July 23, 2021

Gensou Skydrift – Review

Cute look, great controls, but is that enough?
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by Derek Danielewski

Gensou Skydrift is at its heart a racing game about anime witches teaming up in pairs to take on other anime witch pairs racing around gravity and physics-defying arenas. The studio that made Gensou Skydrift was developed by former Mario Kart: Double Dash developers so it does have pedigree in terms of a racing title.

Gensou Skydrift is a game that could only have been thought up by a Japanese developer; cute characters, fun gameplay, bright and colourful graphics…and virtually no story behind it.

Story

Well, actually that’s not quite fair here, it does have a story. It’s part of the Tohou franchise (nope, me neither…) and it assumes that you know the franchise well. I didn’t, so the campaign mode made little sense to me. When the developer’s own blurb is about a paragraph long, you know that little thought has been put into it.

In the mythical land, Gensokyo, humans, and yokai live together in harmony. One day, Reimu and Marisa notice someone running off on a racetrack and follow.

Yep, that is the story. From there you’re taken into a campaign mode through 16 courses of madness and fun racing. You’re also interrupted by endless cutscenes which have no dialogue or sound effects, just text across the screen. They do little to enhance the story but do explain some things.

Thankfully there are single races you can play without having to bother going through the campaign.

Graphics and Sound

I’m in two minds about the graphics here. On one hand, you have very colourful worlds and really cute characters which you would 100% expect from any anime-themed game. These add to the fun nature of the game and it gives you plenty of joy.

On the other hand, the graphics are very reminiscent of mid-PS2 era games. The hazy, rough-edged graphics are at play here and it looks really cheap. It definitely does not stretch the PS4’s capabilities here (and I’d be surprised if it stretched the Nintendo Switch or even the most potato PC out there).

It’s clear the developers cared more about the colour palette and put more effort into the characters than the levels, which is a real shame as it definitely had the potential to be more beautiful than what has been served up.

The sound also suffers from a lack of detail and attention. The music is pretty repetitive and boring. The soundtrack does little to emphasize the game and just seems like it’s been thrown together with little thought.

Gameplay

Genshou Skydrift really shines in the gameplay department and it’s clear that this is the area the developers spent the most time on.

For a start, the character selection system is utter genius. You choose your two witches based on their abilities. One witch becomes a flying surfboard while the other is the rider/controller. You can swap them around during levels when each of their attributes fits best.

The attributes of the characters are things like acceleration, traction, drifting, and other stuff like that. Choose wisely and it will help you combat even the tougher levels. Powerups are available, by a system of filling power bars by drifting or going through boost rings. Fill up one bar and you’ll get a random item. Fill the second bar and you’ll get rarer powerups.

The controls are tight and responsive and easy to master, making the game a fun experience and not frustrating like some racing games can be.

Coupling all of that together, the game is fun to play and I have been tempted to go back and play it again.

Final Thoughts

The game is really fun to play, the worlds and characters are bright and colourful (just as an anime game should be). The controls are great too, but is that enough when you have a real lack of story, a lack of effort in the graphics and sound and essentially it boils down to being a really basic experience.

I wanted this game to be better than it was, but it just didn’t cut it for me. It might fare better if you are a fan of the franchise.

Overall Score – 6/10