E3 Hands-On: Cosmic Defenders

Starstruck party mayhem!

By Robert Marrujo. Posted 06/23/2019 13:25 Comment on this     ShareThis

Natsume made waves back in April with the announcement of its Natsume Indie Program. According to the company, this new initiative would allow it to seek out independent game developers from across the globe and bring their software to players everywhere. The first game being put out as part of this partnership is Cosmic Defenders. Developed by the one man team of Henry Fernández (who works under the pseudonym Fiery Squirrel, which is also the name of his studio), Cosmic Defenders is a 2D shooter where up to four players run around spherical planetoids fighting alien invaders.

Natsume is one of those developers that can come at fans with games that they never knew they wanted, but which go on to become cult classics. Legend of the River King, The Ninja Warriors, Wild Guns, and of course Harvest Moon are all highlights from from the company’s catalogue, so I approached Cosmic Defenders with an open mind. I’m glad I did, because it’s shaping up to be a really fun party game. I got to experience the title with a Natsume staffer during my demo time, and even with just one other person the action became fast and boisterous.

The matches revolve around defending the planetoids from the invading aliens who are hellbent on destroying them. There are four characters to choose from, each with slightly different stats relating to speed, strength, and defense. I didn’t get to try everyone, but it’s always nice to see a variety of attributes; it helps players to find a style which suits them best. According to Fiery Squirrel, of the three modes that will be available in Cosmic Defenders, which are Adventure, Free Match, and Survival, the latter two will offer “unique challenges” every time they’re booted up. For my demo, I got to enjoy Free Match, so the other two are still unknown quantities, but the sliver of a taste that I got was enough to get me amped for the full game.

In a word, the matches are frenzied. Aliens keep popping up and it becomes a race to warp from one planetoid to another in order to stymie their offensive. Each of the small worlds can only take so much damage before being obliterated, so it’s crucial to pick the right warp point in order to lose as little time as possible in transition. Since the game is 2D, players walk around the planetoids in 360 degrees, so there’s a fun sense of subversion insofar as platforming goes. It’s reminiscent of Super Mario Galaxy, but the biggest difference (besides not being 3D) is that there’s no emphasis on gravity here. A missed opportunity? Possibly, but I was enjoying myself nonetheless.

The art style in Cosmic Defenders is very bold and cartoony. It really brought to mind some of the art styles of old Nickelodeon cartoons from the ’90s. It also made me think a bit of Runbow, although color doesn’t factor into the gameplay, here. Fiery Squirrel’s chosen an aesthetic that keeps the action on-screen clear and understandable while also being punchy and fun. It has a rebellious, playful quality that perfectly suits the tone of Cosmic Defenders. I’m eager to see how the rest of the game looks beyond the confines of multiplayer. Everything ran nice and smooth during my time playing with no hiccups or stuttering, even when the action grew intense.

Each character can attack in different directions as well as erect a shield in self-defense, so there’s a good variety of actions at the player’s disposal to keep the action fresh. I didn’t get to sample any of the power-ups that will be in the final build, but overall Cosmic Defenders is a solid start for Natsume’s Indie Program. Between this and the very enticing Harvest Moon: Mad Dash, I’m thrilled to see what else the company has in store for 2019 and beyond. Back during the Natsume holiday party in 2018 there were whispers of a long-dormant property coming back to life, too; I’d say it’s a very good time to be excited for what Natsume has up its sleeve moving forward!

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