About as anime as it gets, Galak-Z: The Dimensional draws up memories of Space Battleship Yamato and Macross before the first cutscene is even over. From its ship aesthetics to cell-shaded look, the entire game is effectively a love letter to the classic retro genre. However, 17-BIT backed up such trappings with a very solid set of mechanics which offer this game set of relatively light roguelike elements.
The story is the same song and dance you’d expect. The Empire is evil, the Alliance is good, your fighter is the only one left, and you need to stop. However, while this may sound a great deal like FTL: Faster Than Light, Galak-Z stand out thanks to its narrative framework. Along with featuring a fully voiced ensemble of side characters, the game is divided up into five seasons, each one with several missions. Each one counts as an episode onto itself, with a new objective and environment to explore.
While mission objectives are very direct, each level itself is vast, allowing you to easily go off of the beaten path. This is where the roguelike elements come in, as it’s easy to get in over your head and possibly die for good. As such, while you can find enough cash and parts to buff your ship into an unstoppable missile slinging dreadnought, you can easily bump into someone who will happily ruin your day.
The actual mechanics themselves prove to be extremely fast and fluid, requiring you to spin, dodge and jink out of the way of shots rather than just plough through them. While the ship can be tailored to take more punishment or dish our more heavy hitting shots than spam beams, fast reactions are always core to success. Best of all though, whereas most roguelikes pit everything against you, the multiple factions mean you can easily kite one foe into another, letting them take the brunt of an attack.
The key failing to be found here is that the level scheme is remarkably uneven in terms of difficulty, and for every random moment of fun there can be long periods of tedium. As such, for all its strengths experiences range from hours of addictive play to bursts of uneventful boredom. A troubling issue in a game which relies so heavily upon kinetic fun.
Even after a good twenty hours, there’s a solid chance you’ll still find yourself running into new items, power ups and enemies. With that level of exploration and some surprisingly complex mechanics for what first appears to be a very straightforward game, this is most definitely one roguelike-light fans should be looking into.
GALAK-Z: THE DIMENSIONAL / DEVELOPER & PUBLISHER: 17-BIT / PLATFORM: PLAYSTATION 4, PC / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW