This shooter has Soul!

If you read any of my reviews previously, you’ll that I’m a huge fan of bullet hell shooters. I simply can not get enough of them and for good reason. They challenge your mind, they force you to move faster than you’ve ever moved before (in a video game) and they’re tough. Sometimes, they’re really tough.  They make you come back, over and over, even if you many to beat them.

So when I was asked to take a look at Bullet Soul, a title that once graced the Xbox 360, which is now making its way to Steam. I jumped at the chance to get my hands on it.

Game: Bullet Soul
Platform:  PC, also available on Xbox 360

Developer: 5pb, Mages, Inc
Publisher: 5pb, Mages, Inc
Released: April 7, 2011 (Xbox 360), April 7, 2017 (Steam)
MSRP: $14.99
Co-op: Local
Steam Store: http://store.steampowered.com/app/544580

As I alluded to before, Bullet Soul, was initially available on the Xbox 360, back in 2011. How I missed this gem is beyond me, but I’m glad I was provided a chance to check it out on the PC. While I’m at it, let me just get it out there that I’m happy that more games like this are making their way to that platform.

That and I love bullet hell shooters if I didn’t make that apparent enough.

Bullet Soul Image - Action 2

For the most part, Bullet Soul is your average top-down bullet hell shooter. You’ve got your selection of several characters, which in this case is three with a fourth one available the Version B of the game. Each character has specific stats, such as attack power and speed, meaning that they each play differently. In addition, every character has a different means of attack.

Yun, seems to be the balanced character and fires an almost whip-like weapon and a blue lightning beam. Sadahal, who is the speedster and serves to be the generic character with a basic setup of bullet spreads. Finally, we have Zenichi (who looks like a Captain), who uses a massive drill weapon that doubles as a melee attack. Will you select the speedy class that affords you more mobility or the one with more firepower but moves a bit slower?

“How fast can I take these enemies out before they take me out?”

That’ll depend on your play style. Honestly, after trying each character, it adds a layer of difficulty to the game, which is good since the game doesn’t have an actual difficulty selection. While I mentioned the fourth character, I didn’t want to disclose anything about her. But rest assured, she’s completely over the top and easily my favorite, and only available in the Version B of the game (more about Version B, below).

However, as the name suggests, this bullet hell shooter has an added twist. With all games in this genre, you’re forced to dodge bullet after bullet, unless you want to end up dead. You get one life per ship and you definitely want to conserve those. In Bullet Soul, you’ve given a very useful tactic; bullets that become souls, literally. If you manage to take out the enemies who’ve just unleashed a massive stream of bullets, those bullets, in turn, become negated. They’ll basically turn translucent and pass through you, leaving you unharmed. So the mentality here becomes “How fast can I take these enemies out before they take me out?”. This mechanic works on both the smaller enemies and the end stage bosses as well. On the bosses, it works a bit differently as the effect takes place after you’ve done a percentage of damage. 

Initially, I was under the impression that I’d just collect those souls, must be due to some other game, but they don’t do anything. When I first started playing Bullet Soul, I chased about the souls left behind like a madman. Only to see that they did nothing for me.

Bullet Soul Image - Action 1

I loved the fact that included in the game are several options to customize your gaming experience. You’re able to change the horizontal, vertical and HUD of your gaming area. You can make it as big or as small as you want. You can even change the position of the play area, which is great for those who have the ability to swivel their monitors/tv and play the game in a portrait position. And I just so happen to have my gaming monitor setup to just the thing and I really enjoyed the added immersion this afforded me. Besides, it’s the only real way to play bullet hell shooters. At least it is to me.

Graphically, the game does a great job. The stages are beautifully done, the ship designs are interesting. For those who enjoy these sort of games, I’d like to report that I didn’t have any issues separating the backdrops from the score of bullets being fired at me. This is fantastic news as there are some games where the enemies fire tends to get drowned out, causing you to take damage. This isn’t the case here. However, the music, on the other hand, is simply amazing. This is the stuff that conjures memories of anime shows you watch growing up or even now. Each stage features a rocking score that’s filled with high energy, lots of tempo and even some guitar riffs. Especially the opening theme and selection screens. RESONATOR, Kenji Ito, and Noriyuki Kamikura have really put their foot in this soundtrack.

Bullet Soul Image -3

There’s one more character, but I’m not showing ya!

As with most bullet hell games, Bullet Soul is pretty short. In fact, the game only includes 5 levels, all of which you can play through within 40-50 minutes. That also depends on how well you can get through the game. I was a bit frustrated with that if I’m being perfectly honest.

Thankfully, there are a few other modes that help extend the game’s longevity. Included are both a Bancho and Caravan mode. Bullet Soul Bancho mode will let you play through a specific stage as you try to get the best store that you can. While Caravan mode is a race against the clock and a chance to prove to the world that you’re the best. Scores collected in the caravan mode will be posted on the game’s leaderboard. And if you get your butt handed to you more than you’d like, there’s the Bullet Soul Version B more. The “B” stands for beginner (or at least I think it does). The entire game is a bit easier and introduces that fourth character I mentioned. Trust me, using this character makes the game pretty simple.

Bullet Soul also supports co-op, but only local couch co-op. No online here, other than the leaderboards for score submissions. That said, I wasn’t able to test out the co-op as no one wanted to play with me. Something about me being obsessed with games like this and daring to even attempt playing with me would be crazy.

Lastly, since this is a PC game, I’ll note the performance of the game as played on several PCs. Flawless is the only word that comes to mind. I’ve played Bullet Soul on multiple PC’s, from a high-end rig, from an Intel graphics powered laptop and all they ran the game just fine. I didn’t experience any screen tearing, flickering, or anything other performance issues.

If you’d like to check out my full game run through with commentary, here you go. Here you can see the fourth character in action.

https://youtu.be/WciOzS5in_Q

 

*This copy of Bullet Soul was provided to us by the publisher for review purposes. For more information on how we review video games and other media/technology, please go review our Review Guideline/Scoring Policy for more info.

Summary

Plenty of action, a nice amount of selectable characters, a kick-ass soundtrack and tight controllers. This is the formula for one fantastic, fun and rage induced gaming session when it comes to bullet hell shooters. The only thing that drags this game down is the fact that it’s so short. Just as you’re rocking along and taking it in, the game abruptly ends, leaving you wanting more.

At the very least, I’m grateful that we’re even able to play this gem on the PC. If you enjoy bullet hell shooters, you owe it to yourself to check this out.

Now if only 5PB and Mages Inc, would bring over the expansion, Bullet Soul Infinite, that’d be swell.

  • This shmup has soul to spare
Overall
4

About The Author

Keith Mitchell
Editor-in-chief and all-around good guy!

Keith Mitchell is the Founder and Editor in Chief of The Outerhaven. A grizzled IT professional during the day, but a passionate lover of video games after his 9-5 grid. Loves playing the Dark Souls series and has been gaming since he was 6 years old. You can find him on Twitter as @Shadowhaxor or you can email her at keith.mitchell@theouterhaven.net.