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Dracula

Plastic Vampire
(He/His)
@Sarge Absolutely love Gate of Thunder. I own a copy and it's been on my list for a long time to finally get through it. One of the first PCE games I tested out (by burning it onto a disc) after I got my system back in 2015.
 

spines

behold my godlike
(she/her, or something)
I 1CC'd it a couple of times on Easy and am working on a Normal clear and think I just enjoy everything that puts you off about it. I like that there's a new system (like always) that's solidly themed around the narrative (like always) and which lends a light persistence to Touhou it's not really had before; that the abilities that govern your new toolset are derived from known characters in accordance with their natures is the best kind of flavour that I could ask for, I think. There's a lot about the balance that feels at odds with the neutral immediacy of the shoot 'em up baseline in fresh and aged files being essentially the same as far as the act of play goes, as the cards you purchase during runs and add to your deck grow into a huge difference-maker, but again this connects to one of my favourite aspects about the series in that it's never been afraid to deviate from the norms despite being carried on the developer and audience end by extreme niche enthusiasts with ostensibly very set in stone preferences and expectations. The game feels extraordinarily hard this time on default difficulty, and I think that's nice after a couple of relatively "gentler" games; in turn you now have the ability to precisely customize the manner in which you begin closing that gap; it feels mindful of its own nature in the same way Legacy of Lunatic Kingdom was, in providing the tools to overcome or emotionally "circumvent" the hardships. A number of the ability cards interact with the game in ways that make them feel like they're speaking another language altogether, more in common with the spinoff puzzlers, which is another new interesting variable next to the "get stronger and maybe bomb" paradigm that's still the core of play.

Just very into it and am looking forward to the translation as I really want to know what this new cast is all about beyond audiovisual presence, which remains great. As Antinomy of Common Flowers was about bubble economics, Unconnected Marketeers may end up being about cryptocurrency. A game for our times.
i'm glad you're enjoying it! i really wanted to avoid saying it's bad, because i also have a high regard for zun's work, especially in a holistic sense where even when there's something i don't exactly enjoy about it i generally feel like i understand it, and the experimental and thematic nature of his work is a big part of that appreciation, especially in the case of something like this that uses a kind of fanservice in such a novel and constructive way. in this case, i really do think it mostly is that the genre that's being connected to this time is one that i've never found easy to enjoy in the first place, not some kind of underlying fault in the game
 
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Peklo

Oh! Create!
(they/them, she/her)
I do acknowledge that recovery from death feels especially and uncommonly punitive, and the more I play the more it all feels like genuinely the hardest game in the series to cope with on a base level with the intensity of the patterns, lack of easy outs from them, and the durability of the enemies--absolutely nothing about it is free. I waver between delighting in that and wondering if it's working as intended at the same time... and then I get access to some new tool that flips my habits on its head and it feels like I "get" the game again in how it wants to be interacted with.
 

Sarge

hardcore retro gamin'
@Dracula: I got my Duo in late 2017. Funnily enough, I still don't have much in the way of legit stuff. Actually, that shouldn't be surprising - it's a very expensive system to collect for. Did make sure to get an EverDrive, though. My drive is finicky about CD-Rs, and if I had to do it over again, I'd get a Duo-R/RX or a base PC Engine with a SSDS3. But I'm livin' the dream, owning a system I'd always wanted! Now about getting a Neo Geo...
 

Dracula

Plastic Vampire
(He/His)
Hah, yeah. My PCE collection is the smallest of my retro game collection. I have an everdrive and maybe around a dozen games, and I only pick up new ones every now and then. And even though I have a refurbished CD drive, it's still finnicky.
 

Sarge

hardcore retro gamin'
Good to know - sounds like that's just something that's common with the systems. It's not like my Sega CD or Saturn where I can pretty much throw anything at it and it's like, "Sure, no prob!"
 

ShakeWell

Slam Master
(he, etc.)
@Dracula: I got my Duo in late 2017. Funnily enough, I still don't have much in the way of legit stuff. Actually, that shouldn't be surprising - it's a very expensive system to collect for. Did make sure to get an EverDrive, though. My drive is finicky about CD-Rs, and if I had to do it over again, I'd get a Duo-R/RX or a base PC Engine with a SSDS3. But I'm livin' the dream, owning a system I'd always wanted! Now about getting a Neo Geo...

