I must have missed the memo, but 80s space opera anime appears to have become fashionable again. No Sooner had I finished reviewing the fantastic, Galak-Z: The Dimensional in all of its anime-inspired roguelike glory, than I received a code for Capsule Force, Klobit’s equally brilliant multiplayer focused anime shooter. Capsule Force might be a fundamentally very different experience to Galak-Z, but they both share a very distinct aesthetic, and although, Capsule Force goes for a more cartoony, exaggerated look, it’s interesting to see two games that take such clear inspiration from such a unique corner of the manga/anime market released within weeks of each other. Whether this is just the beginning of a renaissance in such art design remains to be seen, but if it leads to more games of comparable quality, I’m all for it.
After thoroughly enjoying the big haired, neon coloured brilliance of Galak-Z, I was more than happy to return to an aesthetic that played such a big role in my childhood, and while the visuals of, Capsule Force are undoubtedly more 8-bit inspired, they look no less fantastic here. It might be a relatively simplistic game from a visual perspective, but make no mistake, art direction and charm go a long way, and here, they are both of a consistently high standard.
Capsule Force’s retro styling’s don’t end with the visuals though – this is a sofa-based thoroughbred, the likes of which we very rarely see anymore. There is a single player mode, but it is extremely basic, and with no online multiplayer of any kind, Capsule Force is almost exclusively dependent upon you having both extra controllers and preferably, three friends to actually use them. Sure, you can play Capsule Force 1-on-1, but to get the most out of the experience, you’ll want to play this game with the full four player quotient on board.
Under the right circumstances, Capsule Force is simply fantastic. Playing as one of four adorable 8-bit anime archetypes, it is your job to get your team’s tram to the other side of the level (across multiple fixed screens) and into your opponents capsule bound galaxy. The reasoning for this is both nonsensical and utterly irrelevant, as what you essentially have here is something that marries the finest aspect of field sports with old school, fast-paced 2D arena shooting. Moving the trams is as easy as standing on them – what isn’t so easy however is staying alive long enough to make any noticeable progress. With your enemies shooting at you at all times and an array of stage based booby-traps and weaponry just as eager to claim your scalp, staying put for more than a few seconds is nigh on impossible.
Capsule force is a constant blur of laser beams and colour with both teams attempting to take each other out with the streamed or charged shots available. The fast-paced streaming shots are certainly a safer bet, but there is no getting past the potential devastation of a well-timed and well-placed charge attack. It does leave you immobile just before and just after shooting, but this attack wipes out everything in its path, and like just about everything else in this game, does a great job of combining technical simplicity with tactical depth.
Whether it be a devastating charged shot or a fall into one of the stage’s deadly laser beams, death with come quickly and often while playing Capsule Force (it did for me anyway). Luckily, death here is only temporary, but it’s usually in this temporary delay between death and explosive reincarnation that the opposing team can make real progress on their tram. This is a competitive platform shooter of the most intense variety; staying still will almost certainly lead to death with success requiring clever (and almost constant) use of the dash, shield and double jump abilities.
While all simple enough on the surface, Capsule Force’s depth comes from your ability to combine your skills to devastating effect. Through a combination of well-timed shots and dashes, you can essentially stay airborne for as long as you are alive, and with the action as intense as it is here, finding your feet on anything other than the tram is often a very bad idea. Outside of the traditional use of the shield to, well, you know, shield yourself, it can also be used to bump enemies from paltforms if used at the right time. Further to this, in true Quake style, rocket jumps are available to more skilled players with the very best managing the cool down time on their weaponry to ensure that they are never left unarmed and are rarely forced to terra firma.
Sadly, as great as Capsule Force is with friends, the game doesn’t have much to offer those without additional controllers. The single player experience is essentially a graded tutorial, and while it’s fun for as long as it lasts (while also providing an array of unlockable content including additional stages and outfits), it really doesn’t do enough to justify the games’ cost on its own, and with no online either, Capsule Force really should be avoided by anyone other than the sofa-based faithful.
At its best, Klobit’s latest is one of the finest local multiplayer games released in the past few years; great 1-on-1 and even better when you can get four like-minded players in a room together – Capsule Force is fast paced, intense and utterly addictive. Like the Super Smash Bros. of this world, the game is built upon easy to understand fundamentals while providing a structure that allows them to be used in an array of clever and imaginative ways, adding depth a to title that initially appears to have very little.
Sadly, while the core gameplay can compete with anything on the market, the lack of single player content and complete omission of online options ensures that Capsule Force can only be recommended with a very specific caveat. If you have friends over on a regular basis, Capsule Force’s anime inspired action platforming should be picked up without delay, but if you’re more of a lone wolf when it comes to gaming, this game will ultimately have very little to offer you.
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