Light ‘em up.
Caladrius Blaze, developed by shmup veterans MOSS, combines elements of previous titles Caladrius and Caladrius AC into one big, new, extravaganza.
One of the strengths of Caladrius Blaze is the fact that it offers the player eight different characters to choose from, each of which has their own style of play. Interestingly, each character possesses their own distinct weaponry, ship handling and special attacks. The weapons available for each character are also broken down into three distinct types of shot, which must be employed strategically as they only have a finite usage rate before needing to be recharged. They can also be ‘levelled up’ the more the player progresses through the game. This translates into the gameplay in a surprisingly effective way, allowing the player to experiment with different styles and approaches in any given run through the game.
The gameplay’s core mechanics make for a decent shmup experience. Caladrius Blaze doesn’t completely reinvent the wheel here, which is a compliment. It balances solid fundamentals with enough unique features to retain a sense of individuality within a competitive genre. And, as with even the most elementary of shmups, it’s really, really hard.
The boss fights in this game are pretty compelling, and for the most part great fun (aside from one major caveat, discussed below). The fact that each fight can – and indeed should – be approached differently depending on which of the eight players the character has chosen just adds to the replay factor.
Caladrius Blaze also offers a number of extra features compared to previous iterations, including several new stages and story scenarios, a boss rush mode, a tutorial mode, the ability to unlock various artworks, and of course, numerous ranking systems.
The shame game.
While Caladrius Blaze has a number of great features, even for a shmup the game’s main campaign is a little on the short side. While pushing for high scores has always been the strongest factor when it comes to replay value for most shoot ’em ups, Caladrius Blaze only has a total of six stages and three special stages.
One of the more bizarre aspects of the game is something MOSS have termed the ‘shame break.’ This feature occurs whenever the player deals a huge amount of damage to a boss. At this point, the clothing of that particular character will tear, eventually coming off. H2games’ own website literally pitches this feature with a disturbing amount of enthusiasm: “Shoot Down Bonus for Sexy CG Cuts: Defeat the bosses that get in the way and obtain erotic CG cuts and images!”
Ahem. Okay – where do I start? Deep breath, and…go.
I can’t really understand the purpose of this, nor the offensive terminology assigned to describe this aspect of the game. Are MOSS simply presenting overly-sexualised animated characters for titillation? Are they seriously attempting to encourage the player to do better in order to see characters stripped and humiliated? Are they suggesting, problematically, that ‘shame’ is something inherently linked to overly-sexualised – often female – bodies, in which case why are they placing such imagery at the forefront of the player’s visual experience of Caladrius Blaze (other than to associate these overly-sexualised, almost exclusively female, images with humiliation – which, again, is incredibly offensive)?
While this review is not the necessarily the appropriate forum for a full-blown discussion of these issues, I would simply argue this: the fact that this hyper-sexualised imagery is inherently tied to the actual gameplay of Caladrius Blaze is both problematic and, really, just totally unnecessary, given how good the central gameplay mechanics are.
Caladrius Blaze has good core mechanics which offers some classic shmup gameplay. The shame breaks are a disappointing distraction at best and the game’s campaign is a little short. However, in terms of action this is a pretty solid shmup and should please most fans of the genre.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.