I got my Duo-R in 2011, and it's honestly bananas the extent to which that particular system's games have gone up. There were always expensive ones (Sapphire, Dracula X), but back then? You could get lots of loose Hueys on eBay for very little. Even a complete copy of Salamander only set me back about $25 then. And I got like five of the wrestling games in a lot for maybe $10?

Neo-Geo, though? I splurged on a Darksoft kit and almost two years into owning one, I still don't have a single official game.

Hah, yeah. My PCE collection is the smallest of my retro game collection. I have an everdrive and maybe around a dozen games, and I only pick up new ones every now and then. And even though I have a refurbished CD drive, it's still finnicky.

Due to the above reasons, my PCE collection is definitely bigger than my 32x or NGPC collection (those libraries' size is also a factor), but yeah, a refurbished drive is a must. Mine hasn't failed me yet. *knocks every piece of wood in the room*
 

Sarge

hardcore retro gamin'
I feel like if I got a Neo Geo, I'd get one legit cart, and just play the rest on my MiSTer. Although a Darksoft cart is tempting.

Tell you what, maybe I'll make it Magician Lord just for you. ;)

*checks price*

*spits out drink*

Okay, maybe that Darksoft cart is looking better.
 

Peklo

Oh! Create!
(they/them, she/her)
Got the Normal 1CC in TH18; Sanae's shot coverage combined with judicious bombing (which I'm historically really bad at in every shooter despite ostensibly knowing better; like I'm somehow "cheating" at the game despite stuff like that nearly always being a central mechanic) was enough to pull it off. The ability cards continue to be really crucially-felt gamechangers conceptually and practically: the one most relevant to my clearing the game was the Yuyuko-themed "Danmaku Ghost" card, which erases a bullet nearby for every few bullets grazed, with basically nothing exempt from its effects--Misumaru's giant Yin-Yang orbs get plopped away the same as anything else, for example. There are just so many permutations to the experience here and discoveries to make along the way.
 

demi

(She/Her)
Grats on your clear, Peklo!

I'm not quite at TH18 yet, but I did just finish a couple clears on Hidden Star in Four Seasons, and I've started playing Wily Beast and Weakest Creature. The sheer amount of options I have available at any given time are pretty staggering: so many different ways to get to Roar mode! Undefined Fantastic Object was more straight forward since the UFO activation accomplished the same thing no matter what colors I got, so it was just a matter of "where do I want this screen clear". Feeling out when it's appropriate to go for a Roar mode that isn't aligned with my aligned spirit seems like it'll take time to put together, so it seems like I just need to throw myself at the game until I start to synthesize an understanding instead of trying to plan too much early on - but I need to pick a character and style first haha! I'm excited to spend more time with the game and even catch up to TH18 eventually.

HSiFS is good but my first clear wasn't very satisfying (Reimu, Fall vs Hard). Fall just accomplishes too much without much planning from the player. I could repeatedly use the same release-then-swoop in-and-out pattern vs bosses with dense patterns by their body to crank score, get extends, trivialize the pattern, and rebuild another activation. It doesn't work for every situation, but then I have all those bombs so.... anyway, I cleared Extra stage with Reimu which was actually very fun, the ideas really worked even if it wasn't the toughest Extra stage overall. But, really I think most of my gripe vs HFiFS was influenced by my selection of the Fall subseason, which was great for snagging a first clear but not for getting a good first impression of the game. I replayed again with Marisa (Spring) and enjoyed myself quite a bit more. While Spring can be utilized like Fall in some places, it generally requires much better positioning and planning to achieve decent score, offer protection, or get big cancels. I think if I played again, I would try to make Winter work since I think it's the most interesting from a strategic perspective, but it's very much focused on the planning aspect.

