Hello PlayStation fans! I’m honoured to be here today to talk about Natsuki Chronicles, which is out on PlayStation 4 February 18. Natsuki Chronicles is an old-school bullet hell side-scrolling shooter with slick visuals, fast-paced gameplay and some innovative new gameplay and narrative hooks that revitalise this classic genre.
We work for boutique japanese studio Qute Corporation and like to consider ourselves shmup specialists. For Natsuki Chronicles, we’re thrilled to partner with Rising Star Games to bring this incredible title to PlayStation platforms. With that in mind, we took this opportunity to talk about what – for us –makes for a great modern day bullet hell title.
Meet the shmup specialists
We’ve been developing shmup titles since the days of the WonderSwan Color. Judgement Silversword was released, back in 2004 and after a 7-year hiatus, Eschatos came next, releasing in 2011 on console then PC in 2015. With a 90% rating on Steam, it’s been on shooter fans’ radar for years. Ginga Force and Natsuki Chronicles are our latest titles, taking on all the previous experience we’ve garnered to create two standout examples of the vertical and side-scrolling shooter genres.
This new game is both prequel and sequel to Ginga Force
Shooter fans amongst you may remember the cult classic vertical-scrolling shooter Ginga Force, which came to PlayStation 4 in September of last year. Just like that title, Natsuki Chronicles has a big emphasis on story, in fact it takes things even further being at once a prequel and sequel to Ginga Force, with an intersecting narrative whereby the story takes place over two timelines, one from Natsuki’s past as she remembers her training in the RDF, while the other timeline is set during the war over Septonium, set at the same time as Gonga Force’s events.
In the story you’ll play as rookie RDF (Rapid Defense Force) pilot Natsuki, as she is tasked with protecting her home planet Seventier from eco-terrorists hell bent on stealing its cache of the energy rich element Septonium. While you don’t need to have played Ginga Force to get the most out of Natsuki Chronicles, if you’re a shooter fan, then these games form an awesome partnership from a narrative and gameplay angle; with one being a side scroller, and the other being a vertical scroller.
Introducing the Bullet Trajectory Display
Natsuki Chronicles also innovates in its gameplay and visuals, taking the shooter genre to new heights in the process! One of our key gameplay mechanics is the “Bullet Trajectory Display”, a new system in the shooter genre that reveals the predicted trajectory of oncoming projectiles. It’s designed to give you a little additional help navigating through the bullet hell that Natsuki Chronicles throws at you. It’s an awesome system that balances a small amount of accessibility with opportunities for incredible feats of piloting. In traditional bullet hell games, avoiding bullets was largely dependent on the player’s dynamic visual acuity. We hope that this system will help adapt to very hard difficulties and ultimately turn Natsuki’s Chronicles’ bullet hell into their bullet heaven!
60fps, 4K visuals on PS5 and PS4 Pro
Never ones to underestimate the power of PlayStation, we’ve tailored the game to make the most of modern hardware. Expect colourful, razor-sharp 3D visuals that truly bring the series to life in vivid detail. Enemies are larger than ever, with truly screen-filling bosses that will challenge your piloting skills like never before. Natsuki Chronicles also has a dynamic camera that zooms in and out of the action on the fly, always framing the action in the most cinematic way possible, while giving the finer details in the visuals a chance to shine. It serves to heighten the intensity of the experience, showing off the best sequences throughout the campaign and rewarding the player when they are playing well. It all comes to you at a rock solid 60fps with a resolution of 1080p on PS4 and 4K on PS4 Pro and PS5.
Compete with pilots worldwide with online leaderboards
Natsuki Chronicles also includes a high score chasing Arcade Mode. This mode tailors the game to a new playstyle, with points, combos and bonuses awarded for high level play. It of course comes complete with online leaderboards, letting you compete with ace pilots across the globe.
Unlock new equipment and customise your ship
The game also has a load of customisation options, so your ship can be equipped with a variety of weapons including some unimaginably over the top ones that are so typical in this genre. By designing these weapons, we had an array of 3D models which we think really added to the originality of this game’s visuals. There’s also a huge amount of secrets and equipment to be found throughout the campaign, adding tons of replay value as you build up a vast collection of cool stuff to trick your ship out with.
The art of shipbuilding
Speaking of ships, we put a huge deal of work into making sure Natsuki’s ship’s design was faithful to the style of a traditional 2D horizontally scrolling shooting games, but with a modern twist that would suit the ultra high definition 3D visuals we are pushing for. As a result, we think we ended up with something that is unique to this game, that feels tangible without going for a realistic look. We’ve added a few concept sketches with some notes on how we ended up with our final look:
This was our first sketch, we wanted to try and create a ship that had additional detail in it to make use of the high resolution visuals. But we found it lost the slick, anime look we were going for, looking too boxy and generic.
Our second sketch went too far the other way, where we pared everything down too much so the ship itself looked too svelte. The weapons looked unbalanced and had more detail in them the rest of the ship.
Our third sketch essentially combined both aesthetics, ensuring we had the sharp, anime lines that make the silhouette look classic. While within that silhouette adding additional details to really highlight how much we can show off in 1080p and 4K resolutions. It’s almost like this is how all our ships look, but you’ve just never had the ability to see it before. And here is a close-up 3D render of the final design, complete with colours, lighting, etc:
We are so grateful that gamers continue to have an unwavering passion for the shooter genre, as it works in tandem with us as developers.
A final thank you
From a player standpoint, the shooter genre is pure gameplay distilled into its simplest form. Inputs, pattern recognition, twitch reflexes and rapid visual stimulus that deliver instant appeal. From a developer standpoint, the shooter genre is all about quality game design, rock-solid mechanics, highly responsive controls and very stable code in order to keep the experience running at an unwavering framerate. The genre highlights the essence of why people like to play games and why making them can be so invigorating and challenging. As a company, we always like to add some additional flavour to our shooters, emphasising strong narratives to carry the player through the experience, interesting characters to resonate with and exciting new elements to move the genre forward. We want to thank you all so much for allowing us to continue to create new titles and push for innovation.
Natsuki Chronicles is available on February 18 for PlayStation 4 and also plays great on PlayStation 5. On behalf of everyone at Rising Star Games and Qute Corporation we want to thank you for your support and we hope you enjoy Natsuki Chronicles. Until next time!