Review: Shu (Switch) - Japan-based Nintendo Podcasts, Videos & Reviews!


Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Review: Shu (Switch)

by Sairus Delaney

Do you like speedy time attack or sedate exploration? Shu wants to have both.

If you’re in the market for a breezy but solidly put together platformer, Coatsink and Secret Lunch’s Shu could be exactly what you’re looking for. As with many Switch eShop titles, Shu is a rerelease of a title that’s long been available on other platforms. Since it originally dropped on PS4 in 2016, the game has seen several updates which are nicely all included with the Switch version from the outset.
Clever little butterflies make platforming mostly idiot proof
Shu is a pretty great lesson in efficiency. Immediately on starting the game Shu’s narrative is laid out cleanly without text. Your idyllic seaside town is destroyed by a terrifying magical Storm. You need to rescue the other villagers and outrun the storm to a mountaintop temple.

The gameplay itself is just as smartly presented. The titular main character Shu has very simple run, jump and gliding controls that are all snappy and responsive. Instead of directly telling you how to use these, at certain points throughout the game a button prompt will appear over Shu’s head without context. Combined with trails of collectibles that lead you from platform to platform any player will very quickly understand what the game wants you to do. 

As you travel through the game’s six worlds you will encounter a couple of villagers in each world. These villagers grant you one new ability each, which gives each world a distinct feel. Some are as simple as a double jump, while others allow you to move platforms or run on water. In a cute touch, while traveling with the villagers Shu will hold their hands and lead them along with him.

Some abilities are more obvious than others
There are two main styles of levels across the six worlds. Generally the introduction stages for each world are slow paced with a focus on exploration and learning the world’s quirks. However, with very little warning, at some point during each world the Storm will catch up to Shu. In a remarkably scary transition the word RUN will flash across the screen and all of the sedate exploration goes out the window. The uncomfortably toothy Storm will now chase Shu through the stage and a moment of hesitation or single error in platforming will generally result in it devouring you. 

This switch in pace might be uncomfortable for some, but very smart level design means you will often be pixels away from death, but somehow just make it through anyway. Even if you do fail, checkpoints are very frequent in every stage and each checkpoint allows you plenty of retries before giving you a game over. Clearing these chase segments in one smooth run are by far the most rewarding parts of the game. 

You learn to be afraid of that grin pretty quick
The last stage is the only time I found the insta-kill chase segments a little frustrating as there are some rather severe difficulty spikes. The last stage is quite long, and having to repeat the entire thing because you run out of retries on one of the last checkpoints is an annoying pace killer. This last section also has you revisit all of the villagers, but there’s no prompts to remind you what each one does, so it can be a little jarring to try and remind yourself on the fly.

On the whole, a single playthrough of Shu is not terribly long and the developers have added several layers of collectibles and challenges to each level. While I greatly enjoyed my time with Shu, I never felt the need to go back and try to fill in any of the gaps in my collection. That’s not to say it’s bad. I’m sure some folks will greatly enjoy the padding, but a single playthrough was fine for me!

Color choices really make some of the higher stages shine
Shu’s stage design is gorgeous, with big exciting set pieces all rendered fully in clean painterly 3D. Every world also has a very distinct character, from seaside cliffs to deep jungles and caves. To contrast with this, the Storm and playable characters are all 2D sprites, which makes them very easy to identify, and the Storm especially looks very striking. However, the 2D sprites are barely animated at all. I actually found this a little uncomfortable to watch, with Shu himself looking particularly choppy. Even a couple of extra frames to smooth out his run cycle would have done wonders.

Overall, Shu is a gem of a platformer. Silky smooth platforming and clever stage design makes it accessible and rewarding for players of most skill levels, although the final stage might cause some teeth grinding in places. Annoyances with choppy character animation aside, the game’s art is confident, charming and oozing with character. Even without touching any of the post game time attacks or searching out hidden collectibles, Shu is one of those rare games where I am completely satisfied with the time I spent with it.

Final Score: 8.0

 (Review code provided by the publisher)

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