Trouble Witches Neo was released by SNK Playmore. It was released on May 5, 2011 and retails for 800 MSP. A copy was provide for review purposes.

Trouble Witches Neo is a horizontal shooter that clearly takes inspiration from Deathsmiles. Putting that aside it is easy to see that it’s a fun and fundamentally sound shooter that most players will enjoy. The premise of the game is simple; an apprentice witch must complete her mission to become a full fledged witch. The story doesn’t really matter, but for those who care there is a story mode that details the characters’ outcomes. The real draw here is the action, and Trouble Witches Neo has plenty of it.

Here’s what we liked:

Bright and vibrant anime theme – Trouble Witches Neo is a beautiful package. It’s bright and colorful without much sense of shutter or slowdown at all. The backgrounds are rendered in 3D and look great. It is rare to see 2D and 3D mesh so well. The boss designs are also a treat. They are large and often have multiple pieces that must be destroyed which adds to the strategy. Some may not care for the cute ‘em up theme but it works well here. Those who can look past it will be pleased with what they find.

Great challenge – Trouble Witches Neo gets difficulty right. The easy mode is accessible without being a pushover. Normal is an excellent challenge and hard is just that. So few shooters regulate their difficulty appropriately but this game does a great job in that respect.

Variety of heroes – There are eight playable characters in the game. They all play differently enough to warrant being included. Some are fast, others hit hard, and others have better defense. Every player will be able to find a suitable character to play as.

Challenge modes are lots of fun – The boss rush and score attack modes are well implemented and a lot of fun. The boss rush mode in particular should be emulated by other future shooter. This mode pits you against each boss in succession. When you have defeated all of the bosses it resets and to have players fight them again, but this time at a higher difficultly. There are twenty rounds of this and it is a tremendous challenge but also great practice. Score attack is also fun and a great way of putting up a ridiculously high score.

Here’s what we didn’t like:

Boring scoring mechanics – As solid as Trouble Witches Neo plays it is unfortunately marred by a fairly boring scoring system. The goal is to collect a multitude of special coins by defeating enemies with special weapon bought at the game’s shop. The higher the coin counter, the higher the multiplier becomes. If you die the counter drops by at least 25%. Since you will be using the special weapons anyway, the scoring mechanism here is, in effect: don’t die. The only trip is to optimize when you use special weapons to maximize coins. It’s just is not enough to differentiate itself from the pack.

Shop system breaks up the action – Buying special weapons from a floating pumpkin store is a neat idea. Unfortunately doing it in the middle of a level often really breaks up the action. This would have been better left between levels. It’s also frustrating that not all weapons are available at all times. It seems rather random as to what might be available. This makes going for high score runs more difficult because of random chance now being involved.

Atrocious voice acting – The voice acting in Trouble Witches Neo is beyond bad. It sounds so bad in fact that we almost liked it. It does not take away from the whole experience, but it is worth noting.

Trouble Witches Neo is a solid game that is just short of being great. The title screen of the game refers to it as episode one so we are hoping that Trouble Witches Neo comes back strong next time and fixes these problems. Despite its flaws though, any shooting fan will find something to like here. There are not that many shooters available on XBLA so this one is definitely worth a look.

Score: Try it!