Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night
Welcome to the end of the universe! The Last Sunshine: Rekindled is a challenging shoot ‘em up/bullet-hell rouge-lite in which you embody the last surviving stars as they drive back the ceaseless darkness that has brought about the end.
Something that’s always messed with me is the denouement of the cosmos. The knowledge that, although the universe feels infinite, it is finite, and will one day come to an end is a bit unnerving. How can something as monumental as the known universe share mortality in common with me? This title is set at that point; when the universe goes through a theory known as heat death.
As the universe expands indefinitely; matter gets further and further apart. Eventually, this constant diffusion makes celestial reproduction impossible. The cycle of dead star matter making up the kindling for new ones to form ends. As the stars die out, the universe gets colder, more isolated, and desolate. A slow fade into darkness.
It’s a genuinely depressing theory and thought. However, The Last Sunshine: Rekindled gives you a chance to refuse that outcome. It personifies the darkness and places you in control of a selection of stars that live on at the end. You can push back the darkness, defeating its acolytes, while collecting starlight scattered throughout the cosmos.
I loved the idea, as it makes heat death less of an inescapable outcome, and more of a fight for survival. And a chance for life to continue. Your enemies have names and display their desperate aggression as they try and snuff out the last bit of light. They’re tangible threats that can be fought and beaten.
Rage Against the Dying of the Light
In this bullet-hell and shoot ‘em up hybrid you start off as Sol; a star which I’m sure many are familiar with. I’m not sure how it lived till the end of the universe and even then still hasn’t become a red giant, but I’ll suspend my disbelief. More stars are unlocked as you play and collect remnants, and each one has its speciality. Such as Vega, a blue main-sequence star that has an affinity for shields. Or Titan, a slow-moving giant, that comes with a lot more HP.
Alongside their character traits, they also have unique abilities and firing styles that differentiate them. Each star begins with a variety of skills, four of which are equipped. One utility skill, such as a burst of speed. One high damage attack that uses up mana points that cannot be changed, for example, Sol’s AOE attack. And finally, you’ve got your two most vital default skills that can be used as much as you’d like. These include basic attacks such as a continuous stream of projectiles and a burst of bullets that do great damage at short range.
These last two skills, however, can be swapped out for more powerful options as you collect them from chests, and other hiding spots. One of my favourites was Titan’s ability to spew a cloud of poisonous gas, which was perfect for the tank of a star. It could get in, absolutely wreck everything near it and leave to regenerate its HP.
RNG is the deciding factor when it comes to which offensive attacks you pick up as you make your way through the areas. In some runs it can be painfully withholding, and in others, you’ll struggle to choose which two you love more. There’s a solid number of skills to choose from between each star. This makes for well-needed variety, in a game where visually, and in gameplay, it can be a little samey.
Highs & Lows
This is a challenging title in which you need to balance aggression and evasion. Some enemies will actively try to make your life as difficult as possible. Like the generator which will not only shoot projectiles, but also spawn little dudes that chase you down a lot quicker than you’d expect. The gameplay is executed well for the most part. Especially in the unforgiving boss fights, requiring focus and at times a little strategy, aside from the usual dodging and shooting. These encounters are the highlight of gameplay, dancing around huge projectiles, while trying to get in close to do some proper damage. However, outside of these big and exciting fights, things eventually got a little stale.
Being a rogue-lite means you’ll be making multiple runs. While the layout, and which abilities you collect do change; the gameplay does not. You can vary things such as which star you use, but for an effective run, you’ll undoubtedly choose a favourite. Of course, this doesn’t exactly help the repetitive feeling in its gameplay. The challenge helps, but I felt that when you tend to make multiple expeditions in the same areas, fighting the same kinds of enemies loses its novelty fast. More enemy variety within each area would have made a big difference. Advancing to a new area does at least shake things up, but die in that second area and you’ll be back where you started facing the same old scrubs.
The Last Sunshine: Rekindled allows some progression between runs. You level up your stars as you play with them; increasing their power, HP, and mana. Throughout your playthroughs, you’ll also collect cores which are used for more permanent upgrades. These cores are also used to unlock new stars once you’ve collected the required remnants. However, something I unexpectedly appreciated was the passive upgrades. These upgrades influenced things like base HP, shield ratings, damage output, and movement speed. This meant you could take a slow-moving tank like Titan and pump movement speed and HP regen to create the darkness’ worst nightmare. The fact that these upgrades weren’t permanent meant that experimentation was not only viable but encouraged.
I appreciated the backgrounds of the battlegrounds at first. It’s a post-apocalyptic universe with fading dust clouds and galaxies off in the distance. But again, the lack of variety poked its head out. The areas had alternative passages and nooks, but essentially sported the same design. As you can imagine, this gets old, and after a while, you stop paying attention to the background completely. There are some changes as you move to a new area. But the art style still didn’t do anything particularly noteworthy, which was a bit disappointing.
One important thing I should mention is a bit of a stuttering issue I had at times. Whenever a boss fight first popped off and there were a lot of things moving about between their attacks, and my own skills. There would be a second of freezing, this was quite a consistent issue. It never impacted my gameplay too much and was always once-off in the encounter, but it happened each time I fought a boss. While not a dealbreaker, it was a recurring problem worth mentioning.
I may have had my issues with repetitive gameplay, and lacklustre art style. However, the high points of the fast-paced and intense boss fights, as well as the variety in each star’s moveset and build helped balance things out considerably. It’s a flawed, but enjoyable bullet-hell title, that can provide some fun for those with a love for the genre. However, I couldn’t necessarily say it hit home with me.