Okay so I was just linked to this YouTube account by a friend. It’s the YouTube account of indie developer Zanrai Interactive. Before we go any further, I want you to know that Zanrai Interactive is a three man team. So everything I am about to write about and expose you to was done by three guys. Well, they got some extra help with voice acting, but that’s not the point. The point is three extremely talented people have put together a couple of videos on their channel for their first game. Heaven Variant is a shooter that aims (pun intended) to recreate the glory days of arcade shooters. Regardless of myself not being a big fan of the shoot ’em up, or “shmup” genre I decided to give their most recent gameplay preview trailer a look. All I really need to say is my goddamn jaw hit my desk.
Like I said before, I’m not huge on the shmup genre. I mostly stayed away from shooters in the SNES/Genesis days, which apparently was the era where some of the best games in the genre were released. I just never really connected with the gameplay. Recently I got ahold of Jamestown for PC and it has sparked my interest in the genre. After watching various YouTube reviews of classic shmup games, it became clear to me that I have been missing out on a lot by ignoring the genre.
I started looking around for other games i may have missed out on. Looking at the current generation of shooters I’ve noticed a trend: they are almost all “bullet hell” style games. For those not familiar with the terminology of the genre (and believe me, I’m sure as heck not), a “bullet hell” shooter is almost exactly what it describes. Your ship (or tank, or anime babe on a rocket) is constantly dodging hundreds of projectiles being fired in a pattern and filling the screen with one-shot death. Apparently these are the types of games that modern shmup fans enjoy. Honestly though, the bullet hell style doesn’t really do it for me. I’m more interested in blowing shit up than dodging bullets. I don’t see why doing ballet around projectiles is more “hardcore” than blowing up alien motherships or shooting crossbow grenades at enemy tanks. The developers at Zanrai seem to agree.
Our team hesitates to refer to our game as a traditional “shmup” because it is not one. It is above all a horizontally scrolling action game. We’re trying to do things to open up the experience to people that perhaps haven’t played a shooter in a long time (or at all). So are we developing a casual game or dumbing down the difficulty? Hell, no! We fully intend for the game to challenging but in a way that emphasizes action over bullet dodging, not because we don’t adore bullet hell and games and its associated bullet dodging, but because it’s merely not part of our game’s design. We want to create a game that is inviting to newer and older players alike.
That sounds right up my alley. Bullet hell shooters definitely have their place, I cannot deny that, but the style of shooter that has caught my interest of late is the arcade style of shooter. Games that are focused more on launching missles and less on squeezing through tiny gaps. The type of games that were prolific on the Sega Genesis and in arcades. Those games are colorful, have great music, offer incredible power-ups and most importantly have a assload of enemies to kill. Heaven Variant is clearly an homage to this style of gameplay. The techno/rock music, vibrant colors and unique gameplay mechanics make this indie title stand out. The game is still in an early stage of development and you can already tell how much passion the developers have. Not only for their game, but for the shmup genre in general.
Okay I seriously can’t hold this any longer. Enough words for right now. Are you ready to have your goddamn mind blown? Here is the most recent gameplay trailer, released earlier this month:
Holy cow. Shortly after my jaw hit my desk, I developed a big stupid grin. That looks like so much fun! I’ve watched the video at least ten times just to see what all of the advertisements in the background said. There is just so much personality in this game that I cannot keep it’s existence a secret. I know I’ve mentioned it already, but what you just saw was crafted by three people. It really blows my mind how talented some people can be. No doubt you noticed how the player was able to maneuver the cursor around the screen. The secondary weapon can be manually aimed by sacrificing a bit of the maneuverability of the ship. The game is meant to be played with a twin-stick controller but the aiming can also be controlled by a keyboard and mouse. This gives us some insight as to what platforms it might be released on.
I never really considered shooters to be a stage for great storytelling and lore. This game has definitely made me rethink that. The game takes place in the distant future where Earth has broken out in large scale, global wars and military faction “DIVINITY” as acting as a peacekeeper and trying to contain the conflict. Definitely an intriguing plot. Like I mentioned in the last paragraph, I watched the video several times to catch all of the text in the background. I was particularly interested at the end of the video when the night sky over the city “errored out” and switched from error screens to blue skies, cloudy skies and I even saw a faux blue screen of death in there. Real skies aren’t supposed to do that!
My interest is beyond piqued at this indie title. I will eagerly keep tabs on this game as it develops. They have made such incredible strides in the visual department alone between September and now. Given a few more months I expect the game will be even more mind-blowing than it is in it’s current state. I’ll be sure to keep you all updated. As far as supporting the developer, please subscribe to their YouTube account and like their videos. Then hop over to Twitter and Facebook and make sure to follow/like the company to get even more news and updates. Finally, don’t forget to check the development blog. They want community interaction and want to hear your thoughts on the game. Go leave them a helpful comment and show your support for such an awesome project!