Iro Hero is one of those games that doesn't shy away from its influences, to the point where you could almost consider it a homage. In this case, the inspiration is Treasure's 2001 classic Ikaruga, one of the greatest shoot 'em ups of all time. It's certainly a great place to start, but does Iro Hero live up to Ikaruga's brilliance?
The main selling point of Iro Hero is its use of a polarity system, where your ship can change between red and blue. All enemies are also either red or blue, and players need to change polarity to either destroy ships of the opposite colour or absorb bullets of the same colour to build up a powerful special attack. The controls are simple to get the hang of, with polarity changed by a quick tap on either trigger, plus a single autofire button and one more for your special, as well as a third attack - if you make it that far - which can clear the screen with a single shot.
The game starts off deceptively easily, but quickly gets chaotic. There are ten different enemy ships, but the developers programmed over 100 different behaviours so it becomes a guessing game as to what each ship will do. You might have just destroyed a dozen or so enemies flying in a straight line, but the next wave of identical ships could decide to chase you around the screen instead - bad news, considering your own craft isn't the fastest or most manoeuvrable.
Your ship can sustain a bit of damage before being blown up, but the lack of a health bar means there's no way of knowing when you're on your last legs. You get three lives, with chance to earn/buy extras, but when you run out it's game over. No continues, no saves, just right back to the start of the game. Even after close to ten hours we're nowhere near making it to the end, and we can only imagine what insanity might lie ahead in the later half of the game's nine levels.
Iro Hero isn't even close to being a bad game. It looks great, the soundtrack is close to amazing with its arcadey almost anime theme-like rocking sci-fi tunes, the controls are nicely responsive, and overall it's a decent enough addition to the Switch's shmup catalogue. The difficulty might prove too much for many players though, and for a few extra pennies you're likely able to find something a lot more well-rounded and substantial.
IRO HERO / DEVELOPER: ARTAX GAMES / PUBLISHER: ARTAX GAMES / RELEASE DATE: TBC