So, before anything else, we gotta make something clear. This is not the Star Fox clone you're looking for, it's its own thing.

Okay? Cool.

Now, let's look at the actual game. Manticore - Galaxy On Fire is a space dogfighting game, the latest in the Galaxy On Fire series. You spend the entire game in a ship or a menu, this is purely and strictly a space-flight game. So we'd best hope the space-flight and dogfighting is good. Also, point of note, this is absolutely a game you can come into blind, without playing the previous entries; I know I sure did.

Our actual premise is pretty simple. You're an unnamed, undetailed self-insert pilot. When something goes wrong with your old clunker of a fighter ship, you're just about screwed as space pirates (the best, and coolest kind of pirate) set upon you...At least, until you're pulled out of the fryer by a pair of mercenaries working for the titular group Manticore.

Good news for you, these are the honorable kind of mercenaries, the kind who get hired for things like escort jobs and defensive support. So instead of extorting you for all you have left, they get you safely on board, patch you up, and offer you a job. I don't think it's spoilers to say you accept.

Thus begins the actual game. What you get is a largely straightforward, linear set of missions that range from actual mercenary work, to bounty-hunting more space pirates, to trying to get to the bottom of the actual plot. While you start off with just one ship and its piddly pea-shooters, it doesn't take long before you can get various upgrades, other fighters to take out there, and straight-up new gear to offer different strategies in the thick of it.

Once you've cleared an area and done the mission for it, you can go back and explore the space for intel packages and parts for bigger, crazier ships. This part does stretch out the offerings some, though I've got to admit, the extremely minimal guidance on the cold-cold-warm-warmer-hot style detection of where these things are hiding does make it sometimes turn into downright tedium to find that last piece.

Our actual story is pretty straightforward but solid, with most of the characters coming off a bit stock but fun executions on those archetypes. At its worst, it can come off like the cosmic version of elves-and-dwarves fantasy, but often the details have enough spin and care put into them to give it its own character and charm.

Before we go deeper into my thoughts on gameplay, a quick thing you should know: This is one of those "premium mobile game ported to Switch" situations. Now, like a lot of the ones of these I've actually sat down and played, this is a pretty solid port, with solid graphics, and with all of the microtransaction stuff chopped off. This doesn't leave a perfect situation, with some of the seams of old mobile-focused content still showing, but it holds together quite well...and quite frankly, almost certainly ends up working better and less expensively than the original free-to-play form.

Okay, that's out of the way, let's talk gameplay. Dogfighting is, unsurprisingly, the core of the experience. Whipping through asteroid fields, careening along the edges of space colonies, ducking through the floating wreckage of some terrible battle, all that classic stuff. And for the most part, it works really well. It's just the little bits that keep it from greatness, as well as show the mobile origins a bit more.

Perhaps the biggest one is the aiming and turning of your ship. Like any classic arcadey flight game, you line your ship up to fire, no adjusting angles or free-moving gunner seats here. But between a decently sized deadzone at the center of the joystick's movement, and the difficulty in getting a tight enough turn radius, there's this hint of struggle to either make the big sweeping moves you want, or the tight adjustments you sometimes need.

That the game lacks the classic solution to these problems, the old U-turn automated stunt maneuver, only adds to the sting of it. You do have a barrel roll, but it's somewhat limited, both in its dodging ability and how much sideways momentum it gives you.

A decent chunk of this, I will be fair, is tied into your starting ship being a bit of a clunker and having started life as more of an old-reliable sturdy boat type of thing. Once you get some faster, leaner, more fragile things to play with, a lot of this opens up more and you feel more room to work with.

And speaking of faster, that does bring me to one other key trouble; sense of speed. While you get some good speed sensation when you hit the boost, by default you feel like you're doing some very gentle coasting a lot of the time. Some of this is as simple as the positioning of the camera, which feels close enough to your ship, and always hooked to its backside, that it's keeping up just a little too easily. This feels like another quirk brought from its mobile origins; the close camera and tight centering make plenty of sense on a 5 inch touchscreen with your thumbs on either side...But even on the Switch's handheld mode, let alone on a good sized TV? It ends up feeling like there's a lot of under-utilized space.

Now, when you do take it as it is, at the end of the day this is a very solid little dogfighter kind of game. Its quirks and limitations keep it from reaching true greatness, and it's probably going to be hurt in some eyes simply by the fact that it's a starfighter game that's not that Star Fox clone we're all wanting...But on its own merits, it's definitely got something worth your time. I say go for it.