The vertical shooter is my bread and butter. Ikaruga, the Touhou series, and former BBacklog Challenge title eXceed 3rd are all games I regard highly, and have sunk many many hours into each. I always get excited when one comes up on the BBLC (Mushihimesama is on there aaaaaa). You would think this fervour would survive a 90-degree spin clockwise, but somehow horizontal shooters always leave me cold.
I’m not sure why. My best guess, having moderate experience with both, is that vertical shooters tend to focus more on bullet patterns, while horizontal shooters are more about enemy placement. The difference is narrow on the surface, but greatly change how the game is approached. A game focused on bullet patterns is played far more defensively, while one focused on enemy placement needs an aggressive approach.
Sorry, Revolver360, for using your entry to muse on the minutiae of game sub-genres; the truth is, I just don’t have much interesting to say about you. Thankfully, as I’ve said many times before, this is a blog more than it is a review site, so I’m allowed to do that.
Because, yes, Revolver360 looks like it should be 120% up my alley. A shooter with a gimmick (the entire game world can be revolved around the X axis to move impassable bullet patterns out of the way in three dimensions), but I just could not get into it. I had similar feelings for it as I did for Astebreed, in that most of the time I was just holding down the various attack buttons and moving around and the rest of the game seemed to play itself, although thankfully R360 keeps the anime nonsense to a minimum.
Fin or Bin:
My own leanings aside, Revolver360 succumbs greatly to the trap of style over substance. It’s visually very striking, entirely in shades of blue except for vital enemy bits, but that comes at a seriously high cost- I very often lost my own position on the screen and everything else was just kind of a blur of Things Happening. I was quite disappointed by Binning this one, as I fully expected to love it, but unfortunately it just wasn’t meant to be.
No video for this one- Twitch was having network issues and I couldn’t get a stable connection for more than 5 seconds before it cut out again.
But don’t worry, you didn’t miss much. I don’t have a clue what happened at pretty much any point of my time with it.
Ostensibly, Astebreed is a game I should enjoy. A visceral, fast-paced shooter with lots of enemies and even more explosions, plus screen-filling bosses to humiliate. And, yes, it’s probably quite a spectacle to watch, but…
Watching is all I was doing. I just held down the Shoot button, and the Sword button, and the game just… played itself around me. The sword destroys enemy projectiles and takes down pretty much all foes in one swing, so all I had to do was just sit in the middle of the screen watching my robot-guy flail around like a lunatic while everything exploded all around him. This was interspersed with utterly baffling anime cutscenes which seemed to cram an entire series’ worth of shonen into 12 seconds; one such cutscene saw a reunion, a betrayal, a redemption, and a declaration of vengeance, all within 5 stills.
Fin or Bin:
It all coalesces into a completely baffling soup of explosions and melodrama and at no point did I feel like I was in control or even really necessary. It felt like I could tape down the Shoot and Sword buttons and go make myself a cup of tea, and come back to a completed game- the benefit of which being I get to skip all the hammy theatrics, and also have a cup of tea. It doesn’t really count as a fin if the game finished itself, does it? I had good hopes for Astebreed, but into the Bin it goes.
Just four posts ago I played the sequel to today’s title and was absolutely bowled away by it. Afterwards, I rushed out and bought the first title in this series and, with a little bit of cheating and luck manipulation, expedited its turn in the backlog list.
So, why did I start with Part 2? FDF is a series that reimagines the earlier touhou games into a more modern perspective- HD textures and sprites, more involved danmaku, and so on. Part 2 is a reimagining of Touhou 7, my personal favourite, and I’d rather try out a fave than a remake of one I’m less fond of.
It’s a decision I’m glad I made, since much of what amazed me about Part 2 is absent from Part 1. It’s perhaps unfair to compare the first effort of a group of fans to their second, especially since Part 1 is still a fine game; but where Part 2 was one amazing thing after another, the surprises of Part 1 are far more spread apart. Part 2 had sublime art direction, excellent attention to detail (it’s the little things- the spellcard declarations in FDF2 are a treat), and unique exciting danmaku patterns, showcasing unexpected ideas and tricks that set each battle apart.
Part 1 doesn’t really have any of that. It’s a good danmaku game, but it doesn’t really get past Good. There’s definite flashes of brilliance but it feels like a warmup for Part 2.
Fin or Bin:
I got a 1cc on my first try, during the stream, which then unlocked Extra. I dipped my toes into that, but hoo boy that’s a difficulty spike. I never managed to beat Flandre in the original Touhou 6, I wonder if I can Finish her off in the remake?
