Cygni: All Guns Blazing wants to take shoot 'em ups far beyond the days of Gradius

Developer Keelworks hopes Cygni: All Guns Blazing will take arcade-style shoot 'em ups to bold new places.


Over the past several decades, gaming genres have gone through different evolutions. Platformers have had different eras, action-adventure games have taken leaps forward, RPGs have undergone a myriad of changes, fighting games are virtually unrecognizable compared to their 16-bit counterparts, and the list goes on. Then there's the twin stick shooter game, which has had some visual upgrades over the past few decades, but the formula has remained largely the same. If you've played one, you know what to expect. However, publisher Konami and developer Keelworks are looking to change that with a new entry to the field called Cygni: All Guns Blazing.

Shacknews walked into Cygni: All Guns Blazing expecting to see the typical shoot 'em up. After all, this is the publisher behind Gradius, so this should be a lot like that, right? What I didn't expect was to be greeted by a visual marvel and a game that legitimately tries to take this tried-and-true genre a step forward.

Engaging dozens of enemies in Cygni: All Guns Blazing

Source: Konami

This game takes place on the titular planet of Cygni, where a colony of human survivors looks to survive against a hostile and powerful biomechanical alien race. The opening cutscene had a look similar to a Pixar joint, especially as players meet the unnamed main character, who reminisces over pictures of her childhood and steps into the cockpit of her fighter ship to try and make her father proud.

The game then throws players right into the fire against fleets of relentless hostiles. While it looks like the usual vertical-scrolling twin stick shooter, one of Cygni's big features becomes evident right away. Developer Keelworks is hailing its game's AI, which will take big steps forward from the mindless drones of the genre's heyday. While the screen scrolls ahead, dodging fighters will do no good. If any ships fly down past the edge of the screen, they will not give up. They'll come back around and try to take you down again. Groups will fly in formation, and some will even exercise strategy to try and flush out players that may be hiding along the sides or in corners.

That, by itself, is a novel feature, but Cygni goes even further by utilizing the ground. Hostiles don't just come from the air, but ground units will also attack. This is where Cygni's majestic juggling act begins. It's possible to target ground units by holding one of the shoulder buttons. However, players can't aim forward and at the ground simultaneously. Anyone who takes the time to shoot at the ground has to be aware of any incoming enemies from the air. The airspace can get crowded quickly if too much focus is given to the ground units and vice-versa.

This was never more evident during our hands-on session than it was against a fear multi-tentacled warship. The ship itself was along the ground level, so the only way to damage it was to hold down the shoulder button and fire away with air-to-ground fire. However, enemies in the airspace are abundant and also have to be kept under control. On top of that, the warship's tentacles are moving in different patterns and eating up chunks of the screen, so evasive maneuvers are also essential for survival. It's this tightrope act that makes Cygni a blast to experience, and it was just a shame that our gameplay session was so short.

Because it was so short, we didn't get to check out the other main component of Cygni. Keelworks is planning a full-blown narrative with CGI cutscenes and an orchestral soundtrack. There weren't a lot of details revealed about this particular aspect of the game, but Konami and Keelworks are hopeful that this treatment can elevate the shoot 'em up in new ways.

It can't be said enough how beautiful Cygni: All Guns Blazing looks with its gorgeous Unreal Engine-rendered environments and amazing weather effects, which complement its fluid gameplay and mind-melting challenge. Konami and Keelworks are aiming for a 2023 release, though it's likely that it will slip into 2024. When it does release, look for it to hit PC, PlayStation 5, and Xbox Series X|S.

These impressions are based on an early PlayStation 5 version of the game played on-site from the Konami U.S. headquarters in Hawthorne, CA. It may not be representative of the final product. Meals were provided by Konami.

Senior Editor

Ozzie has been playing video games since picking up his first NES controller at age 5. He has been into games ever since, only briefly stepping away during his college years. But he was pulled back in after spending years in QA circles for both THQ and Activision, mostly spending time helping to push forward the Guitar Hero series at its peak. Ozzie has become a big fan of platformers, puzzle games, shooters, and RPGs, just to name a few genres, but he’s also a huge sucker for anything with a good, compelling narrative behind it. Because what are video games if you can't enjoy a good story with a fresh Cherry Coke?

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