Developer: Bikkuri Software | Publisher: Henteko Doujin | Release Date: 2017 | Genre: Bullet Hell Shooter / Action | Website: N/A | Purchase: Steam
When humanity discovers a way to convert human consciousness into data, it opens up whole new avenues for communication. It’s not long before people start using this technology to create a virtual network for entertainment purposes. Unfortunately, at some point in the 23rd century, this virtual network, which is known as “EDEN,” locks out its administrator and takes the 2.4 million civilians connected to it hostage. In order to free the hostage, a secret government organization is tasked with sending their elite fighters to take down the evolved network. This can only be done by reaching the central “Tower” of the system, but in order to do so, they must first fight their way through the four zones of EDEN.
Graze Counter is a retro-style shoot ‘em up with a couple of tricks up its sleeve to entice fans of the genre. True to its name, the central mechanic of the game is your ability to graze enemy bullets and fill up your graze counter. To accomplish this, you need to get as close as possible to enemy bullets without actually taking a hit. Doing this is not just good for your score, but also allows you to unleash a devastating attack once you’ve filled the gauge. In addition to making mincemeat of your enemies, this counterattack also has the added benefit of turning their bullets into golden stars. These stars are definitely worth collecting as they fill up your “Break” gauge. Once fully charged, the Break Gauge can be emptied for an even more powerful attack along with a shower of score boosting red stars. These gauges, along with the fact that your score multiplier rapidly decreases when you are not actively grazing bullets, results in a game where you are constantly putting yourself in harm’s way. It is a constant cycle of risk and reward that is as addictive as it is exhilarating and definitely an experience that even jaded fans of the genre will enjoy.
Despite how intense Graze Counter might look, it is actually also quite an accessible title for newcomers to the genre. There are three difficulty levels to choose from and all the techniques that you need to succeed are drilled into you thanks to a handy mission mode. The inclusion of a “Practice” mode also allows you to hone your skills before going for the real deal. Unfortunately, with only five levels, Graze Counter might just be a little too easy for some. Even with a couple of big bosses standing in your way, it won’t take too long to see the ending credits scroll past. Thankfully, there are a couple of things that the developers included to increase the longevity of the game. These include six additional ships that can be unlocked to supplement the choice of two that you start with. These ships are not just new skins either, but bring their own pros and cons to the table, so mastering each of them is a new experience. Then there’s the “Omake” mode where you’ll find some additional challenges, such as a boss rush mode that throws you into a gauntlet of formidable foes to beat in succession.
Visually, it’s clear that the developers of Graze Counter have a fondness for the 16-bit era. Although the graphics probably won’t impress players who are not fans of shoot ‘em ups from the nineties, they certainly capture the look and feel of the era. Each level has it’s own theme, but backgrounds are kept simple on purpose to ensure that you have a better view of all the bullets heading in your direction. Enemy designs are also quite good and consists of the usual tanks and spaceships typically favored by the genre. The bosses aren’t too bad either, but you won’t encounter anything as memorable as what is found in games like R-Type or Darius. Due to the nature and style of the visuals they are not in high resolution or full-screen, but instead feature large borders on the sides. Just like the visuals, the soundtrack is a nostalgic throwback to the 16-bit era and complements the action nicely. We would have liked to hear sound effects with a little more impact, but what’s on offer sounds good enough and never becomes annoying.
Shoot ‘em ups definitely plays better with a good controller, so it’s good to see that Graze Counter supports gamepads and allow you to change the key configuration. We were unfortunately not able to bind any of the actions to the trigger or shoulder buttons of our Xbox 360 controller, but everything worked well enough using the face buttons. In addition to your primary fire button, you also have a button to activate your counter attack and another for the break attack. A separate button to enable slowdown can also be used, but switching the control scheme to “novice” mode combines this button with your shot button. This makes it easier to graze bullets and hit enemies while shooting, but veteran players will probably want to separate the two in order to make the game a little more challenging. While each ship has their own shooting style, the game doesn’t feature any weapon upgrades. You won’t encounter many power-ups either and instead a choice between a shield, boost multiplier or gauge refill occasionally appear.
The limited amount of levels and ease with which the game can be completed certainly counts against it, as does the lack of a two-player mode. However, it is an entertaining shooter with a reasonable price-tag and has plenty to offer fans of the genre. If you have fond memories of feeding quarters into an arcade machine during the nineties or blasting enemies out of the skies on your 16-bit console then Graze Counter will be a great addition to your library. For those who are not so sure, there is a free demo available that might be able to help you make up your mind. Overall, we enjoyed our time with the game and while it falls a little short of being a classic, it definitely doesn’t fail to entertain.
- OS: Windows 7, 8, 8.1, 10
- Processor: Celeron 1.2Ghz
- Memory: 2000 MB RAM
- Graphics: Onboard
- DirectX: Version 9.0c
- Storage: 1.5 GB available space
- Sound Card: Onboard