Video coming up just as soon as I can get it to export in a watchable fashion! It always comes out too choppy to watch, which in a touhou video is motion sickness city. EDIT: Here!
I don’t like to spend too long talking about new Touhou releases- the primary point of this blog is to sort my backlog based on games I want to play, and there’s really no question which pile each new Touhou will go into.
Touhou 17 is the 28th game in the series (29th if you count Gold Rush), a fact which puts Kingdom Hearts to shame. This time, animal spirits from Hell are rushing into the living world to force a takeover, so our heroine of choice throws herself head-first into the bowels of Hell to give them all a right proper spanking.
I went with Marisa this time! I always play Reimu first so wanted a change of pace. The explosions from Marisa’s missiles make it impossible to see anything, but who cares about dodging when you can just out-gun everyone?
Each main-series title has its particular Quirk, and Th17 combines the UFO-collecting of Th12 with the temporary spirit-world protection of Th13. As far as Quirks go, I rate it Fine/10- there’s not as much value to it as the UFOs (life pieces aren’t tied to collecting certain UFOs over others).
Fin or Bin:
1CC on my first try, now tackling Extra. Otter Beast seems to be the way to go, but I worry they’re probably too slow to be of much help in Extra. I’m just about good enough to Finish the Extra stage in each game, so off I go!
It took me a while to figure out what was bothering me about Jamestown, when it so clearly seems to be my sort of thing. A vertical shooter with lovely retro pixelart graphics and a great soundtrack is 100% me, but playing Jamestown left me cold.
It was actually while looking for a screenshot to add to this post that it occured to me. A lot of the deaths I had were from some enemy that I had no time to get to getting below my ship and off screen but still shooting at me. The source of this problem is that Jamestown is a vertical shooter entirely oriented horizontally- not only in the screen dimension but also the fact it has a significant amount of horizontal scrolling. Enemies enter from the sides of the screen and are already below the playing area by the time you can even see they exist.
This was coupled with a bug affecting the most recent build that turns all enemy projectiles grey, making them frustratingly hard to see. It’s been that way since 2015 and will likely never get patched at this point, but there’s a way around it by running a Legacy build.
Fin or Bin:
This is a real tough decision. On paper everything’s in place for this to be an obvious Fin, but I wasn’t enjoying my time with Jamestown. Even the level select system is a bizarre choice in this genre- most STGs you play from start to finish, with the main challenge being resource management. Ultimately, I want to give the game another chance to impress now I’ve realised some of the issues were caused by fixable bugs, but I’m going to put in in the Bin, next to Jet Set Radio. I feel like it deserves another chance.
Jamestown is actually the game that has been on my backlog longest, having been bought in December 2011. It took seven years, but I finally justified that purchase!
(Update: I didn’t buy it! I won it! It was one of the prizes available in Steam’s Christmas sale event! My backlog is overloaded with games I somehow received free of charge and it started right here!)
Hard to say. It reminded me a lot of Axelay on the SNES as I was playing it, but the two aren’t directly comparable. Jamestown is pretty tough, but in a lot of frustrating ways. I probably wouldn’t recommend it to anyone, specifically, but I also definitely wouldn’t caution anyone against it if they were interested.
This one’s more my speed. An arcadey-style vertical STG with a staggering 17 different ships to choose from, six stages of explosions and lasers await.
This is more of a frenetic twitchy kind of STG rather than a more pattern/memory-based game like Touhou, and I typically prefer the latter. Super Galaxy Squadron does something pretty unusual in that, rather than having a lives system where one touch means death, you instead have a health bar you can recharge through the level when you take a hit. It’s an interesting way to rebalance things, since there’s no early-game stockpiling of lives to take you through the final levels- every stage is the same clean slate, and you have to get through with what you’re given.
I’m pretty good at these kind of games, so I actually managed to finish the arcade mode during my hour. I think the replay value is a lot higher for someone who would need to practice a few times before getting their 1CC, but there’s also an Endless Mode which is a really neat addition I’ve not seen another game do before.
Fin or Bin:
As stated, I already finished the main game mode, but there’s a Boss Rush mode I didn’t get chance to play during my hour. I’ll be heading back to Finish that.
The ship selection might be a little overwhelming to STG newbies, but the gameplay itself is pretty simple, and the lower difficulty settings- coupled with the health system- are fairly forgiving. For veterans, there’s a slew of options that make it more difficult. It’s a good package for anyone who has an interest in STG.