Review: The Hurricane of Varstray -Collateral Hazard- (2015) (PC/Steam)

Posted by Retrokaiser On Tuesday, February 9, 2016 0 comments

The Hurricane of Varstray -Collateral Hazard- certainly sounds like one hell of a storm but it is actually a vertical scrolling shoot 'em up set in space.  This game has you playing as a squadron of female pilots that are on a mission to fly to the enemies base and take them out with a direct assault.  The problem with this mission is that the trip is very long and is filled with enemy ships that'll do anything to stop you from accomplishing your mission.  Do you have what it takes to traverse though the hellish battle zone in space and survive this suicide mission?  (Click on "Read More" to read the full review).

The story in this game might sound very simple but it is a lot more complex as it really explains all of the background details and tells you why this war is going on, why the characters are there, and what it is like through the eyes of the characters.  This is defiantly an interesting thing to add into a simple shmup like this but while interesting, it becomes one of the game's biggest weaknesses.  The reason why this is a huge flaw is due to the story being incredibly drawn out with uninteresting dialogue that adds boring filler to the game rather than expanding the whole situation, this really slows the game down.  Some of the scenes were so drawn out that I actually fell asleep and woke up only to see that the scene still going and I'm not saying that to be mean, that really did happen.

A thing I did like about the story mode was that each character had their own unique cut-scenes and dialogue, so I gotta give them credit for adding in the effort of keeping each character adding something new to the story.  Sadly, I didn't like any of the stories and I really didn't like the characters in terms of dialogue.  The characters in this game just come off as very unnecessary bitchy and incredibly unlikeable, they were also very one-dimensional in character and also very generic.  Not saying that there weren't any moments where the characters weren't likeable, there were some very rare moments when they indeed were.

You can skip the cut-scenes if you choose to and you might want to as you'll need to play Story Mode in order to unlock bonus stuff, that includes secret characters and the characters are actually pretty decent.  The reason why the story doesn't work overall and why it is as problematic as it is was due to it being attached to a fast paced game that doesn't need a huge elapsed story and just doesn't blend at all.  Now if this were an anime or an RPG, I can see myself judging it differently, it'd work more appropriately in those genre of games.  Anyway, enough of the downer of this game and onto the reasons why you should be playing this game.

This game also has an Arcade Mode, where you can play the game without any cut-scenes or dialogue.  The gameplay is very fun with its fluid smooth controls and tight gameplay.  You do start off a game with a simple laser shot but that can be upgraded into a monster of a weapon.  A neat thing about the main weapon is that each character has their own unique firing pattern that were all fun to play with and adds some really nice replay value to the game.  You also have a secondary weapon that's much stronger than the main weapon but it can not be upgraded, however you can collect items that'll change the secondary weapon into another weapon.  Secondary weapons includes a laser beam, grenade, and my personal favorite, the lock on missiles.  The secondary weapons work fine and work well in certain situations but having the wrong secondary weapon at the wrong time can be murder, so be careful.

Once you've blasted enough enemies, you'll have the chance to use your special attack, a screen-full of lasers that turns every thing in its path into gold (yee-haw).  The special doesn't end there, it also turns into a secondary special that has your ship overheated to where you can fly through anything you touch and turn it into even better gold (yeeeeeeeeeeee-haaaaawwwww).  This move is incredibly fun to pull off and is a great highlight to this game as it is an incredibly satisfying move to do as well.  This move will also gain you an insane amount of points that'll earn you a whole ton of extra lives.  Trying to collect the gold can be a bit weird at first, you really have to fly directly though them very specifically, opposed to them being magnetically drawn to you like in a lot of games like this.

This game has three levels of difficulty but no matter which one you pick, it's going to be a very tough game regardless.  Each stage has a ton of enemies that nearly fill the screen up with projectiles and it just gets tougher as it goes along but lucky for you, the bullets are much more easy to avoid than it looks.  You are given a decent hit box and the game is forgiving on dodging bullets up until the last few stages due to the insane amount of enemies.  Each stage also ends with a boss and the bosses are the easy part of the stages due to no other enemy interfering with the battle, so you can focus more on the boss without being distracted.

The length of this game is twelve stages long but the stages are quite short and will end up taking about forty minutes to an hour to beat.  The story mode will take longer to beat due to all of the cut-scenes but like I've said before, you can skip the cut-scenes.  This game may be hard but is incredibly beatable due to having an unlimited amount of credits but I would want to keep alive for as long as possible, your weapons will reset to their weak form once you've started a new credit.

Graphics in this game have a very dark and cool looking space sci-fi theme and anime styled characters.  I did enjoy the backgrounds, there was a decent amount of stuff going on that gives you the feeling of being in an epic space war, plus it helped to make space feel very alive and not lonesome.  The detailing in the background is decent and looks very good but the backgrounds can look quite samey in a bunch of levels and this will make you feel like that you are repeating stages or not progressing though the game.  While I didn't like the characters personalities, I did enjoy their designs, they had a nice militaristic sci-fi look that reminded me of space war movies and classic anime.  Each character also had their own unique look and this added a lot of variety to the character designs.

Animation in this game is really smooth and didn't drop down in quality at any point in the game, nor where there times where the game slowed down and it was very nice to see this consistency in the game.  This game does have voice acting for the characters, it is a Japanese dub with English subtitles.  The acting itself was passable, there were moments that were good to listen, but the dub also has some rough patches in terms of acting and audio quality and does sound a bit fuzzy in parts.  The soundtrack in this game is really good and has a rock and techno sound style that really suits the game.  My problem with the soundtrack is that it can be a bit hard to hear as it is drowned out by the sound effects and that's a shame as it is a decent soundtrack.

Overall, this game does have its problems and a very weak story but it does have some really good gameplay that makes this game a real blast to play.  I do recommend giving this game a go as you are bound to have some fun with it.  Flawed but fun. 

Game: The Hurricane of Varstray -Collateral Hazard-
System: PC/Steam
Developer: Studio SiestA
Publisher: Rocket Engine Co. Ltd.
Genre: Shoot 'em Up, Science Fiction, Action
Price: $15.99
Recommended: Yes


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