Hucast's Playstation 4 port of their Dreamcast shmup "Ghost Blade" is a perfect HD upgrade with plenty of challenges, and tweaks to appease a fan of the genre. It is a sensory overload filled with vibrant colors, detailed designs, and impressive art that holds up to today's shoot 'em up standards. The game itself stars three intergalactic female pilots (Milan, Ghost & Rekka) who each pilot a ship/tank that has it's own style of bullet fire, and satellites. The ships are color coded to match their pilot's uniform, and each carry a unique design. With these ships you must brave one of three different difficulty settings (Easy, Normal, Hard) along with five top-down enemy filled stages as well as the five boss battles within each stage that are in themselves a proper challenge. The difficulty settings included have their own accompanying perks including a specific number of continues, lives, and bombs/bomb usage types. The 'Easy' mode in particular will have you focusing mostly on the screen filling bullet hell spray, and less on the bombs as the bombs activate automatically when you get hit making you temporarily invincible. Supposing you have some in stock In the other two difficulties bombs are a manual deal meaning that you must activate them in order to use them. Along with the bombs comes main weaponry in the form of a focused fire attack, and a spread attack. A feature that's included in all levels of difficulty. The focus attack streamlines the bullet fire from your ship making the beam it creates more powerful, and in the process slows down your movement so that you can dodge bullet hell spray easier. It also doubles as a means to create tech orbs which add to your combo focused score. The standard wide spray shot only gifts you stage stars, and gold when shooting down enemies, but adds to the growing score, nonetheless. It is also weaker making it more useful against smaller enemy types.
For those of you looking to hone your skills "Ghost Blade HD" has a training mode outside of the traditional 1P-2P modes that come standard with such a game. In the training mode you can practice in stages, and against bosses you've managed to beat in any difficulty level. This is a mode for those dedicated, and diehard shmup fans who really want to 1UP the competition via the local, and global leaderboards. Beyond the 1P/2P modes, and the training mode lies a 'Score Attack' mode which for some reason doesn't feel all too challenging. It's a first stage exclusive playthrough in which you have an infinite amount of ships, and a limited number of bombs per ship. I think the focus is meant to be on maximizing score through maintained combos, the avoidance of ship loss, and the defeat of all enemy ships as well as the boss done up in the most lucrative manner. Like all the modes your end score, which takes in account the three types of score power-ups (Gold, Stage Stars & Tech Orbs), your remaining bombs, your ship count, time left, and highest combo will be tallied up, and applied to the appropriate leaderboard listing. A listing which is accessible via the main menu "Leaderboard" listing. The leaderboard itself is sub-divided by difficulty, and local/global rankings. It takes in account your score, the ship/character you used, and the stage you were on when the final highscore occurred. It also includes a typed nickname that can be up to or a little over 5 characters in length. One thing to keep in mind when playing "Ghost Blade HD" competitively is that your score will be reset upon continue. Not when you lose a ship, but instead when you are prompted to use one of your continues.
As far as options go this game has some significant ones. There's a YOKO screen rotation option which literally rotates the screen, visual background darkness, Tech Orb transparency, two different soundtracks (normal/alternate), wallpapers with different game art images, soft slow, and the usual tweaks tied to various parts of in-game volume. Out of all of these the background darkness slide meter is the most significant in that it allows you to make bullet hell spray more visible. This game is heavy on the colors, and to have such an option is definitely advantageous. I'd say that option, the soft slow, and the YOKO screen tilt are definite game changers. Let me also not for get the HUD adjustments which allows you to place the onscreen displays where you wish.
The Verdict ...
It's been a while since I've played a ported shump that is this attentive to detail. It is a proper HD upgrade, and does carry with it numerous options that will help you change the game from it's original settings to settings more suitable for the player in an ease-of-access sense of the meaning. It also contains a somewhat limited replay value that focuses heavily on leaderboard perfectionists. The only complaint I have, if any, is the fact that the transition from difficulty to difficulty is not all that noticeable. Outside of easy mode's automatic bomb usage everything seems like it's on hard mode by default. Mostly because of the amount of enemies onscreen, and the types of bullet hell that often times fill the screen. If you like a good shmup driven challenge though that should not be an issue as the game definitely provides that. For those of you curious about trophies the game throws them at you with little effort required. Only the gold, and possibly platinum trophies will be demanding of your time and patience. As far as a verdict goes this game gets the Inferno's seal of approval! It's a port, and upgrade well done!