I started with TH6 almost two years ago now after a fateful night where spines related her love of the series and its world, and ever since I've been totally on board. We watched one of Yusuke's WR clears with Sakuya\Lunatic in Perfect Cherry Blossom the other night and it's mind blowing lol! I loved Silent Sinner in Blue, def want to read Wild & Horned Hermit too but it doesn't have printed copies in English, so I may just start into bedtime reading of spines' copies of Forbidden Scrollery. Haven't even started into the Hifuu Club material yet...
 
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Sarge

hardcore retro gamin'
Probably not that impressive (especially since I "forgot" I'd played through it not terribly long ago), but I managed to 1CC Gun-Nac on NES. Compile really did staff wizards at their company - tremendous programming work in a shooter that feels surprisingly "modern" (with modern being defined as 16-bit/arcade shooters of the time) for the system.
 

Peklo

Oh! Create!
(they/them, she/her)
Unconnected Marketeers seems to me to be a fairly direct reaction and meditation from ZUN to COVID-19 and the ways in which he's grappling personally with the effects it's had on how he creates things and puts them out in the world--Comiket's first cancellation in its history last year surely weighed on his mind and fed into the themes of this game, which deals in economics and commerce in related ways to some previous games in the series, but in a more personal way tied up with the idea of trade being a social and intimate exchange on some inherent level and the idea of marketplaces as physical spaces contrasting with their increasing digitalization into facsimiles of that base state over time and how those branches conflict and clash by parties exploiting them from both ends to the detriment of ultimately all. There's a lot packed in here as far as salient thematics go, and in its way that's not a divergence from Touhou's baseline and the kind of consistently applied writing with intent that it's involved increasingly so as ZUN's matured as a person and a creator--it just feels very close to the chest in the topic that's being covered, and cathartic to an appropriate degree in turn.

Also there's a literal bug princess you fight in a cave, so there's that too.
 

Sarge

hardcore retro gamin'
I managed a legit win in Seirei Senshi Spriggan. It's very much a Compile game. It's very good, but I still think it's missing a special spark. I'm probably pretty weird in that I think Space Megaforce is one of my favorites of theirs from that era.

I'm surprised I've been able to legit clear the ones I've played so far. I'm not exactly a savant when it comes to this genre.
 

Sarge

hardcore retro gamin'
I somehow managed a legit clear of Abadox, one of the hardest NES shooters. It took a solid three hours of battering against it, though.

I decidedly did not get a legit win in Zanac, though. As I put it over on HRG, if The Guardian Legend is an affable, fun little brother, Zanac is his older brother that dunks kids' heads in toilets and steals their lunch money at school. It gets downright spiteful (something I learned afterwards is partly due to the "AI" system they've implemented, but still); while I appreciate what it contributed to TGL (the shared DNA is incredibly strong), it's just too rough for this non-shmup junkie to recommend.
 

Sarge

hardcore retro gamin'
Well, I've finished a couple of SNES classics. The first non-legit, and that's Axelay. Excellent game.

The second, and I'm awfully proud to actually get the legit clear on this one, was R-Type III: The Third Lightning. Granted, it took me three-and-a-half hours of battering away at it (unlimited continues!), but I pulled it off and knocked it off my bucket list.
 

ShakeWell

Slam Master
(he, etc.)
Nice! I've been meaning to get to that one.

Also, I saw a fun video yesterday about how MUSHA became such a high-buck cart.

 

Sarge

hardcore retro gamin'
I'll make sure to check that vid out!

I remember salivating over the screenshots of R-Type III in Nintendo Power. I didn't even play that many shmups, to be honest!
 

Sarge

hardcore retro gamin'
Got a legit win in Soldier Blade. Fan-freaking-tastic shooter - maybe my favorite of the 16-bit generation. And that soundtrack is sublime. And I found out there is a remix CD of the soundtrack? Nice!

 

Peklo

Oh! Create!
(they/them, she/her)
The suddenly appeared (and out now!) Switch port of Mushihimesama doesn't seem a one-off: per GSK, ex-Cave folks at Live Wire are also gearing up to release DoDonPachi Resurrection and Espgaluda II. The former, like Mushi is already on Steam as part of the smattering of Cave releases that happened six-ish years ago, but Espgaluda II doesn't have any modern port to speak of. Excite!
 

