The SEGA Dreamcast was easily one of the greatest home consoles ever to grace our living rooms. I’ve never shied away from my love of the original online gaming console but it’s not simply just my opinion, it’s also a widely regarded fact that has kept fans amassing huge collections of Dreamcast games and accessories.
This devotion to the console is so strong in fact, it’s also inevitably led to a lot of indie developers working on fresh games for the final SEGA console, despite the fact it was discontinued way back in 2001!
Obviously being Indie titles, you wont find large scoped epics in the vein of Shenmue or Jet Set Radio anytime soon, but with a host of 2D Shooters and platform titles out there, this movement is a great thing!
Ghost Blade is the next 2D shooter or ‘shmup’ to see release and is one that I’d had my eye on for some time thanks to its fantastic style which is highly reminiscent of DoDonPachi and other titles created by the legendary Japanese developer Cave. Despite it’s obvious Japanese roots, Ghost Blade in fact comes from German developer HuCast Games, a team of developers who aren't strangers when it comes to 2D shooters and Dreamcast releases.
The premise is simple enough, select one of the only three female pilots who are skilled enough to destroy a rogue AI thats intent on the destruction of earth. Think terminator but no cheesy lines and more jet fighter battles and you’re there!
Each of the three ships has a unique firing pattern, offering something for every fan of the genre. From the spread shot that’ll cover most angles, to the blast beam with a few missiles thrown in for good measure and finally the much more narrow and precise laser for those who like to dart through openings and take more precise shots.
Each enemy taken out with your standard attack will drop stage stars which build up your level score, while taking the time to charge up your secondary attack will unleash a much more powerful focused beam, causing enemies to leave behind some Tech Orbs which are great if you're looking to power up those smart bombs in your back pocket.
Theres an all important score and combo system which you’ll need to get familiar with as Ghost Blade has a real focus on players getting the best score possible on each stage and with only five stages available, it’s clear why replay value is something Hucast Games have been working on.
Thankfully, while the lack of more complicated features may disappoint the really hardcore purists out there, GhostBlade genuinely offers a really addictive experience and in fact seems aimed at pleasing new comers to the genre. This may seem odd given the niche market it exists in, especially when you remind your self just how old the Dreamcast is (it’s 16 and yes, I feel old too), but I see it as a good thing and a great step to bringing more fans to the criminally underlined genre.
Novice mode is included which lowers the difficulty somewhat while firing a smart bomb automatically should you take a hit, leaving you to focus on grinding until your reflexes improve. In other difficulty modes theres obviously no such help so simply completing the five stages on your short run of lives is a much tougher challenge than you may first imagine.
Visually Ghost Blade looks absolutely stunning. Filling the screen with more 2D sprites than you could shake a joy-stick at and it easily looks as good as any modern entry into the genre which is a huge achievement in and of itself!
Sadly finding the optimal display is a slight niggle. Played through a normal TV and you’ll be greeted with some rather ugly borders which are needed to create that all important vertical display. You can of course opt to use a VGA monitor (my personal preference) which vastly improves matters but if you’re lucky enough to have a monitor that can in fact stand on its side, then TATE mode is the only true way to play, removing all edges and filling the screen with glorious colours, lasers, explosions and battle ships!
The games soundtrack is another perfectly crafted aspect of the game, created by Rafael Dyll, it nails the 90’s style perfectly and thanks to its inclusion within the games ‘Limited Edition’ it’s well worth paying that little bit extra for!
All in all, Ghost Blade is more than just a lump of nostalgia jammed into a Dreamcast disc, its an extremely well designed 2D shooter that looks to welcome both new comers and hardcore fans. You can see and feel the work that has gone into crafting this experience and while it’s not reinventing the wheel at all, it does what it sets out to extremely well and breathes that bit more life into the almost forgotten Dreamcast!