There’s very little way Sky Rogue could feel more like Sega’s best from a 1990s arcade than it already does. Blue skies? Check! Graphic style torn from a Model 1 arcade game? You bet! Joyous free-roaming fly & shoot action? Absolutely! Sky Rogue is an arcade game lost in time, with a style 20 years (!) gone but a draw distance powered by modern hardware. You’ve got a jet fighter, a procedurally generated series of islands, no shortage of air and ground targets, and a wide-open sky to get shot out of. The only thing it’s missing is a pop song rambling on about Blue, blue skiiiiiiies… to round out the audio component.
Not only is Sky Rogue a fantastic little low-poly treat, it’s also pay-what-you-want all the way down to $0.00 over on itch.io. It’s still in development, with the latest version being 0.21 released September 25, and while it recently cleared Steam Greenlight developer nihilocrat is unsure as to whether or not to take advantage of Early Access. Honestly, with the current flexible pricing model allowed by itch.io, it would be a little odd to have a set price for Steam, but then again a developer has to eat.
Right now, however, you can fly the blue skies over a hexagonal landscapes dotted with targets, SAM launchers and gun emplacements guarding aircraft launchers shooting enemy drones into the sky, dropping MIRV missiles that pop open to spew out a swarm of self-targeting mini-missiles that bank off to hammer whatever unlucky enemy tripped their sensors. You initially start with a single plane and the default armament, but the current tech progression system (subject to change without notice when and as Sky Rogue evolves during its development process) rewards new fighter craft, missiles, guns, and other abilities as you take down targets. Once a new missile is unlocked you get it added to inventory for free, right up until you die carrying your shiny new toy. After that you’ll need to re-buy it with money earned from (just like the unlocks) causing as much destruction as possible. It’s a simple progression system that fits with Sky Rogue’s arcade sensibilities perfectly, and playing with new missiles is a great way to keep each run fresh. Drop a massive new bomb on a ground target, point your nose to the sky, and then click on target-cam to watch the damage unfold behind you. At the moment the big buildings don’t explode so much as simply turn black, but judging by the way planes shoot smoke and fire as they spiral to the ground it’s only a matter of time before ground targets die in a more visually pleasing fashion.
Sky Rogue, despite its current polish, is still only at 0.21, and a bit buggy. I once had a friendly airport, where you can land to heal and switch planes or weapons, generate right beside a plateau. The runway is short but, like on an aircraft carrier, you come to a halt quickly and the runway angles up and slings you into the sky for takeoff. A few degrees higher on the angle and it might not have shot me straight into a wall for a very funny insta-death. Another time a SAM launcher generated inside the airport, shooting missiles that exploded harmlessly inside. On the plus side, I’ve played a couple dozen games of Sky Rogue over the last several days and these are the only two instances I’ve noticed, and that’s a pretty good percentage for a game in development. There’s a lot that’s going to change or be added over the coming months (current WIP- wingmen) but if Sky Rogue solidified in its current form with never an update again it would still not only be a wonderful tribute to the days when Sega and Namco were trying their best to outdo each other at the arcade, but also a fantastically fun bit of aerial combat action.