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500-Word Indies

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Nighthaw-X3000 - Windows (2017)

by Kurt Kalata - April 19, 2017


The history of the neon gridline is shrouded in mystery - no one seems to have known who actually created it - but it sure has some to represent the current day stereotype of the 1980s. Nighthaw-X3000 uses this as a backdrop for a shoot-em-up, complete with a synthwave soundtrack, for an appropriately retro themed experience.

Your ship has a single main weapon, along with a bomb attack that will essentially wipe almost everything from the screen. You can also dash left or right, essential for dodging certain boss patterns, though it needs a few seconds to recharge. There's also a turbo boost mode, which will temporarily increase your firepower before resetting and requiring several seconds to regain its strength. The levels occasionally tilt back and forth, so the projectiles and obstacles come at you from an angle rather than straight on, though this can be disabled if it proves too disorienting.

The package is sold as a throwback to the NES era, but it actually feels more like an Amiga game. It has a very euroshmup feel, right down to the erratic patterns and enemy ships that take way too many hits to destroy. It feels like the "turbo" mode should probably have been the default strength of your ship, because otherwise your weapons fire too slowly to effectively take down the legions of enemies. At the end of each level, you can equip new weapons, though even the more powerful ones fail to do as much damage as one would expect. The game is fairly generous with the amount of hits you can take, plus it autosaves at the end of every level, so you can resume play if you get a game over (though since it records the amount of lives you have remaining, you can't use it to easily see the end of the game). The perspective actually feels a little like the 3D stages of Konami's Axelay, especially in the way that certain elements of the background stretch as you fly over them.

The game suffers from these kind of balancing issues, to the point where the main draw is the 80s gimmick. Which, to be fair, works - the sights and sounds may be derivative, but it is a pretty cool idea for a shoot-em-up, and the music is excellent. There's also an incredibly silly storyline, filled with lots of gratuitous cursing, a result of the game having been written by a Polish development studio who seems to have learned English through terrible 80s movie dialogue. Even the bosses are given names like "Motherfucking Spider" and "A Fucking Tiny Planet". The end-of-level bonuses are also delivered by a floating truck with the sign "420GUNS", which adds to the ridiculous immaturity. It needs some substantial gameplay and design changes to really register as a quality shoot-em-up, but the goofiness is enough to make it an amusing experience.

Quick Info:


N94 Games


AAG Studio


Shoot-em-up: Vertical


So 80s It Hurts
Unique Visuals



Nighthaw-X3000 (Windows)

Nighthaw-X3000 (Windows)

Nighthaw-X3000 (Windows)

Nighthaw-X3000 (Windows)

500-Word Indies Index

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