Rise & Shine is a new game from developer Super Awesome Hyper Dimensional Mega Team and published by Adult Swim. I really enjoyed what I played of it when I wasn’t screaming at my laptop in frustration. Let’s just say the game is a lot harder than I expected.
Rise & Shine is an interesting mashup of old-school arcade action and bullet hell shooters, mixed with some puzzle platforming. I freely admit to not particularly liking bullet hell games, but I do play them occasionally and I’m not that terrible at them. Even on Normal mode, however, I couldn’t even make it past the first boss in Rise & Shine after trying for at least an hour. This game was definitely made with a more hardcore crowd in mind.
The game starts out with Gamearth in trouble and only the Legendary Warrior of . . . oh wait, that’s not the Legendary Warrior, that’s just a child! Yep, you are Rise, just a middle school kid minding his own business when the war with the grunts from Nexgen spills into your neck of the planet. After the Legendary Warrior (who looks suspiciously like Link in his Zora tunic) is gravely wounded in front of you, he bequeaths Shine to you. Shine isn’t just any run-of-the-mill gun though, he is a sass-talking gun that knows what needs to be done to save Gamearth. He can also respawn you infinitely which kind of begs the question of why the Legendary Warrior couldn’t just respawn. This just brings flashbacks of Aeris dying in Final Fantasy VII, only to leave me shouting, “Just use a Phoenix Down!”
In the time that I managed with the game, there were some pretty awesome parts. Rise & Shine is composed of bright and beautiful hand drawn illustrations that flow seamlessly as you propel Rise forward on his journey. It’s almost like a comic book brought to life, with sharp lines making each frame a work of art. Many references to video games of yore are present as well, like the background referencing Black Mesa from Half-Life. Not only do you see characters from other games (I’m looking at you Snake!), but places such as Kakariko Village are also mentioned. It is fun finding things like this after the chaos of fighting, often resulting in laughs and big moments of ah-hah!
In terms of gameplay, Rise & Shine reminds me a lot of the Dark Souls games mixed with elements of arcade classics like Metal Slug, at least in how brutally hard they both are. Unless you are careful, you are going to die. A lot. Even if you are careful, you will die a lot. There is always something trying to kill you! Each move needs to be thought out, making a lot of twitch reflexes and quick thinking necessary to get by.
For the most part, all you do is aim at the enemy and shoot, but Shine can also use special bullets for more variety. I only came across an electric type that was effective against robots and the like, due to my incapability to kill the first boss. You can also slow down bullets shot from Shine and direct them where you want them to go as long as you are near tiny satellites that allow you to extend the radius of the shot. I really liked this aspect when it came to some of the puzzles that needed to be solved, but during some intense fighting moments when it was needed it became a nightmare of trying to direct the shot before you got hit.
I have such mixed feelings about Rise & Shine. The story, the visuals, the music, it all makes the game so bright and inviting. The difficulty is what really kills it for me though. There is no easy mode and I am not asking for one. It just seemed to me that as I played the difficulty would fluctuate from fairly normal to insane in almost the blink of an eye. Rise has very little health, which make the infinite respawns granted by Shine welcoming, but it’s also the reason that you will die over and over. He can take about three hits before he gets blown to bits and you have to start back at the last checkpoint. It would have been nice for him to be able to take at least a few more hits before being killed, maybe if it was a bit more forgiving like Mega Man’s health bar in the classic NES games.
All in all, Rise & Shine is a fairly solid game with only a few flaws. I recommend it to anyone who wants a challenge while also enjoying the many callbacks to the older generations of games. Rise & Shine is now available on PC and Xbox One and this copy was provided for review purposes.