This was officially the fastest, shortest, most bizarre, confusing and possibly the most satisfying game I have ever played. The first thing that springs to mind is that it is, indeed, very Japanese – as one would expect from a game originating from Japanese arcades. It is the first shooter from Cave released in Europe and on North American home consoles.
As with many Japanese games – the story revolves around young girls, who each have their own magic, such as fire, wind, fairy ethereal type powers and the youngest, Casper, who has phantom powers. I actually chose Casper as the character for my first play-through; though she is considered the weakest. I did not know this before playing and I am actually even more pleased to have beaten it with her in that case! Personally, I quite enjoyed her power and the phantoms she produced. All the girls have their own pet familiar, which also fires at enemies. The overall aesthetic is represented nicely through the gothic lolita style – though very busy, with a lot on the screen at once, even in the menus!
I’ve never played a bullet hell game before, and I did pretty well considering that! It has been a completely new experience for me. The game seems suited to new players of the genre however, it does ease you into it, but it does keep getting more and more fast paced. Luckily I have surprisingly good dodging skills already with thanks to Geometry Wars and other games of the ilk.
It is very immersive, intense, and fun, as you simply have to give it your full attention – no sneezing, no blinking, no talking to friends. Unless you’re perhaps a super expert! Which is why they released the difficulty level 999 – wherein you are assumed to be completely and utterly badass and is aimed at the elite. I am very surprised at how quick it was over. It is a very short game indeed, the shortest I have ever played. You do of course get the additional characters to play through as and part of the fun of these games is playing them through several times without any continues or deaths. I’ve never played a game quite like it. In the 40 minutes it took me to complete… I also got 11 achievements, it just kept spitting them out. I particularly like the one for pausing to the menu during game. I mean, if you don’t get an accolade for that then what sense of achievement do you feel?
The obvious main aim of the game is to shoot left and right with A and B, as well as the triggers for more powerful attacks, and a bomb to completely clear the screen, including of bullets, with Y. It’s very good in tricky moments when it looks like all is over. With the ability to use the left analog stick to move all over screen. Very similar to games such as Geometry Wars, when all the bullets are heading straight to you. Having the dexterity and quick skills to dodge bullets, as well as the enemies coming on screen, is a huge part of it and where, of course, the main gameplay lies.
There are many versions and modes of the game available on the disc, including the original arcade title which plays in a very low resolution screen, and then an updated Xbox 360 version, with smoothed graphics, larger play area and 3D backgrounds, which look very nice whilst zooming around and horiztonally-scrolling! These two versions reminded me of the Monkey Island remakes – wherein you can select to choose the new and improved upscaled versions or the original versions. I suppose purists may indeed enjoy the arcade mode more!
I plan to return to it and try some of the other characters and try other modes etc. It has a lasting appeal, though short, to go back and replay the levels with other characters and to gain a higher score. There are scoreboards available in the menus and you can compare with others. There is also the ability to play co-op. It also comes with the soundtrack which is proving to be quite popular and a cult hit, it’s catchy & I recommend it alone!
Definitely fun, very fast paced, very intense, and very short – if you’re also someone who likes beating your own/others high scores, also a winner.