Sora – Review

Title   Sora
Publisher  Fruitbat Factory
Platform  Orange Juice
Genre  Bullet-hell shooter
Release Date  January 5th, 2016
Official Site

sorarev1I am firmly of the belief that there are some things in life that you will never understand. This will be different for every person; some people might not understand why Spaced is the greatest sitcom ever created and that Simon Pegg is a genius of unparalleled proportions (we call them ‘crazy people’). Some people might never grasp the concept of flight (it’s unnatural, frankly. Aeroplanes are too heavy to fly, it’s all a myth). I think I will never understand Sora.

Sora is, ostensibly, a ‘tactical bullet-hell’ shooter. Originally released in Japan in 2010, it is the sequel to Suguri, and has recently been re-localised and released on Steam by publisher Fruitbat Factory. It tells the story of the titular ‘lone enhanced teenager’ Sora who has defected from a robot army and is now trying to end all fighting by, erm, fighting. Graphically there is a strong anime aesthetic, with bright 2D sprites and animated background, all overlaid by the sort of fit-inducing neon lightshows we’re coming to expect of the genre. So that’s the nuts and bolts of the game… so far, so penetrable. Unfortunately, I now have to admit that I have completely bounced off of Sora so hard that I’m now orbiting the now-rumoured ninth planet on the edge of our solar system. If you’re reading this, please send help. They don’t have tea here.


Mechanically, the game works well and there’s fun to be had with the layered attacking systems. You are provided with three weapon types – beam, physical and special – with which to explode everything on the screen. Firing weapons leaves you vulnerable to enemy attack, so the game, via a pretty obnoxious tutorial, encourages the player to mix attacks with dashes, cancels, and combos in to other weapon attacks. The main method of dodging is an infinite dash that allows Sora to ‘collect’ enemies’ beam fire to power up a special attack, but doesn’t cancel out physical attacks such as missiles. Dodging also increases a ‘heat meter’, which exponentially increases the damage taken by enemy attacks.

sorarev4The layering of the systems gives rise to a surprisingly thoughtful game, quite removed from the sort of bullet-hell shooter that I would generally play. The depth and tactics on offer almost feel as if they’ve been cribbed from the beat-em-up genre; there’s a real sense of a rock-paper-scissors style of gameplay and understanding the interplay of these systems is the key to success. I did not succeed.

Try as I might, I just could not get my head around the systems at play. Perhaps it’s my sausage-like fingers and a mind rotted by years of making tea with two teabags in the cup, but no matter what I did I could not find a way to successfully play this game. It appears to me as if this is the kind of game that you need to ‘click’ with; if you get it, you’ll love it, but if, like me, things don’t slot in to place, you’re just going to come away slightly nonplussed.

The game’s style doesn’t help here. It’s a pretty typical anime-style game, starring melodramatic teenage girls with impractical outfits. Perhaps Sora would be better at her mission if she was wearing some sort of armour instead of a pink blouse. A robotic spaceship army isn’t going to be intimidated by that get-up, believe me. Clearly, the look of this game will appeal to anime-lovers, but anyone else may be easily put-off. The soundtrack is very generic techno (at least to my ears), and I was soon turning the volume down, but again this is personal preference; I imagine there will be some crazy people that will be downloading the soundtrack and dancing around the room.


This is a tough game to evaluate. Sora targets a very specific audience, and from what I’ve experienced it absolutely hits the targets that it’s aiming for. Controls are tight, graphics are clear and bright, and the story is suitably anime. For anyone else, however, it’s an extremely tough game to recommend. There are more fun and accessible bullet-hell shooters out there that I’d much rather play.

  • Complex and layered systems
  • Lots of challenge
  • Anime styling is great – if you like that kind of thing
  • Only appeals to a niche demographic
  • Soundtrack is awful
  • Anime styling is great – if you like that kind of thing

Sora is absolutely not a bad game. It knows what it wants to do and it does it well. It nails a specific style and offers complex and layered systems with a bucketload of challenge. Unfortunately, I feel that many gamers, like me, will simply bounce off of this game and never get to grips with it. This is a real case of it’s brilliant if it appeals to you, but a bit nonsensical to the rest of us.

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