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on May 16, 2012
It's hard for me NOT to rate this game a 5. Keep in mind, I'm comparing it to a long line of Cave shooters: Guwange, Ketsui, Mushihime, ESP Galuda, Deathsmiles, and the DoDonPachi series. If you like any of those games, chances are you'll like this one even more. Compared to the games already mentioned, it's relatively easy to stay alive. It offers a nice balance in the difficulty department, so you won't find yourself getting killed every 3 seconds. As far as the graphics and music, well... there are online videos for that. However, if you like Deathsmiles, I will say that AK completely surpasses it on every level. It's that simple. Personally, I love the scoring systems, and find them to be clearly outlined and well-refined. Like Ikaruga, there is a definitive set of rules to follow if you want to achieve ultra-high scores.
And that's where the real challenge comes in. Akai Katana demands that you challenge yourself to learn the scoring system and achieve new high scores. What does this mean exactly? Well for the casual shooter fan, you may find that after completing stage 1, you have a score of 2 or 3 million. But once you learn how to power up and utilize your power, you can actually reach scores around 80 million. That 100-million mark for your 1st extra life is there for a reason. Anyone who understands and practices within the system will eventually get there. Casual shooter fans won't be able to reach that mark even by accident, since there is a sequence to using your powers and a time limit in which to do so. Playing casually and constantly bombing will simply not reward you in any way, and I doubt you'll ever play the game again after your first 15 minutes. However, those who dig deeper will find that this is surely one of Cave's top tier games. I've spent several months simply replaying levels 1 and 2, over and over, to reach new high scores. When that gets old, there is a second game mode, with a significant change in scoring mechanics and gameplay -- in which you can expect to reach scores of 600 million or more. For purists and collectors, the disc also includes a third mode, an arcade port in standard 4:3 format. Again, this mode is complete with different game mechanics and the arcade soundtrack. Cave designed this game with 16:9 HD home-gaming in mind, and it shows. Beautiful hand-drawn artwork like this (sprite-based) is extremely rare, but hopefully will never die. Overall, I would expect this title to become a massive hit in the shmup world. Now that Cave has shifted their focus to hand-held gaming, be sure to pick up this rare gem.
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I'm the kind of person who loves seeing classic sprite-based shooters brought to retail, as I'm more of a collector, so these types of games are nice to have on the shelf, with a thick, colored manual, and a disc itself over a download sitting on your Xbox 360 hard drive.

Some may argue that the sprite graphics and game's length doesn't warrant a $40 price tag, but I disagree entirely. I think there's enough room in the video game industry for retail games with sprite graphics, as I find them to be both beautiful and nostalgic. In addition, while some will argue that shooters are short, I believe that there's enough content on the disc to warrant the price. These games are all about replaying multiple times to become better. We used to pay $40+ for Sega Genesis and Super Nintendo games, which are likely some of your best and favorite memories as a gamer, so what's the problem with it now?

IGN argues that $40 is too much when you can buy Skyrim on sale for the same price, but why must one compare the two? Can't both coexist, as they're both completely different? Why must I choose one or the other? Why does IGN think a game like Akai Katana should only be sold as a downloadable game?

It's a shame so many people feel this way.

Akai Katana is hands down one of the most satisfying horizontal shooters I've played in a long time. Great graphics, music, gameplay, etc.
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on June 1, 2012
This is a port of a 2010 Japanese arcade game. However, Akai Katana goes far beyond just providing a straight arcade port.

First, there is Origin Mode which is a straight port featuring the original 4:3 aspect ratio, but with remastered graphics for HD televisions.

Next, there is Slash Mode which features new gameplay mechanics, scoring techniques, an extra stage, and has been reconfigured and rebalanced to run in 16:9 widescreen.

Finally, there is Climax Mode which is a rebalanced and harder version of Origin Mode featuring the additions (extra stage, widescreen) from Slash Mode to challenge players who have mastered the other modes.

The gameplay mechanics are a bit complicated to grasp, but are a lot of fun once they click. In a nutshell, it involves flying your aircraft and shooting enemies to release collectable items, summoning a powerful ninja phantom, and cashing in items for massive scoring gains. The game systems are all explained in great detail within the full-color instruction manual. Akai Katana is one of the best looking 2D games out there. Even the game menus are attractive, ensuring that no aspect of this game was left unpolished.

Definitely buy this if you are a shoot-em-up fan, and give it some serious consideration even if you are not. This is a good entry point for newcomers to the genre, and a great way to add some diversity to your game collection.
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on June 14, 2012
I have always enjoyed shumps in the past(life force, r-type, gradius) but it wasn't until recently where i just stumbled upon Mush 1.5 a japanese import for the 360 and once i saw it was region free i had to have it. I then purchased Espgaluda 2 and Don Don pachi and enjoyed them all.

