Ether Vapor Remaster – Review

Ether Vapor Remaster

developed by Edelweiss

Published by Nyu-Media

It all started with Space Invaders.  The first (popular) shmup available to the general public.  Then came Asteroids, and hot on it’s heels was Galaxian.  They’re the small beginnings of the shmup genre that we know and love today.  As the years had gone by shmups had begun to evolve.  A decade later, games in the genre featured stunning graphics with a 256 color palette, which was a big deal at the time.  Games like Gradius, R-Type, Raiden, and Darius became the templates for what a good shmup should play like.  As home consoles grew in popularity, so did the ambitions of the developers.  Arcade games could be played in the comfort of your home, and they both looked and played great.

This new era of shmups continued to evolve the look and feel of the shmup genre without deviating from the core elements and mechanics that make up the fundamentals of a shmup game.  Games such as Axelay for the SNES, proved that a shmup can look great, pull off a few new graphical tricks, and play great.  Slick looking shmups such as DoDonPachi and Mars Matrix typified what a bullet hell shooter could and should be.  Then, finally, shmups broke the 2D barrier and penetrated the 2.5D plane.  Games like Raystorm, Einhander, and Ikaruga became household names among shmup fans because of their tight gameplay, unique mechanics, and lasting appeal.

The shmup genre has a long history among videogames.  These games and the formula they’re based on, have been around for quite some time.  As long as games like Ether Vapor Remaster, or EVR, are constantly being developed, it’s a genre that will certainly flourish, entertain, and continue in that history.  This is because Ether Vapor Remaster, developed by Edelweiss, isn’t simply another fun shmup, but it is a strong example of why the shmup genre will always remain the appealing, gratifying, and frenetic fun experience that it is.  It’s a game that proves this genre is far from dead and still full of life, energy, and new ideas.

Oddly enough, Ether Vapor Remaster plays a lot like Raystorm, Einhander, Ikaruga, and even Silpheed (on the Playstation2), combined into one cohesive shooter.  At first the similarities appear mostly graphical.  This is true because graphically, Ether Vapor Remaster is easily comparable to those other titles.  Even the mechanics are a mixture of elements found in those games.  It doesn’t have the same color coded combos or shooting mechanics of Ikaruga, and you won’t find the numerous weapons or pick-ups of Einhander, but the flying and shooting of EVR stay true to the shmup tradition while also introducing a few new tricks of it’s own.

Upon first impression you might think EVR is a vertical 2.5D shooter.  After playing it for a short time though, you quickly realize it also becomes a horizontal shooter.  Then, just when you thought you’d seen it all, the gameplay introduces fast paced bonus levels that consist of a series of cinematic stages filled with missiles that chase your ship, but that can be locked-on to and shot down for extra points.  This lock-on mode looks just as fantastic as the vertical and horizontal gameplay and it reminded me a lot of the fun I had watching old anime cartoons such as Robotech when I was a kid.  It’s as much fun to watch as it is to play.  Reaching the end of each level can be impressive as well because EVR features some creative boss battles with bosses that look great and have interesting movement patterns.

The controls of Ether Vapor Remaster are tight and offer precise movement.  This is obviously important when dodging enemies and their bullets.  Tight controls mean that attacking the enemy is also a fluid and responsive practice.  The controls are also very simple to use and intuitive, whether you’re using a keyboard or a gamepad, but as usual, I highly recommend using a controller if possible, because it further enhances the experience and allows the player to become more engrossed in the gameplay.

There are only three different weapons in EVR, but each one does something a little different.  There’s the standard and straight forward Gatling gun, a spread weapon called the Winder, and finally the weaker, but homing, Lock-on weapon.  If players want to achieve high-scores or make progress through all of the seven lengthy stages in EVR, they’re going to have to master these weapons properly.  Playing through levels and memorizing the order in which enemies appear and their patterns is, as any veteran shmup fan knows, an important part of gameplay.  Like any great shmup worth it’s replay value, it requires practice and patience.  For those that do love competition and high-scores, Ether Vapor Remaster also features an online leaderboard.

Graphically, shmups haven’t really surpassed what you’d find in a game like Ikaruga, but Ether Vapor Remaster is definitely up there at the top, with all of the best looking games in the genre.  It’s quite a spectacle to behold when transitioning from one level to another, and things look particularly great when flying through the cinematic bonus levels.  The sleek graphics of Ether Vapor Remaster set the bar for other shooters made for the PC and I’d like to think that perhaps the genre might evolve even more in regards to graphics,  because of how far Ether Vapor Remaster has taken those graphics and the fact that it’s such a great addition to this category of games.

The music and audio in EVR is great.  It’s hard to describe the sound fx of a shooter because they’re usually what you might expect in a frantic sci-fi space action game.  The music, on the other hand, suits the gameplay.  In a way, the music is a little weird because the gameplay is so fast-paced while the first few audio tracks actually sound nice.  I wouldn’t say that the music is completely relaxing, but it’s definitely worth listening to, even outside of playing the game.  That’s a big compliment to the game’s sound design.

You’d be hard pressed to find another recent shooter on PC that looks and plays as well as Ether Vapor Remaster.  I didn’t touch on the story within the game very much, but there is a story, and it unfolds a lot like your average manga or anime.  That’s not to say that the story is bad, but it might not be to everyone’s taste.  I thought it was good fun watching the cutscenes play-out between levels while progressing the story, but you can also turn the cinematic cutscenes off in the options menu.  So if you want, you can watch the story unfold during your first play-through, and then turn the cutscenes off for future gameplay, giving you that pure arcade experience.

Ether Vapor Remaster is a game that can be played by both novices and veteran gamers.  The gameplay is pretty fast in most respects, but the controls are tight and responsive.  Some gamers will love EVR for it’s awesome graphics, while others will enjoy it for the classic feeling it provides and it’s epic boss battles.  It’s a shmup that stands out among it’s peers alongside other big name shoot’em ups.  Hopefully others will pick up EVR and get good at it so that we can compete and compare scores online.

You can order Ether Vapor Remaster from the official website for the very reasonable price of just $7.99 US, just click on the link provided.  The game will also be available on Steam, Gamer’s Gate, Impulse, and GameTap, but the date that it will be released on these digital distribution services is To Be Announced.  Once EVR is available for purchase through these various sites I’ll be sure to include their respective links.

 

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