ShakeWell

Slam Master
(he, etc.)
The suddenly appeared (and out now!) Switch port of Mushihimesama doesn't seem a one-off: per GSK, ex-Cave folks at Live Wire are also gearing up to release DoDonPachi Resurrection and Espgaluda II. The former, like Mushi is already on Steam as part of the smattering of Cave releases that happened six-ish years ago, but Espgaluda II doesn't have any modern port to speak of. Excite!

Yeah, they were actually all shown in the Japanese E3 Nintendo Direct, but not in ours, which feels weird, since Mushihimesama is, as you said, already on non-Japanese eShops.
 

demi

(She/Her)
Yea, I picked Mushihimesama up immediately just to support & encourage more of the library coming over, really. I kind of want one of those flip-grips now, it'd be fun to bust it out on the go; it has all the same screen options as 360/Steam port, so you can even rotate it on the handheld mode - it's pretty sharp! Is there any flip-grip + joycon setup that also has a good dpad, or are those features still mutually exclusive? Also, Futari would be a stellar release, but I wonder if they can't because of M2's involvement with the (excellent) 360 port? The other ones that have been announced were all ported by CAVE, iirc? Correct me if I'm wrong.


Portable-Tate, very pretty c:

Our local arcade is swapping out their games this weekend, and it looks like our Mushihimesama Futari Black Label "Another" (gosh...) board is rotating out for the first time in years... that board and this thread is how I met spines, so it's a sentimental event. But! We are evidently getting Dondonpachi Daifukkatsu 1.5 in its stead, a board I never imagined I'd get to play. I routed the first four stages of the first loop back when it was released on Steam, the second shooter I really got into after Futari 1.5. I look forward to spending time with it again, but it's a pretty big change of pace from the short stages of Touhou...

Of which, the past week was actually my first foray into Lunatic difficulty! So far, I've got Mountain of Faith, Perfect Cherry Blossom, and Imperishable Night all cleared, but I'm probably going to take a break before challenging anything more difficult - I have a hard time stopping myself from playing until I reach my goal, and I know I'll have to recalibrate my expectations and especially pace for the other games.
 

spines

behold my godlike
(she/her, or something)
i finally 1cc'd unconnected marketeers. on normal. by loading up and buying fully into lives/survival and attack power upgrades. i died like 4 or 5 times on stage 4 and got a little tense because if i threw away a run where i was able to get wolf, and hakkero after starting with the yin-yang orb and jizou then it was gonna take me a long time to get close to that again. reminds me of the end of isc, which i liked until i had like four stages left and none of the powers were 5% as good as "extra lives"

this is, of course, a joyless way to play the game, and i certainly hurt my own attitude by wanting to beat it so much on the first day but not being able to. i recognize all of this, but i also have realized, especially from this, that it's much easier for me to enjoy playing a shmup, or any game, distanced from the pretense that i "have to get good at it" or anything like that, and therefore that i really did have to scum out the worst clear possible just to get over that

and i can also admit that it's not really "fair" to the game that the first thing i said after the boss exploded was "i hate this game". there's a lot of stuff i didn't even try to learn. but there are a lot of mechanics and patterns that i did play with a fair amount and don't like, and i still think the stages are hugely annoying and i'd pretty much rather never have to do any of them. i actually think they're mostly harder than the last couple bosses.

also most of the non-manual bullet clearing items are kind of distracting and don't really jive at all with the way i generally understand shmups since having them disappear just erases most of my ability to see them relative to each other

still, i haven't touched extra, which i guess could be better. maybe. i'll wait till i'm a little less tired and frustrated at least though
 

