I won’t lie, I tend to be drawn to things with my name in them. When I saw Supercharged Robot VULKAISER pop up on my radar I just had to see what my name was up to. Before I even clicked the purchase button on Steam this game was already checking off a lot of “yes” boxes for me. 80’s giant robot cartoon aesthetic? CHECK. “Kaiser” in the title? CHECK. SHMUP? CHECK. Affordably priced? CHECK. Needless to say, grabbing this game was a no-brainer, and as I came to learn, offered much more than just the initial things that got me hyped for it.
Developed by AstroPort and published by Nyu Media, this indie shoot-em-up creates a fun and challenging homage to a style of cartoons/TV shows I absolutely loved as a child. AstroPort nails the team based giant robot anime feel in shows like Voltron and Mazinger Z, from the great swelling music, character dynamics and color coated teammates all the way down to the pure cheese of it all. There’s bold yellow subtitles, diverse teammates with distinct and trope-worthy personalities, wanton destruction, space lords and everything needed to make this old gamer’s heart smile.
From the Title Screen players can choose to Launch the game, play a Tutorial, watch a Replay of their last go at the game, or Quit back to the desktop. Upon launching the game you then get to select from Easy, Normal, Hard and Super Hard difficulties. Easy & Normal feel more like you standard horizontal scrolling SHMUPs like Life Force or R*Type, where-as hard and Super Hard thrust you into the realm of “Bullet Hell” style SHMUPs. My reflexes are not what they used to be so I found the most fun with the game in the Easy and Normal settings. I attempted the harder settings, but the first stage boss just proved too much for me time and again.
While the sprite for Vulkaiser is larger than your usual SHMUP, the hitbox is actually pretty small and denoted by a flashing glow to remind you of where it is at (the chest area). Enemies will swarm the screen and unleash a bevy of projectiles that you must either destroy or avoid to stay alive and press forward. At different points in each stage you will be offered a choice from available Vulkaiser Attachment Modules that change your weapon and abilities. The base suit provides you with lasers to shoot and the ability to launch your fists when the weapons meter is charged.
Thunder Kaiser changes the main weapon to a lightning attack with a focused charge beam. Needle Kaiser acts as a spread cannon whose needles get larger and deadlier when charged. Rocket Kaiser switches the lasers to rockets and my favorite, Drill Kaiser shoots lasers but also creates a drill in front of the ship to plow through enemies with. When you charge it, you can launch it directly into a swarm or giant enemy ship. It’s the more difficult to master, but was a bit more unique and thus more appealing to me to play around with.
Be careful, though! If a fighter module gets destroyed before you make it to the end of the level, it will be gone for the rest of the game. Luckily, your main robot and each piece of the Vulkaiser will regain some health before starting the next stage.
There are some small things Vulkaiser does that add some splashes of polish that elevates the game from being “just another cheap indie SHMUP” to something more endearing. The thing that stood out to me most was the replayability. I found myself not just trying to get a better score and further into the game, but there are different stage complete screens based on which of the four Vulkaiser attachments you have equipped when you finish the stage. Each of the four modules (Drill Kaiser, Rocket Kaiser, Needle Kaiser and Thunder Kaiser) is created and controlled by one of the four other team members. When you beat a level with them equipped you are treated to some dialog that gives insights into the teammates’ characters.
Overall I highly recommend Supercharged Robot Vulkaiser. It is more than reasonably priced at only $5.00 for a quality indie SHMUP that tickles a number of nostalgia spots. It’s fun, fast paced, and offers up a number of reasons to replay it.