Once i heard Akai Katana was being released in the US i pre-ordered it immediately and i have to say, it's one of the best shumps i have ever personally played. Everything from the graphics to the music is incredible and i love the side-scrolling style of it as well.

I say definitely pick this one up and support it so we can see more of these come over to the US
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on November 30, 2012
Akai Katana is a side scrolling shmup, with planes, tanks, ships, and massive amounts of bullets. There are a number of planes and pilots to choose from, offering a variety of shot types and subweapons, and three game modes with different game play and scoring mechanics.

There is a bit of a learning curve to grasp the game mechanics, however they are worth learning. The difference between a new player and an advanced player is astronomical: a new player may shoot stuff and use bombs when in trouble, while an advanced player manipulates enemies to quickly charge up their gauges and spends most of the challenging sections as an INVINCIBLE NINJA, all while collecting huge amounts of point items and looking stylish in the process.

There are many subtle strategies to learn. For example, collecting bomb items clears the screen of bullets (not just using them). Thus, you can hold off on collecting bomb items until a tough section for an easy screen wipe.

Akai Katana has three game modes. While they may look the same from the first 10 seconds, they offer different game mechanics and scoring systems (one of which is drastically different), so it's a good idea to give them all a try and see which one you like.

The scoring systems are all really fun, and make the game vastly more interesting than simply shooting and dodging. These involve creating large numbers of gold items, which you cash in for huge point spikes. It takes a while to learn, but looks awesome when correctly executed.

Boss fights are definitely the highlight of the game. At first you face a human enemy who is sort of floating there. They fire a few volleys and get you warmed up, and then things hit the fan as they summon giant battleships, planes, and cannons to fly all over the screen shooting massive waves of bullets. The in-game scale gets a little weird looking (I'm not sure why a summoned bomber is ten times the scale of a regular one) but whatever, it's seriously cool looking.

The HD sprites are fantastic, with a high level of detail and animation in them. Optionally, you can choose origin mode if you want to see how the game originally looked in arcades.

I also have the Japanese release of this game. Interestingly enough, the North American version has some additional on-disc patching that makes formatting the screen on 4:3 arcade monitors easier. This may not be important to those playing on HDTVs, but for those looking for an authentic arcade experience it's really handy. Thanks to whoever got that into the game.
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A classic good old fashioned shooter game that brings a little feeling of nostalgia when I play it and remember bygone games from the Sega Genesis and nintendo 8-bit days. The game is definitely not meant to be played by those who have a risk of seizures as the multitude of flashing lights and other effects is beyond extreme,even though I don't have that risk I did have to stop about every thirty minutes or so to sort of clear my head and refocus my eyes a little. Still the game is good fun for those who can forgo current graphics and just be entertained by the overall fun of the game.
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on August 6, 2012
Akai Katana will not disappoint the fans of Cave games. You do get the same over the top bullethell action, lots of explosions and all that. You should keep in mind that this is published by a U.K. Company rising star games, not by the publisher who makes the Japanese versions of Cave games and thus the menu and the options you get to change around are a little different. I mean there are many options, all the standard practice modes, backgrounds, screen flipping. But some important options are missing. For example if you play with the xbox controller you cannot move the ship slowly by slightly tilting the stick. It moves as if you're just moving an on off switch. This can create problems when you look for that small open space to escape millions of bullets headed your way. There are also not many filter options for the image quality. But otherwise this is good. Of course, the fans will enjoy this much more than a standard casual player. The game itself is about 1gb only when you install it to disk. Would be nice if they made a combo release with a couple games on one disk.

The plot and story make as much sense as any other cave game, which means they kind of make sense but all you have to know is you have to avoid dying and getting as high a score as possible. Mostly you'll see technology here that varies according to time periods with World War I and II inspired designs to futuristic designs. Not much organic stuff that you may see in Bug Princess.

