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February 2023


Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 4
Genre: Shoot-'Em-Up
Developer: ARVORE
Release Date: July 22, 2021


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PC VR Review - 'Yuki'

by Cody Medellin on Feb. 8, 2022 @ 12:00 a.m. PST

Yuki is an action-packed bullet hell VR game with roguelite mechanics set in a fully original anime universe.

Shooters in the VR space tend to be first-person affairs. It makes sense, considering that part of the appeal of VR comes from immersion, but it also means that shooter fans don't see much variety on the platform. That's what makes Yuki so intriguing; it does something a little different with the VR shooter genre, and the results are fascinating.

If you've played the studio's previous Pixel Ripped duo of games, then you have a fair idea of what to expect for the story. You play as a little girl who's a big fan of anime heroine Yuki, the Space Ranger. In your latest imaginative adventure, the evil Yokaliens have returned and are stealing the universe's Creative Drive. Along with her trusty robot sidekick, the duo head out to stop the evil Yokaliens and return the Creative Drive to where it belongs.

The core gameplay is a "bullet hell" shooter from a behind-the-back perspective, similar to classics like Space Harrier. Your dominant hand is used to pilot Yuki, and your trigger fires infinite blasts from an automatic laser gun. Aside from being able to dodge enemy bullets and environmental obstacles as she automatically flies forward, Yuki can also call on her energy shield to block enemy fire for a brief period before waiting for a recharge to use it again. The basic shooter elements are in place, like capturing bits of Creative Drive and health pick-ups, but she'll also be able to run into upgrade pods to get temporary boosts, like having an extra turret to fire with or taking on less damage per hit. Your other hand is used to control Yuki's companion, and while you can optionally use it to collect some of the pick-ups in the area, its primary use is to freeze enemies in place until you blast them or pass them by.

The concept of a kid controlling an action figure works rather intuitively in VR, since it is something most people can relate to. Movement is 1:1, so there isn't a disconnect, which is essential for making the game work well. You can also make Yuki blast enemies from an angle instead of straight ahead, or you can try to duck low or dodge much further to avoid enemy fire. It works well toward making what is normally considered a hardcore genre more accessible while still retaining some challenge. Even the forward movement isn't a hindrance; the scrolling is slow enough to be comfortable, so those who get motion sick with other VR games can play this comfortably. An issue with the combat mechanics has to do with the random debris being thrown at you; some debris is so large that it completely blocks your view, giving the enemy a chance to get you with shots that you couldn't possibly see.

Like many traditional bullet hell shooters, Yuki isn't that long, but the chances of hitting the final boss on the initial run are nonexistent. Instead of falling back on infinite continues to help you reach the end, the developers have decided to make this a roguelike instead, where losing your life means having to restart the journey. As in many other roguelikes, you keep the Creative Drive earned during a run and can spend it on permanent upgrades to make your next run better. You can also spend it on power-ups that appear randomly on subsequent runs. Aside from the power-up system, the game borrows another roguelike trait in the form of randomization. The levels are the same in every run, but the enemy patterns and objects change. It's a neat idea, even though enemy types remain the same in every level.

To further entice you to keep playing, reaching certain milestones grants different suits that come with different weapons. You'll naturally want to try them all out, but they are necessary to beat the game, as you'll need to complete runs with all four suits before taking on the final boss. Genre veterans won't mind, since this is similar to other shooters where you need to do something special before the true ending can be reached, but newcomers have to keep this in mind.

Beyond the campaign mode is Endless mode, which was added into the game post-launch. As the name suggests, you play through a level that never ends and try to survive the enemy onslaught for as long as possible. It works well enough for score chasers, but an interesting wrinkle is that not all of the abilities and power-ups you bought in the campaign can be used in this mode. That makes the Endless mode more skill-based and less prone to brute force and upgrades. Overall, it's a nice bonus for those looking to squeeze more out of the title after the end credits roll.

The overall presentation is quite good. The music is energetic and a bit bouncy — as expected from an anime — but it remains perfect for some bullet hell shooting. The sound effects are fine, but it lacks some punch for explosions, and the voice work is minimal but well done. Graphically, the game consists of bright colors for some of the more important elements, like enemies and bullets, but Yuki gets more detail when compared to the more generic-looking foes. The frame rate is smooth, and the environments capture the Asian/space mix rather well to create something you want to keep watching.

In the end, Yuki is a nice bullet hell shooter for VR. The premise helps the campaign mode make sense, and the use of VR works quite well despite being an on-rails experience. The roguelike nature might throw off some players, especially since some of that genre's more recognizable features seem absent, and the amount of repetition needed to reach the game's real ending might not be for everyone. Shooter fans who don't mind a more playful experience will really enjoy Yuki.

Score: 8.0/10

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