First, there were shooters where you had to avoid bullets. Then, there were shooters where you had to avoid many, many bullets. Finally, arrived the games where you still had to avoid many, many bullets, but still stay close enough to them that they are almost crazing your craft. This particular style of bullet hell shooter gained popularity with Radiant Silvergun, but it is a style of play that a lot of other shooters have adopted. One of the most popular examples is Psyvariar Medium Unit, which is a vertically scrolling shooter that hit the arcades back in 2000. It was quickly followed a few years later with an update, titled Psyvariar Revision. Now, almost two decades later, the latest update to the game, Psyvariar Delta, has arrived on PC, does it still have anything to offer?
PC owners who are wary that they might be missing out on something by jumping straight into Psyvarior Delta have nothing to fear. Although Psyvariar Medium Unit and Psyvariar Revision stayed in the arcades and on Playstation 2 hardware, City Connection has generously included 2 HD remakes of these titles with Delta. Not only does this mean that PC owners finally get to play the best looking versions of these arcade classics, but they also come with a slew of additional features that we will get to later. So, will the price for Psyvariar Delta may initially appear to be somewhat on the steep side, you are actually getting a pretty comprehensive collection of shooters for your hard earned cash.
As mentioned earlier, Psyvariar Delta is a bullet hell shooter, but unlike other titles in the genre where grazing bullets is just an extra feature, in this one it is integral to the gameplay. In Psyvariar Delta it is dubbed the “Buzz System” and if you want to fully experience the game, it is something that you need to master early on. Trying to play Delta like a typical bullet hell shooter is likely to result in a short and rewarding experience, but once you get the hang of the Buzz System it is a whole new ballgame. The basic idea is to stray as close as possible to enemy bullets, which fills up an experience gauge. Each time the gauge reached 100% your ship levels up, which if done enough times, alters its design as well as increases the firepower. When you level up you are also given a short period of invulnerability, which can be used to escape a bullet barrage or to buzz even more bullets and increase your combo. It is an extremely addictive system and you’ll find yourself eventually concentrating more on chaining your buzzes together than actually shooting your enemies.
There is another very important reason to pay attention to the buzz system and your level, which is the branching stages in the game. After each stage you complete, you can pick the difficulty of the next one, but the ones available to you will depend on the level of your craft. So, for example, if your ship level is very low at the end of a level you might only have access to one or two levels afterwards. However, do well enough and you could have access to a lot more. This keeps things interesting as you get to see new levels and bosses in the game as your skills improve and you manage to obtain higher levels for your ship.
Another feature in the game that might not be immediately apparent is the “rolling.” The game has a dedicated button for rolling, which causes your ship to spin and concentrate its firepower instead of the its typical bullet spread. While this is great for focusing your fire on particular targets, such as bosses, it also has other advantages. You see, rolling decreases the speed of your craft, which makes it easier to deftly weave through the bullet curtains heading your way and thus increase your buzz counter faster.
There is another very important reason to pay attention to the buzz system and your level, which is the branching stages in the game. After each stage you complete, you can pick the difficulty of the next one, but the ones available to you will depend on the level of your craft. So, for example, if your ship level is very low at the end of a level you might only have access to one or two levels afterwards. However, do well enough and you could have access to a lot more. This keeps things interesting as you get to see new levels and bosses in the game as your skills improve and you manage to obtain higher levels for your ship. Another feature in the game that might not be immediately apparent is the “rolling.” The game has a dedicated button for rolling, which causes your ship to spin and concentrate its firepower instead of the its typical bullet spread. While this is great for focusing your fire on particular targets, such as bosses, it also has other advantages. You see, rolling decreases the speed of your craft, which makes it easier to deftly weave through the bullet curtains heading your way and thus increase your buzz counter faster.
Players who have already experienced Psyvariar Medium Unit and Revision might be wondering what Delta has to offer them, which is quite a bit actually. In addition to looking better than ever before, the game features even more stages and comes with a brand new character. Actually, it’s not so much a “new” character as the return of a classic as you get to play as Blanche from the 1993 arcade hit, Cybattler. Even better, the game now allows you to pick between any three versions of the game and then select which one of the three ships you want to use. So you can pick the Axion-R, Axion-Y or even Blanche and play through either Medium, Unit, Revision, or Delta. The game even goes one step further and lets you pick which one of the soundtracks you want to hear while playing.
