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exA-Arcadia Preview: Shikhondo

Though it’s been a long, long time since my last “exA-Arcadia Preview,” I figured I’d throw my proverbial hat back in the ring with none other than Shikhondo: Soul Eater, making its arcade debut as “Shikhondo: Red Purgatory.”

Shikhondo is a danmaku shoot-em-up developed by Deer Farm available for purchase on Steam, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch. The title, set within the “bizarre and beautiful” world of Asian mythology, has players dispatching armies of “yokai” demons, freeing their captured souls from eternal torment. I played the Nintendo Switch version, which currently retails at $13.99 on the eShop.

The games boasts five stages of intense action and “hypnotic barrage patterns,” which can be tackled with one of two playable characters—“Grim Reaper” and “The Girl”—both of whom possess unique firing capabilities.

The main shtick here is grazing close to yokai to fill your “Soul Gauge” and unbridle a massive super attack. I’m glad the mechanic is emphasized so strongly, because it’s pretty flippin’ awesome. You’re also granted a limited supply of bombs to make waste of clusters of sickly creatures.

The best way I can describe Shikhondo lies in just one word: freaky. Playing this game is a very unsettling experience—and not because it’s goofy or silly like previous exA-Arcadia Preview headliner Nippon Marathon. Shikhondo is just straight-up strange.

Before we get into that, let’s run through some of the basics. Shikhondo contains six game modes, including:

  • Arcade

  • Local Co-Op

  • Hard Core

  • Novice

  • Customize

  • Boss Rush

While this may sound like a lot on paper, most of the modes feel very similar. Arcade mode is the base experience: playing through each level to reach the credits. Local Co-Op is the same thing but with a buddy. As for Hardcore and Novice, I’m really not sure how they alter the game beyond difficulty. (I'm not very experienced with shoot-em-ups of this nature, so some features may be lost of me.)

Customize, on the other hand, does feel genuinely unique. While it is, once again, plowing through levels to reach the credits, you’re given various options to…well, customize the experience, from how you fill to your Soul Gauge to how lives are represented. Customize is a very fun diversion if you’re looking to shake things up.

Boss Rush functions exactly as you would expect: fighting all five bosses in succession. This is where things get weird.

See, Shikhondo presents an aesthetic simultaneously beautiful and disturbing in nature. The sprites and environments are downright gorgeous, but the bosses give me the gosh danged heebie-jeebies. This is about as safe-for-work as it gets:

Creepiness is not inherently bad. In fact, since that’s clearly what the developers were going for, I’d say they succeeded on all fronts. Still, it’s worth noting the somewhat niche nature of this title.

Will something this, erm...graphic…garner plays in a live game room environment? Or will it be ignored by the masses? That’s what I have to wonder. (If I’m being perfectly honest with you, I foresee most arcade operators being super uneasy about the content in this one. Just sayin’.)

At the end of the day, Shikhondo is a top-notch shooter through and through. So while I have my doubts about how it will perform in an arcade setting—doubts I hope will be put to rest soon enough—I absolutely recommend this title to any fan of the genre.

The exA-Arcadia version of Shikhondo will feature a new UI, full voice acting, and balance changes upon release. Unfortunately, we still don’t know when that release will come. (The original “Q3 2019” projection has obviously long since passed.)

As always, until we get more details, all I can provide you is this brief glimpse at the Nintendo Switch version. Tune in for more, yeah?


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