Import Review: Kyuiin (PSN)

6 mins read
… That’s all that can be said, really. Just …

Are you tired of uninspired entries in stale and stagnant franchises? How about firing up the old vacuum cleaner and going for a ride? With its clean look and fresh concept (even now, all these years later), Kyuiin is one of the most ingenious contributions to the shoot-’em-up genre and delivers a breath of fresh air.

Let’s get this out of the way first: you’re a boy on a vacuum flying through side-scrolling storybook settings, shooting at fiendish tennis rackets and other deranged foes. If that isn’t one of the greatest premises for game, what is?

Should you have played a 2D shooter or “shoot-’em-up” before, you’ll be instantly familiar with the basics. Dodge and fire a barrage of bullets and compete in a bout against a boss at the end of each level. There are power-ups that offer an arsenal of different weapons, health packs, and most of what you’d expect to find.

Kyuiin covers all the bases nicely, but its most interesting characteristics revolve around innovation. Since your noble steed is equipped with suction technology, you can choose between firing bullets or being a pacifist and sucking them up. Should you get hit once, though, you’ll have to resort to firing bullets the old fashioned way. If you can manage to suck up a large sum of foes, you can fire the almighty garbage beam. Doing this grants you temporary invulnerability, shoots everything you’ve sucked up, and fires a massive beam, but offers no points. Pressing the square button extends the vacuum’s cord, delivering fatal damage and taking care of any foes behind you.

Giant princesses should be in every game

Most of what Kyuiin does is well executed, but there are a few bumps along the way. Your character is an awkward-looking target, so it sometimes feels as if hit-detection can be an issue, even if it actually isn’t. In addition, there are some occasions where you can’t determine whether explosions are just visual feedback or lethal weaponry. Last, and most frustrating of all, enemy fire sometimes blends in with the colourful stages.These vexing moments are by no means prevalent, but they can still be bothersome nonetheless.

For a game with only six stages, the varied environments help increase the sense of grandeur. To cover for its relatively short campaign, there is an extra difficulty option and the challenge of besting your highscores. There’s also a two player function where the second player can join in on the shooting. In all honestly, not many people will utilise these features, but this isn’t a game you’ll beat in 20 minutes on your first play anyway. The pricing seems to be justifiable for those who simply want to run through the game a few times or those who want to get their money’s worth.

This title may be somewhat difficult to play for youngsters with all the projectiles going on, but the infinite continues and mid-level save points help make it accessible to a broad age range. This is the sort of shooter you can play with your children before they mature and move onto their more grim shooters. As this is an import game, you’ll also need to work your way around Japanese menus, but the language barrier doesn’t pose any threat (bar the beginning and end cutscenes).

The visuals in Kyuiin are some of the most memorable and striking I’ve seen in recent years. Everything from the enemy sprites to the backgrounds is vibrant and colourful. A storybook setting allows for many varied environments, and the thankfully developers utilised the opportunity to make gorgeous castles, snowy weather, and sky stages.  Because of all the different colours going on and the constantly varying weapons being fired at our protagonist, the game can become vexing to play on a small screen such as the PSP. This one is better suited to large screens, so as to maximise playability.

As you would expect, the soundtrack is particularly light and fluffy, with not too many standout tunes. The sound effects are of a similar nature, though the hero’s cries can be rather amusing or occasionally irritating. There’s really not much to write home about, as nothing is ever notably outstanding, but the young ‘uns may get a kick out of it if this is one of their first games.

Kyuiin does not yield the most sound mechanics ever witnessed in a 2D shooter, nor will its cutesy visuals win everyone over, but its unprecedented ideas and accessibility make it more than the sum of its parts. There’s a certain magic in playing the game that other titles simply do not have. If you can release your inhibitions and adapt to its bizarre style, you just might find a fun little title that the whole family can enjoy.

-Clark A

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