Sky Force Reloaded exclusive preview: A fitting sequel that builds on solid foundations

Indie developer Infinite Dreams' Sky Force is a popular series of mobile shooting games that debuted on Xbox One last year. Now the sequel Sky Force Reloaded is about to hit Xbox too, and Windows Central is proud to bring you this exclusive preview!

Welcome to Sky Force

Sky Force Reloaded Xbox One

Sky Force is a vertically scrolling shoot 'em (shmup) up that uses the full 16:9 playing field – a nice upgrade over the mobile version's portrait-style presentation. The move from phones to Xbox also brings much improved controls, although (slightly disappointingly) only the left analog stick is supported for steering. Still, beats covering the screen with your finger.

Reloaded functions as both an enhanced version of Sky Force Anniversary and a sequel. The actual story, minimal though it is, involves the daughter of the first game's villain returning to exact her revenge on the heroic Sky Force.

Sky Force Reloaded Xbox One

The same nine levels and four difficulty levels from the last game are included, along with six new and extra tough stages. Sky Force is designed for players to grind every level multiple times, so you're really going to get a lot of playtime out of Reloaded.

Every level and difficulty has four optional goals, such as destroying all enemies, rescuing all prisoners (by hovering over them until they escape), and taking no damage. When you complete an objective for the first time, you'll earn a medal.

Sky Force Reloaded Xbox One

By earning all four medals on one difficulty level of a stage, you'll unlock the next difficulty for that stage. Enemies do more damage and have more life on higher difficulties, but the basic layout and enemy formations remain the same. Each higher difficulty level offers four more medals to earn before you can reach the next difficulty, so you'll have plenty of reason to keep playing and improving your performance on a level.

Downed enemies leave behind stars to collect. These make a satisfying sound when you scoop them up, and they also act as currency. Numerous upgrades are available for purchase from the hangar, including health, main cannon upgrades, wing cannons that add small auxiliary shots to your weapon, a star magnet, homing missiles, and three power ups. All have multiple levels of upgrades to purchase.

Reloaded with more content

Sky Force Reloaded Xbox One

The upgrade system is just one of the ways that Reloaded has expanded beyond Sky Force Anniversary. Whereas each weapon and power-up had ten levels of upgrades before, all can now be upgraded far more than ten times – some have as many as sixty upgrades to purchase. Leveling up your equipment and becoming ever-more powerful is a huge part of Sky Force's appeal, so more upgrades certainly adds to the fun.

New to Reloaded is the ship part system. While playing levels, you'll sometimes find a ship piece. Complete the level without dying to keep the piece. Once you find all five parts of a ship, you'll unlock it as a playable craft. Each ship has unique stats as bonuses, such as increased health or speed. On Xbox, Reloaded even offers Achievements for beating all fifteen levels with each ship, so get ready to assemble those ships and put them to work!

Sky Force Reloaded Xbox One

The final major new mechanic here is the objective system. Under the Objective menu, you'll find various Achievement-like mini-objectives such as defeating a certain number of enemies, rescuing a number of hostages, or participating in the weekly tournament. As you complete these objectives, you'll earn prestige points. Collect enough points and you'll unlock new technicians. Each technician offers a unique bonus, but you can only equip one at a time.

Get ready to reload!

Sky Force Reloaded Xbox One

The mobile version of Sky Force Reloaded is one of my favorite phone games, so it's great to see it coming to Xbox One as a premium title with all free to play elements removed. I've only spent a few hours with the Xbox game so far, but it already looks like a highly worthwhile follow-up to Sky Force Anniversary. It will support two-player local co-op as well, with the second player making challenging shooting runs that much easier (the difficulty doesn't increase in co-op).

The Xbox One version of Reloaded comes from Crunching Koalas (makers of MouseCraft), who ported the game for original developer Infinite Dreams. The developers tell us that Sky Force Reloaded won't be launching with Xbox One X enhancements, but they plan to release an update with enhancements for the X in the near future. Reloaded already looks great for a shooting game, so it'll be exciting to see what kind of enhancements (perhaps native 4K support?) it will receive.

Sky Force Reloaded Xbox One

Sky Force Reloaded is scheduled to launch on Xbox One on Friday, December 1 - you can preorder it now. The PlayStation 4 and Steam versions should come on November 28 and 30, respectively. The game will cost $9.99 on all platforms.

Xbox One preview copy provided by the publisher.

Paul Acevedo

Paul Acevedo is the Games Editor at Windows Central. A lifelong gamer, he has written about videogames for over 15 years and reviewed over 350 games for our site. Follow him on Twitter @PaulRAcevedo. Don’t hate. Appreciate!