One thing for sure is that this game so far has got the funniest Achievements I've ever seen in an Xbox game. I do not want to spoil it, because you have to start playing to see them yourself. The guys who made the achievements are pretty clever.
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on August 2, 2012
I can barely hack a decent score on "Slash" mode, but this game is fun all the way to the end. I'm not too keen on the other two modes... as in, they feel more difficult for me, but, then, I'm a total casual gamer when it comes to these. I know there's a method to the madness of gathering a ton of points and you gotta play this a few times for a few hours to know how to do it (or just watch videos of expert gamers racking up points). Overall, it's got good graphics (lots of varied planes, jets, and other bizarre flying machines), good sound FX, and it's fairly challenging, but not completely frustrating; my only complaint would probably be that the music isn't as varied or as catchy as it should be - it sounded more like variations of the same theme. Still, I'd definitely recommend this one above most CAVE games to anyone new to the genre and because it's one of the few modern side-scrollers for the 360 that doesn't suck (see Otomedius and Strike Witches) AND is available on disc for a decent price.

I already had the import, but it's great to see a domestic disc release for these kinds of games.
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on March 17, 2013
I bought this game off the Xbox Live marketplace since it looked interesting and I enjoy shoot em ups (I.E. Shmups) from time to time. My past shooter titles I have played include the Thunder Force series and Death Smiles. After playing it for about 30 minutes to an hour and taking the tutorials to get the hang of the scoring and offensive/defensive systems in the game, I was truly impressed at how deep this title is and very hooked by the fast moving and fun gameplay. Playing it over the last week, I am still learning new things and finding new ways to narrowly cheat death in this game, and having a great time doing it.

You can play this game at a very basic level and enjoy just shooting enemies (There are infinite continues in the normal arcade mode, so anyone can beat the game with a little patience) or you can learn the various mechanics of offense and defense for the different game modes and spend hours formulating the best way through different enemy groupings and shooting for the highest possible score or working to achieve a 0 death run of the game.

There are three game modes. These modes are Origin, Climax, and Slash. Origin is the original arcade port of Akai Katana in 4:3 resolution, Climax mode is a widescreen enabled, re-tuned, and more difficult version of the original title that is more fun in my opinion, and last up is Slash mode, which offers a different style of play than the prior 2 modes where you gather 2 resources, energy and steel, then use them to both defend from enemy bullets and launch massively damaging attacks that can 1-shot mid level bosses and put a nice dent in end level bosses. Slash is considered the definitive version of the game and is where the true ending is unlocked if you can get through the game without dying (Which is very, very hard).

Each of the three planes you fly in the title offer great variety of playstyles to match the personal preference of various players. I personally like the type 2 plane a lot for its homing shot and the type 1 for its strong frontal cannon fire and snazzy triangular looks. The type 3 plane feels a bit more advanced to use but offers great firepower in exchange for the added learning curve.

Beautiful graphics presentation and a great soundtrack round things out nicely. The only fault I can level at this title is that it is a bit short and the story is very slim, what is told of it in-game. The rest from what I understand is explained in the manual or art books floating around for this title. If you do not care to play through multiple times to maximize your score and clear stages without dying, you may find you will get bored of this title quickly. That said, if you like shooters at all, you very likely will love Akai Katana. It is a well tuned, amazingly designed, beautifully presented shoot em up that will keep you mashing the fire button for days and weeks as you hone your skills and improve.
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on July 9, 2013
This is a cave shooter so of course it's "bullet hell" like all of their shooters (that I've played). It's actually horizontal which is somewhat strange for the genre, I actually thought it was vertical prior to purchasing because I wasn't paying attention.

You get 3 characters. There is lots of stuff flying at you at all times. It would be frustrating if there weren't infinite continues. Control is fantastic (thank God!). Graphics are pretty good (but it feels like an emulation because of the jaggies). Effects are also good. Length of game (compared to other bullet hell shooters) is fairly long. Play mechanics are fairly interesting and the "hit box" is apparent (green circle on the ship) which is very important for a bullet hell shooter.

This game feels a lot like progear to me which was a very popular japanese shooter in the same vein. Probably about the same difficulty as well. I don't really play or enjoy these types of shooters at all (my "threshold" is the raiden series which has some bullet hell game play but not all) but this is a decent game for what it is. For under 15 bucks new it's a decent deal if you can stand the gameplay type and like playing shooters. I have both of cave's US releases (deathsmiles and akai katana) and I don't really regret the purchase. There really isn't a whole lot in this genre that has been released in the US let alone of the traditional "shooter" genre; there are raiden fighter aces and raiden iv which are pretty good ports whereas otomedius "excellent" is awful (but really cheap). I guess there are no more "strategic" arcade shooters on modern systems, but these bullet hell type shooters are still pretty playable once you get over the learning curve (which is pretty steep).

Back to this game...if they boffed the control it would be unplayable (because it would be required to dodge the thousands of bullets and ships flying at you) but they didn't, the control is excellent so it's playable. Looks and plays good enough to be worth the money they're charging if you play shooters. End of story.
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