Sky Force Anniversary Review

By Megan Walton,
Top down shoot 'em ups have become a firm favourite of ID@Xbox and have made many an appearance in their ever growing list of games. The next game that is trying to stake its claim amongst a sea of others is Sky Force Anniversary, a game that was originally released 10 years ago on mobile and has now made the jump onto consoles. How does the game compare to other shoot 'em ups that have been released via ID@Xbox in the recent years? Well, the answer is that it more than holds its own.

It's time to take to the skiesIt's time to take to the skies

Saying the game has a story is stretching what's on offer a bit, but you play as a weapon modded airship and the game begins with you coming face to face with General Mantis. Unfortunately, your altercation doesn't last long when you are injured and your ship is shot down. Your job is to rebuild your ship from scratch and make your way through the levels, fighting off the endless waves of enemies that are sent to stop you and climaxing in a boss at the end of each level. You travel slowly through the environments as the background moves underneath your ship, so you cannot come into contact with any of the buildings that you pass, only the enemies. It's a tried and tested genre of the game that has been largely successful, even if it hasn't changed all that much in the past few years.

It is very easy to jump into the game with the basic controls, including moving left, right, forwards and backwards, as well as pressing or holding a button to fire. With only these simple steps to learn and with no tutorial as it isn't really needed, the game is easily accessible to everyone whether you have experience with the genre or not. As the game progresses and you upgrade your ship, you do have access to a couple more abilities that offer more options when it comes to taking down your enemies rather than confusing you with more controls.

Unfortunately, there's only a small number of levels on offer here -- nine to be exact. This is partly expected due to the low price of the game, but on the other hand you might hope that there was a few more to experience. This is somewhat of a compliment because the amount of fun that you can have with the game makes you wish that there were more levels in which to have this fun. However if you're thinking that there's only a couple of hours for a completion here then you're wrong, as the game has a couple of ways of increasing the game time, including the achievements, medals, cards and upgrades that are on offer.

Watch out for that lightho.....oh wait, never mindWatch out for that lightho.....oh wait, never mind

The levels are a set length with a set amount of enemies that you'll face along the way. In between fighting off the enemies, you'll want to be keeping an eye out for people to save (by hovering over them for a few seconds) and stars to collect (which you'll be able to use to upgrade your ship). All of this comes together to earn you a total score for the end of the level, which you will be able to compare with friends even if it doesn't seem to serve more purpose than that. The main thing to which you'll want to pay attention is the medals thar you can earn on the levels, linking in with the different difficulties on which you can play as well.

Each of the levels has four medals to earn on the normal difficulty and once you've earned all of these then you will unlock the next difficulty level. The same happens again when you complete the four medals on the next difficulty. If you want to complete the game, you'll be playing through each level a minimum of three times, which makes the 9 levels a lot longer than originally thought. The medals offer a good variety of challenges and don't all have to be completed in the same run, making that task a little bit more realistic.

The medals also serve to unlock the next level when you complete the previous one, forcing you to replay older levels before you can progress towards newly unlocked levels. As well as adding to the time that you'll spend on the game, it also helps you to earn more stars and level up your ship to help you to et through the later levels. As the enemies get tougher with tanks, plans, ships and missile launchers, you need to make sure that your ship is up to the challenge. Everything on your ship can be upgraded, from health and cannons to usable abilities such as the mega bomb and the shield. Buying all of these will come from the stars that you collect in the levels. Running through the levels a number of times becomes helpful in a lot of different ways, so it never gets too boring.

Grab a friend and mow down a couple of hundred enemies along the wayGrab a friend and mow down a couple of hundred enemies along the way

If the game does start to get a bit tedious, there's always the option to grab a friend. The advantages of this are obvious, as two lots of bullets are always going to be better than one, but if one of you gets hit then that's the invincible medal gone straight away. You can't hit each other with friendly fire and can easily cross over, so it makes the game an easier experience and is more fun than flying solo.

The game is very aesthetically pleasing and offers lots of bright colours across the backgrounds, the enemy ships and the buildings below. Unfortunately, due to the sheer amount of things on the screen and the various colours that are plastered across the levels, the bullets can sometimes become hard to see and almost blend into the background. This makes it a lot easier to get hit and harder to dodge, as well as making some of the invincible medals harder to obtain, especially with frustrating hits at the end of levels. The upbeat track that accompanies your flight is easy to listen to, although the constant shouting of the computerised voice that tells you about a combo or saving a human does start to grind after a while, especially when you do a lot of things in a row that require a shout out. The game ran smoothly with no jumping or glitching, and had very quick loading times throughout all the levels.

The game's achievements only need a quick glance to show that it is not a quick completion and will require a lot of time grinding kills and collecting of stars. There's a number of cards that offer passive upgrades for your ship that are scattered about and these will all need to be collected (the fact that they could show up anywhere means that this could take any number of hours). Be prepared to kill a lot of enemies, save a lot of people (plus some very important people along the way), as well as complete some level specific objectives like not using your special abilities during a run. Whilst a long completion, the time that will be sunk into the game will be worth it and you'll definitely have a lot of fun with it.

Summary

While Sky Force Anniversary may have a simple premise of flying through the air, killing enemies and collecting stars, the game as a whole offers hours of fun. The game is quick and easy to jump into, pretty to look at whilst you fly through the air and knock out enemies, and offers a lot of replayability, even with the limited number of levels that are on offer. An annoying voiceover and the occasional struggle to see bullets are minor problems that you'll have compared to the overall enjoyability of the game, and this shouldn't be something that puts off any potential purchasers. Couch co-op offers you the chance you play with a friend, too, so whether you play alone or not, the time that you sink into this game will not be wasted.
4 / 5
Sky Force Anniversary
Positives
  • Simple controls
  • Different difficulties and medals offer replayability for levels
  • Pretty and colourful level design
Negatives
  • Limited amount of levels
  • Bullets sometimes hard to see against background
Ethics
The reviewer spent approximately 6 hours flying through levels, killing enemies, saving people and collecting a lot of stars. During this time she unlocked 11 of the game's 26 achievements. An Xbox One download code was provided by ID@Xbox for the purpose of this review.
Megan Walton
Written by Megan Walton
Megan is a TA newshound and reviewer who has been writing for the site since early 2014. Currently working in catering, she enjoys cooking extravagant dishes, baking birthday cakes for friends and family in peculiar shapes, writing depressing poetry about life and death, and unlocking every achievement possible.