Hard Mode: “Shmups” and All Their Curtain Fire Goodness
- August 29th, 2011
- By MogKnight
Games can be pretty hard. Hard Mode is a feature of The Mog Blog that loves to showcase some of the most difficult and ridiculous challenges that can be found in games; recent, old, near or far. Warning: We are not responsible for any damaged controllers or equipment due to attempts at trying these out.
“Shmups” or Shoot’em Ups are games that involves you flying some sort of shiplike object while shooting enemies and dodging bullets. This all began towards the very beginning with games like Gradius and Lifeforce and eventually it grew into various subgenres like the vertical kind and the type where the screen is all flooded with bullets.
Shmups are generally not easy. While staying alive is a priority, being able to keep top score is another. Though these games are generally short, a lot of fun can be had by trying to survive the most insane bullet patterns and to obtain that high ass score for all the people to gawk at… Which is generally only really reserved for online leaderboards as far as anyone is concerned.
There has been some great shmups games like Raiden. There has also been some very obscure ones. If one digs deep enough, one can find some very insane challenges in these titles. This created another subgenre of shmups with many different names ranging from “Curtain Fire” to “Maniac Shooters” to “Bullet Hell” or just “Danmaku.”
What the hell is a Danmaku?
A Danmaku (literally meaning curtain of bullets) is a game that focuses purely on filling the entire screen for the players to wade their way around without getting hit. Because of the nature of this game, the player’s ship may seem too big for the game but in actuality the hitbox is very small. Any bullet touching that small hitbox will cause you to get hit and die a horrible death.
Usually these danmaku games (and most shmups for that matter) give you the ability to throw out a bomb that will eliminate all the bullets and enemies on screen. Some of these games will penalize you for using bombs by either resetting or lowering your score multiplier or doing something that may restrict your access to the game’s secret boss. In any case, sometimes you will need to use bombs as you will find yourself getting trapped or overwhelmed by these bullet patterns.
And that’s another interesting thing to note about these danmaku games: patterns. A lot of those bullets being spread all over your screen do have a set pattern and thus have some reason within the mayhem. Even though it may seem like these bullet spreads are impossible, it will take you several deaths to fully understand just how to find ways to get around it. Some of this can be considered an art form. It is also clear that the programmers of these games do this just because “Hey, it looks very beautiful.”
Let’s talk a bit about some of these games.
If anyone were to ask me to explain Touhou to them, I’m fairly certain another person is going to get offended and be like “That’s not what Touhou is!” However, for the sake of us gamers, Touhou is a series of games that are primarily focused on the Shmup genre and is filled with many characters that have been subjected to many many many different interpretations by the fans. This is as anime as you can get without any anime involved, really.
What brings me to talk about Touhou and their Shmup games is that generally their games come in different difficulty levels. The hardest one is often labeled as “Lunatic” and rightfully so. To explain how crazy it gets, let me show you something outta YouTube
Throughout the many years of Touhou games (and man, there’s a lot of them), the insane Lunatic mode and the ever awesome music always brings back everyone. Touhou has gone on to become a rather famous brand that was just made by one guy who formerly worked at Taito. In any case, if you want a damn hard challenge, look no further than Touhou.
Cave and Their Shooters
For those looking for something a bit more traditional with their shooters but with that curtain of death, look no further than Cave to provide you death upon death upon death. Perhaps more known in the US for releasing Deathsmiles, Cave’s library of games are still pretty much centered in Japan. Thankfully, some of them have made it over the pond with their iOS releases like Espgaluda II and DoDonPachi Resurrection. However, those wanting to play it on a console… Well, you might not be out of luck actually but it all depends on what you want to pay.
Before I talk about that though, lets see what happens when you type into YouTube “Hardest Boss Ever.” You’ll end up finding this video here:
This little gem of a bastard boss is from Mushihimesama Futari, a game that never made it out over here but thankfully is region-free and can be purchased for about 34 dollars + shipping at Play-Asia. Though most regard this as the hardest boss ever in shmup history, Cave actually outdid themselves later on with a game called DoDonPachi Dai-Fukkatsu Black Label:
Actual Boss Fight Starts at 1:30
For those seeking Cave games, their choice of system for releasing their newer games is on the Xbox 360. Some of these games are not region free so here’s a list of what you can buy and any extra notes:
Deathsmiles: This did have an official US release and there’s also a nice limited edition version if you want an old Xbox 360 faceplate and extra stuff. Easily obtainable.
Deathsmiles 2: This can only be purchased within the Xbox 360′s Games on Demand section for 30 dollars in the US. Digital release only.
DoDonPachi Dai-Fukkatsu (Resurrection): Rising Star Games is actually porting this over to PAL regions. It was also stated that the game will be region-free for the US players as well. I know what I’m picking up later this Fall! Black Label is assumed to be in the game as well so you can give that boss a try… or not.
Mushihimesama Futari: This little gem, again, can be picked up from Play-Asia for roughly 35 dollars. This is a region-free and will work on all Xboxes. Yes, you will have Japanese achievements and people will probably bug you on your friend’s list going “The hell are you playing?!” because the title is in Japanese. Become the talk of the town by getting this! The game also features Black Label which costs 1200 MSP to buy (original game required of course).
ESPGaluda II: This game can also be bought from Play-Asia for the same price and is also region-free.
Guwange: This one is a bit of a unique title as it still has a ton of bullets to dodge but it is also one of the more easier titles (which is not saying much). Guwange can be bought off of Xbox Live Arcade for 800 MSP. A good entry point to the Cave shootesr if I say so myself.
Now you can go really hardcore with some of these games and go beyond crazy by having a monitor dedicated to these games (remember that the original aspect of these games require that you have a monitor that is vertical) but with how you can buy yourself a 100-150 dollar monitor with VGA input and have it standing on its side… Well, that’s not really Hard Mode material, that’s more Hardcore Mode… That sounds like an idea.
Though for those that aren’t hardcore enough, there are iOS versions of some of these games. If you want to get your danmaku fix on your iPhone, you can find Deathsmiles, Dodonpachi Resurrection, ESPGaluda II and “Mushihimesama Bug Panic” for about 12 bucks a pop.
In any case, feel free to comment in this post about any difficult shmup games that you have played and your experiences about them or even compare them to any other challenges you’ve seen in any game. What really frustrated the hell out of you? Let us know! We might go into more detail and talk about in the next Hard Mode feature!