Japan has a proud tradition of local festivals that feature parade-like processions, live performances, and food and activity booths. Of course, Japan also had a rich folklore involving a wide variety of bizarre monsters and spirits called yokai. Spooky Spirit Shooting Gallery from Enheart and Aksys Games is a light gun-style rail shooter that combines the experience of playing an elaborate shooting gallery at a festival with some friendly yokai ghostbusting. It’s a colorful, arcadey experience that features 3-player local co-op.
Spooky Spirit Shooting Gallery (SSSG) is a Switch-exclusive port of Moshikashite? Obake no Shatekiya, a Japanese light gun arcade game. Light gun/rail shooter games for the Switch often utilize Joy-Con controls, and that applies here as well. When playing in handheld mode, players can use the analog sticks to aim the cursor. In TV mode, however, Joy-Cons are required to play. That’s a shame given that analog stick aiming is already coded into the game. Still, aiming with the Joy-Cons works just fine. The trigger and right-most face button fire the gun, whereas other buttons on the Joy-Con switch weapons, center the cursor, and add or withdraw medals, the in-game currency. SSSG is compatible with the Martian Panic Blaster accessory.
The game itself offers three primary modes: Carnival Mode, Party Mode, and the unlockable Spirit Stairway Challenge. The in-game shop allows players to spend medals to unlock a handful of extra minigames and to win figurines from a pair of gacha capsule machines. Figurines are divided into two categories: goodies (mostly targets featured in the shooting gallery) and spirits. These items, once collected, can be viewed alongside simple descriptions. One of the long-term goals is to collect every figurine, of course.
Carnival Mode brings the arcade shooting gallery experience home. 1-3 players will select from three available arcade cabinets that vary primarily in starting items and the amount of luck the machine is supposed to have during the current play session. From there, players will rotate between several different shooting galleries that are filled with fun targets like rubber ducks, toy dinosaurs, daruma dolls, ramen cups, bottles, and more. The targets themselves sit on either still or moving shelves. Each type of target is worth a different number of medals when knocked over.
All of the shooting gallery targets can be felled with the standard cork ammo, but larger targets will go down easier with metal or rocket ammo. Stronger ammo costs more medals, which is where SSSG most greatly differs from other rail shooters. There’s no reloading here, but ammo costs medals. Put 200 medals in and you get 200 cork shots, for instance. In co-op games, all players share the main player’s overall pool of medals, adding to or withdrawing from them as needed. Depending on how well you play, you might find yourself spending more medals than you take in during a session. Thankfully, it’s not that hard to make a profit, especially if you play long enough to reach the Haunted House stage…
During the regular shooting gallery levels, players will sometimes discover a spirit hiding inside an item. You then have a brief time to shoot the ghost as it flies around the screen. After defeating enough spirits to fill the meter in the top corner of the screen, players will enter the Haunted House. There, they will play through a short series of stages filled with all manner of yokai to blast. The Haunted House culminates in a tough boss battle. Defeat the boss to win a huge pile of medals. Upon returning to the shooting gallery, players can then cash out their medals or continue playing.
Carnival Mode also has a huge set of challenges to complete, such as spending certain amounts of ammo or defeating certain numbers of yokai. Challenges award medals when completed, and clearing them all will unlock unlimited ammo for the shooting gallery. Overall, Carnival Mode gets a little repetitive after a while, but it can be played for as little or as long as the player desires, and you can’t beat the authentic carnival atmosphere.
Party Mode offers lots of minigames divided into VS and Co-op categories. In total, there are 17 cooperative minigames to unlock. Some minigames just boil down to shooting yokai, but most show more creativity. For instance, players might work to keep a soccer ball in the air by shooting it, blast a rubber duck to make it lay eggs, shoot dice to roll for a winning match, and even use a golf-style strength meter to knock a target as far away as possible. Almost all minigames are 3-player simultaneous, but a few have players alternate turns instead. Gamers can select the difficulty of each minigame and choose whether to play them individually or in continuous sets.
Spirit Stairway Challenge, the third mode, can be unlocked by purchasing all five minigames from the shop, which should take an hour or two. Think of this one as a campaign built around the minigames from Party Mode. 1-3 players team up to play through 25 increasingly challenging stages. A stage may consist of one or more minigames. If players meet the clear conditions for each minigame in the stage, they progress to the next stage. The team can continue at the start of a stage if they fail it, so the difficulty is fairly manageable. Clearing the first stairway (which will take 2-3 hours) will unlock a second, harder stairway. This is a great mode for players who crave more structure than just playing a few minigames individually in Party Mode.
The only downside to Party Mode and Spirit Stairway Challenge is that they’re totally disconnected from Carnival Mode. You can’t earn medals from these modes, nor does Carnival Mode unlock anything for the other modes. While it’s true that players will eventually earn more than enough medals to play Carnival Mode at their leisure, it would still be nice if messing around in the minigames contributed to the medal pool or helped unlock capsules.
Rail shooters are a slightly niche genre, but the good ones are really fun. Spooky Spirit Shooting Gallery’s Japanese origins mean it’s filled with delightfully wacky enemies to shoot, and everything comes to life with bright colors instead of suffering from an ugly, dull color palette like The House of the Dead: Remake. The variety of modes and minigames here should appeal to players of all ages as well. It’s a shame that analog stick aiming is not supported in TV mode, as some players prefer it to Joy-Con aiming. Still, festivals are just plain fun, and this is one that rail shooting fans won’t want to miss. Bring some Pocky!
Spooky Spirit Shooting Gallery sells for $39.99 on Switch.
A Switch code was provided by the publisher for this review.
The Co-Op Experience: Carnival Mode allows up to 3 players to cooperate at the shooting gallery and eventually battle a boss together at the haunted house. Party Mode lets up to 3 players engage in 17 unlockable minigames. Spirit Stairway Challenge Mode lets up to 3 players complete 25 stages of increasingly challenging minigames together.
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