Originally released on the Nintendo Switch in 2017, Earth Atlantis was developed by Anucha Aribarg, a designer with a background in industrial and architecture. According to the provided booklet in the special physical Elite Edition by VGNYSoft, Earth Atlantis began as several sketches based on futuristic submarines. This explains the design choice of the game a lot, as it's one of the most unique designs I've experienced in a video game.
Everything is hand drawn, sure, but the aesthetic and designs reminded me of early industrial blueprints that you'd see in architectural designs. It's a cool concept that I'm surprised I had yet to see implemented in a video game until now. When I think of "shmups," I think of futuristic designs or "cute colorful graphics." This unique design not only sets it apart from other shmups, but it also keeps things the same with its post-apocalyptic plot.
A cataclysmic event known as "The Great Climate Shift" caused 96% of the Earth to submerge underwater, effectively wiping out almost all of humanity. If that's not bad enough, it has also affected marine life as machines have adopted the shape and form of various lifeforms. As a Hunter, you're the last remaining hope between civilization and a dystopian world ruled by underwater machines.
So I have to ask, what is the obsession with shmups and fish? When I looked at the mediocre After Wave Downfall, it provided an emphasis on "marine life" as well. The originator behind the entire concept is of course the Darius series, but even I'm curious as to how the correlation between "fish machines" and "shoot-em-ups" come about. It fits Earth Atlantis beautifully because, again, Pixel Perfex began its industry journey by sketching submarines.
These very submarines are the "mechs" in this game, each with a different upgrade path, pros & cons, and firing patterns. Initially, the player begins with the Nautilus, a ship that fires bullets from the front and the rear. One thing the player will immediately notice is that they are spawned at a designated location and are told to "eliminate the threats." After the first five minutes of flailing about, shooting the marine machines, and collecting power-ups, I realized what the purpose of "Quest Mode," was.
Earth Atlantis provides players with a radar that doesn't give much info at first. If you view the radar as what it is rather than a map, it all starts to make sense. The large circle with an outline is your submarine and the blinking nodes are upgrades or points of interest. Getting to these upgrades requires maneuverability to avoid traps and enemy gunfire. In most shmups, the goal is to get from "Point A to B" via an auto-scroller usually. In this game, it's a free open world to explore, much like Ecco the Dolphin on the Sega Genesis.
Come to think of it, Ecco did have some "shmup" elements as well, right? Replace a dolphin with questionable upgrades with a submarine and it's similar. After you collect upgrades and have enough power-ups, it's time to challenge the bosses. Each boss is marked with two clashing swords on the radar and initially, there are two. One is a giant tortoise and the other is a squid, both with different attack patterns and weaknesses. It's up to the player's discretion who to go after first, but be aware that death means that they must start from the beginning.
Earth Atlantis, in collaboration with VGNYSoft for the physical Elite Edition, had shown me what's possible when a genre is taken a different yet familiar approach from the norm. We had visual novels and shmups with Yurukill, open-world environments, and shmups with Earth Atlantis. What's next? Racing games with shmups? I'm fairly certain that combination exists. The possibilities are endless but what isn't endless is the available stock. There are 4000 copies of this game available to purchase on VGNYSoft's site so don't miss out!
Earth Atlantis is available on PC, Nintendo Switch, Sony PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.