I’ll admit, I hadn’t even heard of Moon Cresta and Terra Cresta before PlatinumGames revealed Sol Cresta – a spiritual successor to the two that was initially announced as an April Fool’s joke before being made into an official release. It piqued my interest for two reasons: one being that I’m a fan of shoot ‘em ups in general, and the other that it was being developed by such a prestigious action-focused developer with one hell of a track record.

How did they fare with a shoot ‘em up? Well, Sol Cresta is pretty damn good, even if some technical hiccups do prevent it from striving towards greatness on the Nintendo Switch.

Check out a gallery of screenshots down below:

Sol Cresta is a vertical space shooter that takes players on an adventure across different planets of the solar system, starting off with Neptune and ending at… well… I’ll leave that for you to find out. If you’ve played any shoot ‘em up before, you’ll know what to expect gameplay wise: a ton of different enemies to face off against with varying attacks, all sorts of environmental hazards to keep you on the move, big nasty bosses that fill up the screen, and, of course, bullets EVERYWHERE. It really nails the vibe of the genre perfectly with its all-out action and focus on score-chasing, with plenty going on throughout each level to maximise the action and keep players constantly moving and shooting. It’s a lot of fun to play.

One of the unique features of Sol Cresta comes with its three playable ships. Players will start off with a single ship based upon one of three colours: red, yellow, and blue. The red ship blasts out a quick paced laser, the yellow ship unleashes a vertical drill projectile that dishes out hefty damage, whilst the blue ship launches homing missiles that’ll close in on nearby targets. Whilst you start out with one of these ships, you’ll always earn the other two as power-ups as you progress through levels, with each merging together in formation to unleash more powerful variations of each attack.

The clever twist is that you can change up the formation of the ships at any time, allowing you to change the primary attack you unleash upon your foes. This gives the player the opportunity to be strategic and use the weaponry that suits any given scenario, whether that’s when using the red ship’s lasers when surrounded by an array of foes or the yellow ship’s powerful drills when focusing on one target with a meaty amount of health. Certain enemies are weak against particular attack types too, giving players even more reason to swap things around in order to deal out the most efficient attacks.

“It really nails the vibe of the genre perfectly with its all-out action and focus on score-chasing, with plenty going on throughout each level to maximise the action and keep players constantly moving and shooting.”

There are even some special formations which can be activated, allowing players to take advantage of the weaponry of all three ships at once to deal out even more damage – these can’t be done all the time and have to be activated with power-ups, but they’re a great way to get out of a sticky situation or deal some extra hurt to a particularly formidable foe. Again, knowing when to use these different formation types can be imperative to your success, especially since they each bring with them different advantages that can exploit specific enemy weaknesses.

Of course, there are more typical bonuses to earn as you gain points in levels, such as extra lives, additional weaponry, special attacks, and more. Whilst these sort of power-ups are more traditional for the genre, there are some that have a PlatinumGames twist; I’ve never played a shoot ‘em up that’s had me twisting the analogue stick or mashing button combinations like a fighting game to unleash more powerful attacks before, but that’s exactly what Sol Cresta expected of me at times. It’s a really cool and undoubtedly unique feature of the game, though trying to hit them whilst also dealing with a constant influx of enemy attacks could also feel a bit too overwhelming at times.

As far as the difficulty is concerned, Sol Cresta can be tough, but it’s not the most challenging shoot ‘em up that I’ve played. It has multiple difficulty options whilst it also allows players to start off at any previous level that they’ve reached, so it’s certainly accessible. That being said, some levels can be insane with the amount of action going on at any given time, so it’s far from being an easy game… it just isn’t unfair with its difficulty either.

“Sometimes, a game soundtrack just fits the action on screen perfectly, and that’s certainly the case with Sol Cresta’s exciting tunes that orchestrate the manic action.”

Visually, the game looks pretty, with a retro aesthetic adopted that captures the spirit of the shoot ‘em ups of yesteryear but with touches of modern fanciness used here and there to up the production value. It’s all very old-school and you could easily mistake it for a title from the late 80s, but hey, that’s the vibe it was going for. That same vibe is captured perfectly in the soundtrack, with some bloody brilliant tracks on offer throughout the game that’ll really pull you into the action. Sometimes, a game soundtrack just fits the action on screen perfectly, and that’s certainly the case with Sol Cresta’s exciting tunes that orchestrate the manic action.

However, whilst it looks and sounds nice, there were a few performance hiccups here and there on the Nintendo Switch. I noticed some stuttering and minor freezing on a semi-regular basis, and whilst it’s nothing game-breaking or too distracting, its presence was frustrating and unusual given that it’s hardly a high-end release. Hopefully, it’s something that can be fixed with a patch in the near future.

Sol Cresta does have one other sour point that stuck out: the ‘Dramatic’ DLC. This DLC gives players a more story-focused mode to play through, adding more lore to all of the shooting action taking place. Unfortunately, this wasn’t included with the main game, but instead has to be purchased separately. I don’t understand why it wasn’t included, especially since players have to pay a pricey £35.99 in the first place, so it feels like a bit of a sucker punch. Whilst there are additional modes to unlock by completing achievements in the game anyway, I feel like ‘Dramatic’ should have been one of them and not an extra few quid for players to fork out as day-one DLC.

Sol Cresta Review

Sol Cresta is an addictive and fun shoot ‘em up that proves PlatinumGames have more than a few tricks up their sleeves. It’ll definitely appeal the most to fans of the genre, though the accessible difficulty options mean that even newbies will be able to dive in and have a good time. The old-school visuals and excellent soundtrack capture the vibe of the classic shoot ‘em ups of yesteryear perfectly too, which is always a big plus.

It is a bit disappointing that the performance on the Nintendo Switch isn’t perfect and the ‘Dramatic’ DLC does leave a bit of a sour taste, but other than that this is another stellar release from the team at PlatinumGames.

Developer: PlatinumGames
Publisher: PlatinumGames
Platform(s): Nintendo Switch (Reviewed), PlayStation 4, PC
Website: https://www.platinumgames.com/games/sol-cresta