In 1999 SITER SKAIN, a three man doujin circle, released Kamui, a highly regarded shoot ’em up. This was the first game in The Tale of ALLTYNEX, a trilogy of legendary shoot ’em ups which have never left Japanese shores…until now. The trilogy is composed of Kamui, RefleX, and ALLTYNEX Second. Hardcore fans of the genre may have played this trio before, but having an official release for the masses to experience is great. Nyu Media held a Kickstarter campaign to help with the localization, and it was a success. So, what is the low down on these games and do they live up to the hype?
The shoot ’em up (shmup for short) genre is not known for carrying compelling stories, but The Tale of ALLTYNEX certainly tries. The world’s governments are ran by ALLTYNEX, a supercomputer OS. One day, the system goes rogue and decides to wage a war on all of mankind. Forced to flee to the stars, humanity decides to fight back and reclaim Earth. Now, the saga is told across the three games; ALLTYNEX Second, RefleX, and Kamui being the story order. Brief intros and outros frame the story, but it is largely told through the gameplay. You don’t need text or cutscenes to understand what is at stake, and this minimalist approach is very effective for two reasons, it keeps the games moving at a break neck pace and you feel you are part of the desperate struggle against the machines. That being said, you will not be playing The Tale of ALLTYNEX for the story, but the gameplay.
Shmups, like Fighters, live and die by their gameplay. Luckily for us, The Tale of ALLYTNEX has incredibly smooth controls. You can use your keyboard or a gamepad, with the gamepad being the optimal choice. However, it is not impossible to go for a 1-c (1 credit) run with your keyboard. The core gameplay of the trilogy is simple, you control your ship and destroy the enemy while dodging an insane amount of bullets. Things might seem overwhelming at first glance, but unlike most shmups, you have hit points instead of the infamous one-hit deaths.
The core gameplay is the same, but each of the three titles include their own mechanics. Kamui gives you a lightning area attack to destroy forces on the ground and a powerful plasma beam; RefleX gives you a shield the makes you invulnerable and reflects enemy attacks; and ALLTYNEX Second gives you plasma missiles, a melee attack, and a powerful beam. These mechanics are what which entree revolves around. For instance, Kamui will have some ground-to-air combat, while ALLTYNEX Second will have enemies come up close and personal to you. These changes in gameplay help each entry have their own identity, and the added challenge of not being able to use your same strategy.
The games presented in The Tale of ALLYTNEX are challenging. You will have to put up a fight and be on your toes to clear the stages, but that is only half the battle. If you want to go for a 1-c or a perfect run, you will need to practice. Add in the fact that your hitbox is larger than most other shmups, and the action is fast paced, newcomers may seem a little nervous at first. Worry not, because the games ease you in, and with hit point and a generous number of continues, you will find yourself mastering the games with enough dedication and practice. The three games are the very definition of easy to play, but tough to master…and even then they can be slightly difficult to play. Add in the addictive gameplay, and it makes me miss the arcade days.
The art work that SITER SKAIN used for the three titles hold up incredibly well, considering their age. Kamui and RefleX use sprites, and ALLTYNEX Second uses CG for its graphics, and each have aged perfectly. Each game uses some camera trickery to give off the illusion that you are moving on a 3D plane, or that there is more depth to the levels than there really is. The bullets, beams, and missiles are perfectly visible and will never blend into the background or with each other, and explosions look great. The variety of stages are very nice to look at, never once did it feel like I was playing a recycled stage, each has enough visual diversity to set them apart across the three games. While not terribly diverse in terms of enemies, the ships have really cool designs, especially the mid-bosses and bosses.
Sound design is just as important to shmups as gameplay. Nothing is worse than playing one with muddy sound, not being able tell the sounds of your shots from the enemies, having the shots blend in with explosions, or having the soundtrack overtake everything. In a genre that is easy to overload the senses with a visual and auditory assault, SITER SKAIN found the perfect balance between everything. This is as close to a perfect sound design as it gets. Nothing blends in with each other, and the catchy soundtrack does not overtake the sounds of shots being fired and enemies exploding.
Inspired by the look of space age anime, The Tale of ALLTYNEX tells its story through its looks more than through text blurbs. You see the destruction caused by the machines, you are in the loneliness of space battling against sentient AIs, and you want to explore more of this world. The focus is more on the struggle for survival, and The Tale of ALLTYNEX captures the feel beautifully.
Camera trickery gives an illusion of added depth and layers to the world, making you think you are fighting ground-to-air battles or that you are wrapping along a space station. Some of the effects can be jarring, but they are never overly distracting. The few cutscenes that are in the games are short and sweet, carrying some nice artwork.
The Tale of ALLYTNEX comprises of three legendary games made by a legendary indie group. Sure, you can rush through and beat the games in under an hour, but that is only if you have mastered the systems. Each of the three games are addicting, and extremely well made that they hold up perfectly today. Each of the three games can be purchased for $7.99 separately or as a bundle for $19.99. You will be getting DRM free and addicting games no matter which route you choose. Whether you are a shump enthusiast or just love a challenge, The Tale of ALLYTNEX is a saga worth buying.