It’s not like we had a shortage of hack-and-slash games all of a sudden. Koei Tecmo did just re-release its Ninja Gaiden trilogy with a great new collection; and we still have the Devil May Cry games to lean on. Still, there’s always room for a worthy competitor – and Ultra Age fits right in.
It may not have the strongest story in the world, and its visuals can be iffy at times, but the hack-and-slash action, combined with strong weapon tactics and a generally strong structure make for a pretty good time. Plus, the fact it’s budget-priced at $29.99 doesn’t make it too hard a strain on the ol’ wallet.
The game focuses on a pair of unlikely heroes, a hack-and-slasher named Age and his robot sidekick Helvis. They’ve been sent to Earth to investigate why an Orbital Arc ship has suddenly gone quiet, after losing contact with a mysterious location called The Shelter. As they investigate within their limited time frame, the duo run into both mechanical terrors and biological creatures that must be dealt with. And, of course, that’s where your weapons come into play.
First off, the action itself is delivered quite well. There are a number of great combos to unleash here, along with good dodge tactics that will help keep you alive just a little bit longer. That is, if you know how to use them to your best advantage. The enemy tactics are superb as well, as you’ll have to study them to get an idea of how to take them down properly.
But what’s really great about Ultra Age is the weapon system. You’ll find different sword types over the course of your adventure, including a gunblade that lives up to its name, and how. As you journey, you’ll pick up different crystals from defeated enemies that you can use to keep the swords charged. You can switch between the two to create even more relentless combos, which is really cool – and executed rather well, at that. On top of that, the crystals are handy for restoring health, and also purchasing upgrades in certain spots. This is a really well thought-out system that pays off as you keep playing.
You can also level up swords accordingly, so that they won’t go bad on you. They’ve got skill trees that really open up as you keep playing. This is good, because the enemies do get tougher as they go on, becoming faster and, ulp, even shielding up when the situation calls for it. It would’ve been nice to have more checkpoints within the game, but it’s not that bad a journey back.
Even though Ultra Age doesn’t have the budget that the Devil May Cry 5 team clearly did, Next Stage makes do with what they’ve been given. The frame rate is really nice for the most part; and the enemies and lead character animate very smoothly. There are some slight glitches and frame drops here and there, but nothing to get in the way of the game’s overall solid performance. There are times that the world can get a little dull, but you can get through those sections and get on to more interesting ones, to say the least.
As for sound, the music is pretty good, as are the sound effects. But the voice acting could’ve used some overhaul, as it just sounds below average at best. Not even in a “so bad it’s good” sort of way, just…meh. You’re best just skipping the cinemas (if you can) and moving on to the action, where the game operates best.
Ultra Age isn’t a flawless classic by any means. But Next Stage has created a surprisingly enjoyable hack-and-slasher, thanks to a weapons system that continues to evolve and some exciting action. It also doesn’t look bad either, though the voice acting isn’t entirely up to snuff. Sure, it could’ve been better, but this sword is still plenty sharp. And that’s good news for a game that some might have feared would show its…age?