Along with the usual “Normal” mode where one or two players can shoot their way through the levels, Delta also has a few other modes. Newcomers can try out the “Practice” mode, which gives you full control over the areas, planes and even experience levels that you want to try out. In this mode, you can even go straight to the boss if you want to hone your skills for the coveted one credit clear in Normal mode. Then there is the “Replay” mode where you can try for the highest score in each area after watching the replay data. Finally, there is the “Score Attack” mode, which is pretty self explanatory and sees you trying to put up the highest score without the aid of continues. Both the Score Attack and Replay Mode feature online rankings, giving you something extra to aim for.
Although Psyvariar Delta is not an easy game in terms of dodging bullets, it is very accessible to newcomers, thanks to the amount of options that you can tweak. In addition to the Practice mode, you can also adjust a lot of things to make the Normal mode as easy or challenging as you want it to be. The difficulty can be adjusted all the way from very easy to very hard, while you can also pick the amount of extra planes and bombs you have, up to a maximum of five. You can even opt to play with infinite continues, which means reaching and defeating the last boss is only a matter of perseverance. However, as we have already pointed out, Psyvariar Delta is not about completing the game, but about increasing your level and taking on the most challenging levels on your way to the end. If you ignore the buzzer system and treat it like a simple shooter, then you are bound to be very disappointed by the length of the game as it can be completed in a matter of minutes. However, taking your time, learning the ropes and mastering the buzzer system makes for a much more rewarding experience.
In terms of visuals, the games included with Psyvariar Delta hasn’t aged too badly. This is mostly due to the fact that the game made use of polygons instead of sprites for your ship, the enemies and the backgrounds. Although the game looks pretty basic compared to modern titles, everything looks sharp and clear, which is what matters most in a bullet hell shooter. The backgrounds are a little basic and the detail of the textures are a bit lacking, but none of this interferes with the gameplay, which is still very solid. Your journey starts above Earth and continues through a desert, forest, valley, volcano, asteroid field, city, factory and a range of other locations. Delta has also added a number of “X-area” stages to the mix, which feature unique backdrops.
Another thing that we love about delta is that it allows you to change the direction of the display, which is great for people who have monitors that can pivot to portrait mode. We have a dedicated second display that we keep in portrait mode for vertical scrolling shooters like this as well as pinball games and Psyvariar Delta worked great on it after a bit of tweaking. A lot of games require some tinkering to get sort of thing working, so it’s good to see that Psyvariar Delta supports it without any hassles. Playing in normal landscape mode with a widescreen monitor isn’t bad either as the game fills up the extra space on the sides of the display with a bunch of useful information. Everything from your score and status to the boss status, current music track playing and even a close up of the player is shown here. We prefer playing the game in portrait mode without these distractions, but there will be players out there that appreciate it. Bullet hell shooter enthusiasts will also like the fact that this game allows you to toggle things like the hit-boxes for bullets, enemies and the player on and off, so you can see exactly how close you are cutting it. When the game was first released, it did have some issues with the frame rate not working properly on monitors that are set to higher than 60hz, but to the credit of the developers, this issue was very quickly addressed in an update.
A special mention should go to the audio in Psyvariar Delta, which is top notch. Not only does the game feature what amounts to three games worth of music tracks, but all of them are actually pretty good too. The tracks are all of the old school dance variety, but they provide a nice, uplifting sonic backdrop for the game. The sound effects are not half bad either, but if you play the game well you will mostly be hearing the “level up” voice snippet. As with all bullet hell shooters, we recommend playing Psyvariar Delta with a good controller, but it is also perfectly playable with a keyboard. All of the buttons can be remapped to your liking, but for once we actually preferred playing the game with a d-pad instead of the analog stick as it was easier to make the sort of minute adjustments needed to scrape past bullets.
Overall, Psyvariar Delta is a very enjoyable shooter that has got plenty to offer for both newcomers as well as veterans. It’s the type of game where the more you play and the better you get, the more rewarding it becomes. However, it doesn’t penalize new players as harshly as other games in the genre, so it is still possible to play the game, have fun and finish it on the easiest setting if that is what you want. The only downsides to the game is that the visuals look a little dusty compared to other recent titles that make use of all kinds of fancy lighting and particle effects. The length of the game might also be an issue for those playing it as a straight shooter, as it can be completed in just a few minutes if you barge through it on easy. So, while it is not the biggest or flashiest shooter on the block, it is still a game that we can wholeheartedly recommend if you are fan of the genre. It is very rewarding to play and the buzz system provides it with an extra layer of challenge.
- OS: Windows 10
- Processor: Intel Core i3 3.3GHz
- Memory: 8 GB RAM
- Graphics: Nvidia GeForce GT730
- DirectX: Version 12
- Storage: 900 MB available space
- Sound Card: Realtek High Definition Audio