Clenching through space
Bullet hell shooters are plain fun, aiming for that high score while feeling like a champ for making everything on screen explode while being showered by enemy fire. This to me is pure gaming bliss and I love “gamey” games, as such I had a wonderful time with Ghost Blade HD.
Ghost Blade HD has a straightforward plot that doesn’t add much to the game, being a shooter that doesn’t detract from the game though. There’s an AI named Shira that was built to protect the residents of Mars but after some thousands of years have passed it all goes haywire and Shira becomes Evil Shira and it threatens the existence of the entire universe.
In the Main Game, you take control of one of three ships throughout five stages with a distinct boss at the end of each one to take down Evil Shira. Stages and enemies have enough variety to keep the game from feeling repetitive but to be honest you’ll be spending most of your time looking at enemy fire and trying to dodge it.
There are three difficulty levels, with Easy being extremely generous with how when you’re about to get hit the game automatically deploys a bomb so you won’t die until you run out of bombs and Hard being, well, pretty challenging with enemies being more durable and shooting an insane number of bullets. With that said, I found that Normal really strikes the perfect balance between challenge and fun, you’re still pretty vulnerable as taking a single hit will destroy your ship. There’s also a neat risk/reward system in which if you get close enough to a bigger ship and take it down while in a certain range you’ll be rewarded with more points than usual (you’ll hear a chime if you’ve done it right).
The soundtrack is certainly one of the highlights, having a little bit of both old and new. It harkens back fond memories from 90’s shooters like DoDonpachi with tunes heavy on synths while also to throwing in some modern ones that kind of remind me of Ikaruga, that’s certainly not a bad thing.
As for lasting appeal, besides the Main Game (which can be played with 2-Players simultaneously) which depending on your skill will take about 30 minutes to get through there’s a Training Mode where you can practice any stage or boss at your leisure and a Score Attack Mode which features a unique stage made up of what seems to be sections of stages from the Main Game where you try to get the best score with infinite lives.
Most of my time with the game was spent hunting for trophies, as Ghost Blade HD boats a full trophy list with a platinum. Getting a x599 multiplier on Hard in any stage had me clenching my teeth in a sort of pleasing way, I was truly getting challenged and it felt amazing once I finally beat that challenge.
I commend 2Dream re-releasing this Dreamcast hidden gem on current gen systems, otherwise I wouldn’t be able to experience the amazing shmup that is Ghost Blade.
SGR SCORE: 9/10