Peklo

Oh! Create!
(they/them, she/her)
Stage 4 is the hardest! The game's difficulty curve is so wild--starts uncommonly high up and climbs up until peaking around there, and then drops down ever so gently toward the end, with the final boss generally being pretty agreeable. It's a lot to unpack conventionally structurally, but fascinates contextually and thematically: stage 4 takes place in the game's titular cave, with entrance to the poisonous mines deep inside ultimately barred, so the heroes can't even enter their ostensible goal before the extra scenario and so represents a locked door at the end of an arduous, steep cliff as an abrupt anticlimax, and the guardian therein in Misumaru turns out to be the creator of Reimu's Yin-Yang Orb. It's so out of nowhere, played so matter-of-factly, occupying significance that's not dwelt upon because the characters have no time for it, so it's up to the surrounding context of play difficulty to stress the import of the encounter, along with ironic echoes like Misumaru's patterns reflecting Reimu's own orb cascades from her turn at bossdom all the way back in Imperishable Night's stage 4. I love that structure is still played around with like this, even if the "stage 4 boss points the thorny way toward the last boss" aspect is something of a staple--the framing around it can be diverse.

Extra's fun, and maybe more appealing as an independent bottle scenario compared to the main game. I recommend trying it out. Fighting centipede!
 

demi

(She/Her)
Extra is really good this time, the stage is challenging and the boss is strong - I liked the boss fight overall more than 16 and 17's extra, I'd say, and the music is very catchy! I feel like the more limited & focused nature of Extra stage may alleviate some of the pressure on card selection, which only occurs once - there's more weight on what you choose to bring in versus what is made available to you. (Although my second time through, playing Sanae, I got Mokou's 3-life card and had just enough for it lol... can't turn that down!)

The steep difficulty curve on top of the other dynamics (power loss on death vs. generally higher HP of enemies) led me to favor the Wolf card because it's a big power boost that's especially notable at sub-4.00 levels - starting with it felt like it smoothed the curve out imho, and it lessened the blow for dying as well about as well as any of the cards that specifically address Power items would, I think. So I used it for all three clears.

I think there's a lot of room for experimentation with loadout once the player accrues a lot of cards, but it that takes time & effort to test everything out, and that takes a certain mood for sure. When I found Wolf card and tried it out, I knew pretty quickly that it was the one that suited me best; For the market: unless I found a strong offensive passive (depends on character) or defensive active (blood moon, taiko drum) between stages, I would just snag a life and save up,
 

WildcatJF

Red After Image
(he / his / him)

Looks solid to me! I should try out Cotton on my Astro City Mini soon to get a taste of the series.
 

Peklo

Oh! Create!
(they/them, she/her)
Reboot! is finally launching later this month too, after some hoopla over the release date. As if this wasn't enough Cotton in this brave new age, an entirely new game was also recently announced: Cotton Rock 'n' Roll: Superlative Night Dreams for the expected share of modern platforms promises a new chapter in the series with integration of aspects from other Success genre peers like Psyvariar. The published screens also show a rail shooter stage à la Panorama and Rainbow Cotton, so it seems to be a multi-genre work in some capacity too. The visual presentation isn't all that compelling when observed in isolation at this point which is slightly worrying, but... a new Cotton, in 2021, along with this large-scale celebration of the rest of the series. Wild!
 

Peklo

Oh! Create!
(they/them, she/her)
Things no one expected: the bizarre and befuddling schlock cult classic Abarenbō Tengu/Zombie Nation is coming back this October in a thorough collection for Switch and PC, via City Connection.

Through this, we have been gifted the awe-inspiring portmanteau EXCITENGU, so the venture has already justified itself.
 

Lance Noble Aster

did his best!
(he/him)
I've been playing a ton of Gradius recently; I'm working on a horizontal shmup engine rewrite for GB Studio (for those unfamiliar, it's a game dev platform that lets you make simple games that will actually run on a Gameboy), and have therefore needed to do research. Initially, I was just going to play Gameboy / Gameboy Color shmups for that purpose, but I rode the Nemesis / Nemesis 2 train straight into "I'm going to complete Gradius (NES)" town.

Nemesis and Nemesis 2 (which I played via Konami Collection Vol.1 and Vol.4 for the Gameboy Color) are both very cool games. Nemesis is very Gradius 1, and Nemesis 2 kind of does its own thing that I would argue is being very cinematic and set piece-y. There is a cutscene after stage 2, but otherwise the game just flows from stage to stage fairly seamlessly. That's true of Gradius 1 as well, but not quite in the same way. Like, after a boss fight in Stage 4, you and the boss go through orbital entry, the boss burning up in the atmosphere as you plummet through the clouds and then you're just in Stage 5 fighting enemies. Very cool. I wholly recommend it.

