Ultracore review for PS Vita, PS4, Switch

Platform: PS Vita
Also on: Switch, PS4
Publisher: ININ Games
Developer: Digital Illusions
Medium: Digital
Players: 1
Online: No

Ultracore may have one of the best backstories I?ve ever heard. It was originally developed by DICE — then known as Digital Illusions — back in the early ?90s for release on Sega Genesis, Sega CD, and Commodore Amiga, only for the game to get scrapped by the publisher at the very last minute. Fast-forward 25 years or so, and a small team of former DICE developers got back together, finished the game using a Genesis devkit, and ported it over to the Vita (as well as the Switch and PS4). It?s kind of a miracle that this game exists at all.

That doesn?t necessarily mean you need to rush out and get it, though. It?s a pretty dated game in a lot of ways — albeit for entirely justifiable reasons. Clearly, it?s one thing for a modern game to be retro-influenced, and to display all the bad habits of those older games. In this case, though, when the game technically is one of those older games, it?s allowable.

In practice, this means the action isn?t incredibly complex. You run back and forth through a futuristic-looking level, shooting everything that gets in your way. The enemies aren?t particularly smart, but there are a lot of them, which means you?re going to be shooting basically non-stop. The levels also aren?t anything crazy, but they?re big enough, and require enough backtracking that you?ll end up having to explore quite a bit. Thankfully, the controls here make all that a breeze. I have vague memories of playing games like this back when they first came out, and I?ve got to say: this feels a lot smoother than anything I remember from that era.

Where Ultracore really shows its roots, though, is in its look and feel. This game screams early- to mid-?90s, to the point I was practically having flashbacks to playing the display Genesis at my local KMart with my little brother. Everything about it, from the graphics to the music, captures the era perfectly, in a way that could only have been made possible by actually being from that era.

Obviously, none of this makes Ultracore particularly essential to modern audiences. For the most part, you can just be happy in the knowledge this game even exists, rather than feeling compelled to play it. If, however, you?re a fan of Genesis-era run & gun platformers with a hint of Metroidvania to them, Ultracore is about as essential as a game can possibly be.

ININ Games provided us with an Ultracore PS Vita code for review purposes.

Grade: B-