Manticore – Galaxy on Fire, a space shooter from Deep Silver, is one of the first games of its kind on Nintendo Switch. While Everspace is coming to the system in the future, nothing has filled that Star Fox void within the systems first year or so like, for example, Masters of Anima has for Pikmin. Manticore – Galaxy of Fire is even further put into an unusual position, as it is technically an enhanced mobile port of a mobile game, Galaxy on Fire 3, that garnered a warm reception from users upon its release on iOS and Android.
Mobile ports on Switch are not inherently a bad thing, as moving to a more powerful system can allow developers to expand on the game’s initial vision and improve the game in many ways. While there is a bit of fun to be had here, Manticore – Galaxy on Fire does not make the transition from console to console smoothly. Outside of some problems with the core game, such as weak voice acting and unrewarding combat, the game also runs into a few technical issues that sully the experience. Ultimately, Manticore – Galaxy on Fire a poor example of what both space shooters and mobile ports can be on Nintendo Switch.
At the beginning of Manticore – Galaxy on Fire, players are recruited into the titular Manticore Mercenary crew. Shortly after that, an event called The Shattering — a giant explosion caused by the volatile element Glow — occurs, killing many prominent figures and plunging the Neox Sector into chaos. Afterward, players continue to follow any lead they can get to find the culprits, running into other mercenary crews and various malevolent pirates along the way.
The story of Manticore – Galaxy on Fire was never particularly engaging, though the world and universe did seem quite lived in, with its lore having a lot of depth. I’d probably attribute this to the fact that this is technically the third game in a series, so this universe has had time to develop. Unfortunately, some of the stories credibility is hampered by hilarious lousy voice acting. On multiple occasions, the voice actors speak choppily, unenthusiastically, or with strange unnatural sounding accents that you’ll be laughing at more than listening to.
While the story and voice acting of Manticore – Galaxy on Fire don’t deliver, those flaws could be glossed over if the gameplay was a ton of fun. The space battles of Manticore – Galaxy on Fire do have some novelty at first, as they scratch that dogfighting itch on Switch and can make you feel badass if you pull off a hotshot maneuver. Sadly, missions quickly become repetitive due to their structure being rooted in a mobile game, and are hindered even more by some frustrating objectives and technical problems.
In total, players will have nine ships to choose from, all of which have unique stats and can have their main weapon, sub-weapon, rockets, and special abilities customized to one’s liking. I ended up going with a slower, but bulky spaceship, as I found the lack of speed a fair trade-off for better shields and health. After choosing a ship, it’s time to jump into a mission.
While some main missions consist of things like a time trial or combat arena, a majority of them will have players clearing a story based objective in a unique environment. This usually boils down to beating a boss at the end of each level, then exploring the area in a more relaxing segment to find more ship parts and intel.
Like the player, these bosses have increased health and shields that make them excellent bullet sponges. When attacking another ship, players will have to aim their reticle at a clearly marked location in front of the enemy ship to hit them. Once that’s done, just keep shooting them until they explode, pretty simple. Some bosses do spice things up by introducing mechanics like regenerating shields, messing with the player ship’s UI, which does break up some of the monotony.
Unfortunately, if a level in Manticore – Galaxy on Fire isn’t repetitive, it’s usually frustrating instead. In on mission, had had to protect a convey with frail health while several enemies, including a boss, were directly attacking either it or me all at the same time, which became infuriating. In another, it became difficult to complete an arena stage because the enemies I had to kill within the time limit would fly out of the arena and out of my range. Missions like these made Manticore – Galaxy on Fire a slog to get through, and those AI problems are just the tip of the iceberg for some technical shortcomings.
While there are technical problems with Manticore – Galaxy on Fire, frame rate was fortunately not one of them. The game ran consistently at 60fps in both handheld and docked mode. Unfortunately, the game doesn’t look all that great; that may be somewhat excusable on a small phone screen, but the game suffers when playing on a large TV. While I understand that Manticore – Galaxy on Fire is a mobile port to the weakest current gen system, the graphics could have been touched up a bit more.
While some of the ship, space stations, and level designs are varied and cool-looking, the textures are pretty low-res and bland, especially in handheld mode. Collision detection was also pretty weak. I saw both enemies and the useless friendly AI clip through various objects, and my ship would react naturally causing the camera to freak out if I ran into something the wrong way because I was trying to break away from the game’s streamlined nature.
While the game does claim to take advantage of HD Rumble, it’s only really used when boosting. Manticore – Galaxy on Fire could make up for some of its graphical shortcomings if it founds other ways to be immersive, especially with some of the Nintendo Switch’s incredibly unique features, but that sadly isn’t the case. Combat remains unfulfilling after a while, and doesn’t give a proper, rewarding feeling to the player through something like HD Rumble.
While Manticore – Galaxy on Fire is one of the first games of its kind on the Switch, it definitely won’t be remembered as the best in the long run. The game is pretty simple to understand, and can even be a tiny bit exhilarating at first in dogfights, and relaxing in the exploration segments. Once that incredibly short space-shooter honeymoon phase wears off though, Manticore – Galaxy on Fire turns into a repetitive, unattractive slog to get through.
If you are itching for a new space shooter on Switch, you may be able to squeeze a bit of enjoyment out of Manticore – Galaxy on Fire, but you are probably just better to wait until Everspace or a new Star Fox comes to the system. If the game still interests you, it’s probably best to just check it out on mobile, where it is available for free. While I do see the potential in bringing mobile games over to consoles like the Switch and improving upon them, Manticore – Galaxy on Fire’s mobile origins still hold it back in too many areas to make it a proper example of what can be done with that transition.