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Review: Iro Hero (Nintendo Switch)By Gabriel PVJ Jones At 07.06.2018 21:46

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The appeal of a shmup is three-fold: weaving in-between waves of bullets, destroying an overabundance of enemy forces, and problem-solving. Much like a clever puzzle, uncovering the secrets of an STG and finding a solution for every possible scenario is actually a lot of fun. This can involve finding the hidden "safe spot" during a boss' most dangerous attack, or figuring out a ridiculously complex scoring system. It's no surprise that numerous games with more pronounced puzzle elements have released.

Inspired by genre favourites such as Ikaruga, Iro Hero gauges the player's success on whether or not they can master polarity switching. By pressing the right trigger, Iro's ship will switch between red and blue. This allows him to either destroy enemies of the opposite colour, or absorb like-coloured energy. Later stages complicate matters by introducing purple enemies, which are invulnerable to both red and blue attacks. The only counter against these foes is yellow energy, which tends to be conveniently placed for such an occasion. All nine stages are made up of a series of life or death situations. It's up to the player to solve these "puzzles" while dealing with the near-constant presence of enemy ships and bullets.

The scoring system revolves almost entirely around combos. By destroying at least four enemies in quick succession, an orb appears on-screen. The orb grows in value as long as the combo is held, so as soon as it ends, the orb will start to drift towards the bottom of the screen. It's entirely on the player to catch the orb before it disappears, because that's what awards the bulk of the points. Most of the time, Iro's cannons only fire straight ahead, so good movement and knowing what to expect are required in order to achieve a high score.

Although this game has an intriguing concept and solid fundamentals, there's a good chance that players won't stick around to see everything it has to offer. In its efforts to present a level of difficulty that fans of such a niche genre would appreciate, Iro Hero went too far. First off, there aren't any continues in arcade mode. While the option to "try again" is offered after the last life is lost, all that happens is that the player is kicked back to the very beginning. In a vacuum, this wouldn't be a deal-breaker, but a series of frustrating design-decisions ensure that even the most patient and determined will lose interest.

In most shmups, extra lives are awarded by reaching score milestones, or discovered in hard-to-reach locations. This title goes a different route by allowing players to replenish lost lives for a substantial amount of points. It seems like a friendly gesture, but if almost all of the points earned in a stage are spent on lost ships, then playing through that stage really didn't serve much of a purpose. Anyone chasing after a high score is better off ignoring this feature entirely.

For those out there who just want to see the story to its conclusion, being able to purchase lost lives seems like an acceptable compromise. Unfortunately, figuring out how to get through some stages involves trial-and-error. What's most likely to happen is that, even with a full set of lives, it's possible to lose them all in the span of stage, or even on a particularly nasty section of it. Now, in order to figure out what they are supposed to do, the player will have to try again. However, they are also starting over from the beginning, and it can take 10 to 20 minutes before they reach the area that they are having problems with. There is a practice mode for trying individual stages, but a stage only unlocks when it's completed in arcade mode. That's inconvenient, to say the least.

Here's a suggestion: save the arcade mode for a post-game unlockable. Instead of forcing players to complete all nine stages with very few mistakes, make it so that each of them can be individually challenged. If they fail to complete a stage, then allow them the opportunity to retry it. Once every stage is beaten, then it's time to move on to arcade mode. This way, the person holding the controller knows what to expect and can focus on maximising their score. Also, the option to purchase lives would be more sensible, as they would have the necessary knowledge to determine if it's a wise investment. In its current state, this game is simply too punishing.

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In short, if a developer wants to design a methodically-paced game that relies on the player's aptitude for problem-solving, then they should also present an option to easily retry difficult sections. [i]Iro Hero[/i] already has its own identity, so there's no need to stray further from the pack by implementing so many strange design-decisions. Having to sit through several minutes of "filler" just for another crack at the real obstacle is not fun or challenging. This shmup is only recommended for those out there willing to put up with a lot of tedium.



User Comments
#1 JesLuengo (guest) - on 02.08.2018 at 16:37

Hi Gabriel!
Iro Hero developer here. Just wanted to let you know that we already added 4 new modes to the game, which more or less stand for different diffculties. The easiest one is the story mode, in which you can go through the levels one by one, without the need to restart from the very first level, which was wan of the most negative points that you found. You want lose any of your previous progress. If you had already reached level 5 on arcade mode, you will be able to start story mode from level 5.
Besides, we re-balanced the speed of Iro's ship (slightly faster) and the speed of Iro's shots (noticeably faster).

So, I would be glad if you want to give the game a second try. 
Best regards!

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