features a load screen that takes a little too long.
If you don’t like shooter games, Natsuki Chronicles is the shooter for you. If you enjoy shooters, a stiff challenge, or tons of unlockable content, Natsuki Chronicles is for you. This is a shooter that was designed for everyone, pleases everyone, and should be put on your radar. Don’t worry that you won’t understand the plot because the sense of accomplishment with the half dozen things you unlock after every battle will keep you hooked.
Also available on PC.