Stardust Vanguards blends the screen-filling insanity of a shoot-em-up with the local multiplayer dueling of a game like Samurai Gunn or TowerFall and drops the whole thing in an aesthetic ripped from a classic anime space opera.
Groups of four packed around the game's booth during South By Southwest Gaming to try their hand at deflecting bullets, slashing other players and avoiding the occasional invading pirates.
The mecha warfare game has players controlling different mechas. Each have ten bullets which can fired per a life and a laser sword they can be use to kill other players or deflect bullets. The more damage they do, the more reinforcement points they earn, which in turn can be used to summon AI-controlled support ships and fleets. The game also includes modes that feature random invasions of AI-controlled space pirates. If the pirates wipe out all of the players, then everyone loses. The addition causes the warring players to team up temporarily to get rid of the threat.
"The real core of the game is that you're a commander on the battlefield and you can summon an army to fight with you," said Jason Koohi, designer, artist and musician for the game. "It's mimicking something like Gundam [or] Macross, like a space opera. It definitely hearkens to that.
"What's different between this and Samurai Gunn or TowerFall are the pirates and reinforcements and it has a very distinct shoot-em-up flavor to it, an overcoat of shoot-em-up goodness."
Koohi calls the game managed chaos.
"It can be overwhelming just watching it," he said.
While the game came out in January on Steam, developers Zanrai Interactive were at this past weekend's exhibit to show off some new features for the game.
"New in this update is an added bounty feature," said Koohi. "When someone is winning by a large margin we put a bounty on them which increases their RP value by five. This incentivizes everyone else to try and kill them."
The upcoming update also includes a lot of new user interface tweaks and effects.
"They help make the game more understandable," he said.