Gradius 1 is really good, but I think it doesn't hold up quite as well as Nemesis and Nemesis 2 do. The biggest difference is that they both understand that it really sucks to die in Gradius, so checkpoints feature extra power-up dropping enemies after a death, so instead of "okay I have to do this with a speed up and a half-eaten missile I found in the garbage" it's more about the order in which you prioritize power-ups. In Gradius 1, if I die after Stage 2, it is a real struggle to get back into fighting form. You really need at least one Option to be competitive. Incidentally, after days of trying, it was after one such post-Stage 2 death and recovery that I beat the game. I squeezed through bullets just barely and managed to win with Missiles and one Option. I was trying for a shield, not an Option, but the power-up I anticipated would get me to the shield slot turned out to be a mega crush. The key to survival and victory turned out to be believing in my abilities and not getting the speed-up.

It's absolutely wild that the last stage of Gradius is so demanding when the majority of the threats present are just cannons and duckers.

I have to say, I much prefer the R-Type and Gradius style of shooter to bullet hell shooters. There's value in both, but I prefer shooters with tangible environments I need to engage with and that are more focused on, how to put it, logistical concerns?
 

Peklo

Oh! Create!
(they/them, she/her)
I don't have a preference. Often when these kinds of lines are drawn the unsaid implication is that "traditional" shooters are horizontal and incorporate stage geometry, while "bullet hell" is vertical and plays out in a void--neither is accurate to the history of the genre or the breadth of diversity within it, and so the for/against rhetoric that springs up in its wake doesn't really have any compelling basis to me in how I enjoy and understand this stuff. Something like Gradius III is more of a qualitative Bullet Hell than most games that profess the label, in form and function, but because it carries the franchise's iconic and familiar semiotics it's not really perceived as such at a glance. The spirit of danmaku lives in a lot of material that's seen as more "approachable" for its ostensibly more legible presentation and calmer pace, and conversely many bullet hells are some of the best training tools one can have for the genre as a whole because they're so primed for threat assessment amongst the storm and finding those gaps through it while not actually launching most things directly or at full speed at the player; the vaunted topographical element in level design effectively is brought into life through the ever-shifting waves of patterns danced through and so the material difference between the extremes ceases to register so clearly. A game like Image Fight is a vertically scrolling shooter with distinct environmental obstacles as a constant factor; it's not a "bullet hell" but it's one of the hardest things ever created, and it straddles the line between worlds that were nowhere close to having been codified when it was made. I think about it a lot in how the genre is perceived and understood today, and it's not the only game of its like, rejecting the binaries.
 

Lance Noble Aster

did his best!
(he/him)
I like both shooters that prefer geometry and shooters that prefer enemy-patterns-as-levels (and my favorite shooter of all time, Zero Ranger varies in which approach it uses from level to level and boss to boss), but to me the difference is that my brain has to be in completely different moods to enjoy each type. If I'm in a Gradius mood, I can't swerve that into Mushihimesama. If I'm in a Crimson Clover mood, I can't swerve that into Super Hydorah.

The thing that makes me prefer Gradius and R-Type style games is largely in the kinds of solutions to problems they have available. To me, bullet hell shooters are shooters in which you make a choice of weapon at the beginning of the game, and that weapon incentivizes you to play in particular ways. Gradius and R-Type style shooters feature multiple weapons with specific firing angles and use cases and, especially in Gradius's case, choice of which weapon to use when is as much part of the gameplay as the in-the-moment combat. It's a bit like comparing Paper Mario to Final Fantasy 6; they both test similar skills and strategies, but one has math you can do in your head on the fly and one has broader nuances. Both approaches have different strengths and weaknesses.

I feel like I'm rambling, but. I don't have a conclusion to this thought.

Anyway, for the project I'm working on, GB Studio crashes and dies if it has to render eleven whole bullets at once, so it's very much in my interest to look at how games with fewer bullets handle things.
 
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