Platinum Games has lovingly preserved and modernized the docking and formation strategies born in Moon Cresta and Terra Cresta in the form of the “free-form docking” system. The fully formed ship, called The Yamato, comprises three smaller units, each with its own strengths, weaknesses, and utilities. The guide buried in the menus doesn’t quite get to the heart of things, leaving players new to the series confused.
At its most basic, the “free-form docking” system is about arranging The Yamato into configurations that will favor the player and solve the predicament the game presents. To begin with, you should be pushing to match the lead ship with the color of hoops, crates, and switches that crop up throughout the game. Doing so will quickly award you thousands of points and shower The Yamato with power-ups for the rapidly approaching boss encounters.
Take some time in the opening moments of the stage to familiarize yourself with the swapping mechanic, and it’ll be second nature in no time.
When fully formed, The Yamato will pull abilities from the first two ships, leaving the third to act as propulsion, which is purely aesthetic in terms of gameplay. The lead ship determines the standard bullet The Yamato will launch at enemies, while the second ship’s properties will be used for your charge attack. Keep this in mind when forming a strategy.
For instance, if you find yourself close to enemies with large health pools, then the massive drill produced by the charge shot of Unit 03 will serve you much better than the pray-and-spray charge shot of Unit 02. Similarly, bosses tend to buckle in the face of Unit 01’s concentrated pain.
As a general rule, Unit 01’s lead is perfect for handling large swarms of light foes. Place Unit 02 in the lead for its homing missiles, especially when a boss has you darting around on the back foot. Unit 03 should step up during close-range battles and whenever stone obstacles begin cropping up.