Rival Megagun Review – Split-Screen Shmup Fun (PS4)

Nostalgia is as popular as ever these days, and this extends beyond just shrunken hardware. But what about a game that looks and sounds like arcade games of the past, but features new, modern ideas and features? Spacewave Software presents Rival Megagun, a bullet-hell top-down arcade-style shoot-em-up game, with a competitive, split-screen twist. Does this game have change things up enough to warrant a purchase? Our Rival Megagun review has the answer.

Retro as Can Be

Rival Megagun has a retro look and feel to it, featuring pixel art that harkens back to the glory days of 16-bit shoot-em-up, or “shmup,” games of the ‘90s. Layered, parallax graphics feature various effects, like electricity in the clouds of a mega industrial supercomplex. This is coupled with a soundtrack that sounds like it was ripped straight out of this time period. Levels are carefully structured, featuring waves of enemies that repeat if necessary, with dozens of bullets quickly flying towards the player. The Unity Engine powers the experience, and proves more than capable at keeping the frame rate high.

Couch multiplayer is still a relative rarity these days, with most developers focusing on online gaming experiences. Spacewave Software seems to have built Rival Megagun from the ground-up with same-screen multiplayer in mind. When even the single-player campaign features split-screen gameplay against the computer, it’s definitely a sign that the game was designed to be enjoyed amongst friends.

Friends can quickly become enemies, however, when the various methods to take out opponents are utilized. Each character has a unique ship, and they also possess unique side-crossing attacks. Players are confined to one half of the screen, and take on the same enemies in each level. Enemies destroyed in rapid succession will add to a combo meter. Once the combo timer expires, spinning icons will be sent to the opponent’s side of the screen. After some time, these icons turn into more enemy units for the opponent to have to worry about. However, sending in a bunch of additional enemies can backfire, as the opponent can now rack up a large combo and return the favor.

Mega Gun, Transform!

Once enough enemies have been defeated, an energy meter will begin to fill up. By pressing and holding square, this energy can be converted to an attack that crosses the boundary between players in an attempt to land a hit. Players who are being attacked in this manner have scant few seconds to avoid the incoming attack, indicated by one or more flashing warning icons where the attacks are about to land. Each ship has a unique attack, some of which are harder to predict or avoid than others.

While these smaller attacks will do in a pinch, transforming into a Mega Gunship is where it’s at. Attacking consumes a bit of energy each time. But if a player collects enough energy to fill their bar, they can press triangle to transform into their chosen character’s Mega Gunship form. These are much larger ships, and once triggered cause the player who transformed to fly over to their opponent’s side, as they become a boss-like character with increased health, multiple weapon options, and the best opportunity to win a round. Players who find themselves suddenly fighting the souped-up version of their opponents have a couple options to fight back, though. For instance, bombs deal massive damage to everything on screen, including Mega Gunships, and just two will be enough to take the behemoths out. Once a Mega Gunship is destroyed, the attacking player flies back to their side of the level, and the game continues.

For those flying solo, a single-player campaign mode is available, in four difficulty levels. Each character has their own slightly different version of events that lead up to a showdown with an alien boss. Generally, a single campaign can be completed in 30 minutes or less. Playing through campaigns and multiplayer unlocks various cards in a collection, as well as weapons to be used in multiplayer. These can be used to craft custom loadouts, to vary up strategies.

A Decent Challenge

Most games of this nature are challenging, and Rival Megagun is no exception. Each ship only has two hits before it is destroyed, with only a very rare power-up dropped that can turn into a repair wrench after some time. The single-player campaign only gives the player a few lives, but unlimited continues, with the score resetting to zero upon a game over. Small bullets appear to have a forgiving hit box, but even so, it’s easy to get lost in the hail of incoming fire.

Surprisingly, there is online multiplayer in Rival Megagun. Individual experience may vary, of course, but considering most of the action confines players to their own half of the screen, most people should have a seamless experience, almost as if your opponent were sitting on the couch next to you. There are also leaderboards, which track how far players get into the campaign before suffering a game over.

Rival Megagun is a fun, frantic bullet hell game with a unique competitive mechanic. The retro-inspired art style is pixel-perfect, which is paired with an equally retro soundtrack. Each character’s campaign may be short at just a handful of levels apiece, but there are six characters, each with different weapons and strategies to employ. Online multiplayer support, plus various collectibles and unlocks only seal the deal. Retro fans should pick up Rival Megagun without hesitation.

Rival Megagun review code provided by publisher. Version 1.01 reviewed on a PS4 Pro. For more information on scoring please see our Review Policy.
8.5Silver Trohpy
  • Feels like a blast from the past
  • Innovative competitive mode
  • A solid challenge
  • Campaigns are over very quickly