Whipping Out the Arcade Stick Once More

yes, that is a wooden stool
My new STG setup

Shooters, shmups, STG’s, whatever you call them, have quite a long history in videogames. They were probably the first true genre of videogame, and were pretty much the be all, end all until a decade ago, give or take. Long story short, because people preferred easier games that didn’t hand your ass on a platter 9 out of 10 times, the genre pretty much died out. Except in Japan, where these games are still held in (pretty) high regard (at least, compared to other countries).

Around the end of 2004, if memory serves me right, when I was in Xiamen for an overseas study program, I really got into reading webcomics as a way to pass the time – 2 RMB per hour was a pretty decent rate, and the Uni’s computer lab was practically next-door (and it was) to the dorms. It was around that time that I read dom’s rant which talked a bit about Touhou in one of those Megatokyo strips. Curious, I tried to get the game, but every time I ran Embodiment of Scarlet Devil‘s trial edition in the computers, it’d end up crashing, so I never actually got to playing it until I got home mid-December. Having still been stuck using dial-up, I pretty much stayed up overnight (I fell asleep halfway through anyway) downloading a 40mb file. The same goes for Perfect Cherry Blossom. After that, I was totally into danmaku STG’s. That was a few months ago.

Admittedly, this is one long preamble of a story, so now we get to the actual substance of this entry.

nice logo

Enter Cave (Official Site).

They’re well-known for their insanely difficult shooting games, Mushihime-sama, DoDonPachi Dai Ou Jou, ESP Ra. De., and of course, the well-renowned Ketsui.

Of the many games they’re developed, released, and had ported, I have copies of four – Mushihime-sama, DoDonPachi Dai Ou Jou, Ibara, and ESPGaluda.

Spurred by the interest generated from seeing people talk about the games – Mushi, DDPDOJ, and Galuda in particular – I took it upon myself to play the games. First, I had to actually get a copy of the game. Given my low (zero) income, I had to resort to “aquiring” a copy through the internet. That done, I needed to get a decent arcade stick – one by Hori (because you know, they make some awesome peripherals) – so I did.

Initially, Mushi was loads of fun. I was able to make it through to the third stage, if I was balancing scoring and survival. Fourth if I got lucky. But then that was it. It was just too hard. I’d known Cave games to be unbelievably tough, but it had just gotten to the point of ridiculousness. So then I moved to Ibara… and quickly dropped it. Bombing on bosses, planning deaths, and ranking systems were just too complex, too detaching from the STG as a game. Even worse, the game had bullets as thin as a hair, shrouded by the clouds of smoke, all aimed at you. And even Mushi‘s scoring system was just a little too complex for the lay gamer. So then I tried DDP DOJ. Still no good. The game wasn’t insane like Mushi, but I just couldn’t help but die. Bombs are incredibly useful in any shooting game, but for some reason, I’ve conditioned myself to not bomb (blame Perfect Cherry Blossom). And I slowly drifted away from shooting games in general – even Touhou wasn’t spared (the fact that the series as a whole was taking a radically different direction as compared to before doesn’t help either).

it's a girl.
Almost all the fanart I’ve seen is of Seseri

And then I found ESPGaluda.

First thing I noticed about the game was that it was actually played off a CD. No more than 400mb in size, in fact. This was before I made myself a copy. Second thing was that the characters changed sex upon entering Kakusei mode. This was when I read a guide. Third thing is that the game is damn fun.

The difficulty curve this time ’round isn’t so unforgiving, unlike Mushi or DDPDOJ. The scoring system is very simple in execution. You can either collect gems and then enter Kakusei mode to convert enemy bullets to gold ingots, thereby increasing the score, or you can go into Kakusei overmode for much of the game, and well, good luck.

I’m not at all qualified to write a true review of the game. I’ve yet to 1cc the game, and I haven’t played enough shooters to sharpen my still-rough and unrefined tastes. However, I can definitely say it’s one of Cave’s finer offerings for those unfotunate enough to not have any arcades smart enough to get cabinets of their work (yours truly included). Go play it.

she turns into a boy
And some Tateha for good measure.

5 Responses to “Whipping Out the Arcade Stick Once More”

  1. October 30, 2008 at 10:17 pm


  2. October 30, 2008 at 10:33 pm

    you know, that’s interesting. i’ve played both Mushi and Galuda, and i found galuda much much harder to pick up than mushi was. after a bit of practice with mushi i’ve been able to get to the true final boss on Ultra mode without dying and i can 1cc Maniac mode or whatever the second difficulty is called. i switch to galuda and i usually lose two or three lives on stage one.

    i guess maybe your head is wired for Galuda. :3

  3. November 1, 2008 at 3:15 pm

    Snacks, tate is the only true way to play shmups! :O
    Quote, hey, long time no see lol. Mushi was just too hard for me to play through, but I don’t know why. I’m probably too focused on the scoring (hooray for rapidfire full-auto) to properly play well.

  4. 4 V2
    November 2, 2008 at 7:43 am

    er… poor TV?

  5. February 19, 2010 at 12:47 am

    Espgaluda II is so much fun! Love shmups!


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