Sela the Space Pirate is fast, loud, and all-around bullet-hell.
As if we weren’t already worried enough about sea pirates every time we go on a cruise, or Internet pirates whenever we post that sure-to-be hit video on the web, it seems that now space isn’t even safe from a pirate’s dastardly influence. Sela the Space Pirate is a frantic top-down space shooter with a serious steampunk attitude, and has you shooting and looting everything on this side of the stars.
To be honest with you, I’m still not entirely sure what the plot of Sela the Space Pirate is about, as most of Sela’s dialogue consists of exaggerated, all-caps shrieks and interjections in the vein of “HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!! YEAAAAHHHH!!” Her first mate, Botte, who looks to be some sort of robot pirate skeleton, will often respond to these shouts with a morbid one-liner about how much he hates himself, by saying things like “My depression level keeps on rising.” In fact, everyone in this game just loves screaming at you. I was barely in the shop for five seconds, when Sela grew impatient and screamed at the shop owner: “SHADDAP AND TAKE MY MONEY!!” To say this is a weird dynamic would be an understatement. I’m not sure if the game’s trying too hard to be funny or not, but it just comes off as really obnoxious, and makes Sela immediately unlikeable as a main character.
Luckily, the gameplay more than makes up for what Sela the Space Pirate lacks in the storytelling department. The game puts you in control of a tiny space vessel, and throws you in the middle of heated firefights with enemy fleets and hoards of nasty-looking space creatures. The animations are smooth and fast-paced, and the simple, intuitive controls are sharp and responsive. Your ship fires automatically at all times, so all you have to do is move it through space by holding down your finger. You can switch between two primary weapons, a twin-machinegun blast and a deadly spreadshot, and a special Lightning Cannon attack will make quick work of invading pirates whenever you find yourself in a jam. But you’ll spend most of your time just trying to dodge the onslaught of enemy bullets, rather than staying focused on aiming any yourself. In later levels, the game screen becomes so cluttered with bullets and shimmering coins covering every inch of the universe, that it gives off a strong Ikaruga vibe. To make matters worse, you’ll also have environmental hazards to deal with, like asteroids, overgrown plants, and poisonous gas clouds. The game employs some interesting (albeit repetitive) boss fights, but by the time you reach stage 15 or so, new enemy ship designs are few and far in between.
Sela the Space Pirate is a crazy difficult game, and the only way you’ll keep your head about you is by upgrading your ship at regular intervals. There are four different upgrades you can buy for your ship, including armor enhancements, money-grabbing magnets, and increased damage for both your bullets and your spreadshot. Each one has multiple levels of improvements, and every purchase adds to the overall power of your Lightning Cannon. Ship upgrades are extremely well-priced, and the game makes sure that you’re able to buy them exactly when you really need them, so you can always progress through the game at a steady pace. And despite some really uninspired menu designs, your weapon enhancements look absolutely awesome when you see them in action. Unfortunately, there’s not much replay value to be had once the main story is over, besides starting again on a new save file, since your ship will be so powerful by then that replaying the earlier stages becomes an effortless task. It would have been nice to have the option of earning three stars or high scores in every stage, or completing other in-game achievements like (gasp!) finishing a level without taking a hit.
Despite an annoying story and unbearably loudmouthed characters, Sela the Space Pirate still managed to win me over with its great controls, fluid animations, and hectic space shooting gameplay. The game may not be something to write home about, but it functions well enough as an above-average shooter that runs perfect on a touch screen. And remember, if you ever happen to be on a leisurely stroll through space and happen upon some pirates, just make sure you have some earplugs handy!