Sky Force Reloaded is a remake of a sequel to the original Sky Force. It is a series that has proven quite popular within the mobile market and has been around for well over a decade now. While this certain iteration initially started out as a free-to-play title, the console port has a fixed price tag without any nasty microtransactions to accompany it. As a result, not only does it happen to be one of the most addictive shooters on the Nintendo Switch, but also one of the very best that the platform has to offer.
Taking heavy inspiration from Capcom’s 1942 line of arcade classics, Sky Force Reloaded has you blasting your way through waves of enemy forces as you fly across various landscapes. While most classic arcade shooters can generally prove to be a rather short-lived experience, the approach that developer Infinite Dreams takes with the genre creates a longer lasting appeal due to its free-to-play-esque structure.
Usually, just hearing the term free-to-play instantly sends unsettling shivers down my spine. Generally speaking, I feel that it’s a deceitful concept that can manipulate the cognitive reward system set more notably in younger gamers – very much in the same way gambling can drag an addict down a sinkhole. However, the simple core principle in place to keep the player immersed (minus the dishonest cash grab) can turn a short-lived outing into a prolonged and rewarding experience that, in this case, can actually prove to be great value for money.
You begin with nothing more than a pathetic pea shooter to take your enemies down. While you may get through the first two levels fine this way, you soon realise that your ship’s just not quite up to the job as of yet. So instead of constantly working to press forwards, you are forced into replaying previous levels in order to meet each objective.
There are four objectives to complete on each level such as defeating every enemy or collecting all the humans awaiting rescue. Each of these objectives rewards you with a medal that is used as a form of currency to unlock the next stage. There are 12 of these to collect per stage in total, with higher difficulties being introduced when each set of four are completed.
That may all sound like a bigger grind fest than a 90s Bobby Brown music video, when, in actual fact, the steady string of rewards for your effort makes it all feel well worth it. As you nail your targets, a cluster of collectable stars appears among the debris. These stars are used to ultimately upgrade your ship into a hulking projectile powerhouse. It’s from these two main sources of collectables where the replay value hopelessly hooks you into a vicious circle of having “just one more go.”
Even in failure, you get to keep any stars or medals that you may have achieved up to that point. Not to say that you go unpunished, as there are some important collectables that you must hold onto past the finish line. These come in the form of cards and ship parts. Ship parts are segments of badges that, when completed, unlock a new ship to fly around in with its own unique set of pros and cons. Cards, on the other hand, offer both temporary and sometimes permanent perks that provide that extra advantage of snatching that missing medal. For example, a temporary buff may contain a 15-minute timer with maximum firepower, while permanent cards may give you a boost in your specialised weaponry.
It all adds to the fun of wanting to collect everything, and even more so by how fair the whole progression system flows. There are also technicians that you can employ to assist you in your assault which are unlocked by reaching certain achievement landmarks. Like I said before, it all feels very free-to-play structured without any of the hidden baggage that urges you to part with more of your pennies.
With it all combined, it just becomes an enjoyable experience as you tear through the clouds, raining hell onto the opposition. As far as difficulty is concerned, that too moves at a satisfying pace. Later levels can be quite the challenge, especially when trying to get your “No Damage” medal when soaring through the bullet-hellish skies of the higher difficulty settings. Even adding a second player into the mix enhances the experience as you structure your tactics between yourselves to complete the required objectives. It is true co-op at its finest, as all the rewards contribute to that singular save profile.
As for visuals, Sky Force Reloaded is a gorgeous looking game that molds like a classic arcade shooter. The 3D models have a nice level of polish with some great huge boss designs to boot. I never encountered any frame drops whatsoever, and the ship itself controls incredibly well. I wasn’t a fan of the art direction that was taken for the villain as she just seems well out of place, but, in comparison to everything else, it really wasn’t a big deal. The sound design is also top notch. The background tracks really enhance that arcade feel, while collecting a batch of stars has a satisfying click, reminiscent of lightly shaking a bag of marbles.
With Sky Force Reloaded, despite not necessarily bringing anything revolutionary to the traditional arcade shooter, the many collectable systems in place somewhat reflect the special hook that made this genre so addictively popular in the first place. It all feels very well put together and equally hard to put down, even though the thought of the grind did initially put me off. Some may still feel that the progression system in place can be on the slow side, especially for those that just want to trail through it as quickly as possible. As for myself, collecting every medal, and aiming to snatch all four objectives in a single run keeps me on the constant return for more.