Thursday, September 10, 2015

Bullet Hell

Back when we played Astebreed for the Aggrochat Game Club, Ashgar also recommended the game Jigoku Kisetsukan as a more traditional example of the bullet hell genre that was free on Steam. Last night, staring at Steam and not wanting to start up anything requiring serious thought or time commitment, I decided to try it out.

I'm not entirely new to bullet hell shooters, though I'm nowhere near the aficionado that Ash is. There are quite a few examples of the genre on Kongregate, and I've played a number of them over the years, though never with any real focus. The gameplay is generally pretty similar throughout; you have a primary shot (often upgradable), a special attack that clears out all the bullets on the screen, and a button to slow your movement for maneuvering through tight spaces. That last one is crucial as the real challenge of a bullet hell shooter is dodging the insane storm of projectiles that get thrown at you. Most of the time in a boss fight my focus is squarely on my character to the point of having only the vaguest idea of where on the screen the boss is.

This is the second boss. On easy. It gets much, much harder.

The available characters in Jigoku Kisetsukan each have different attack styles that necessitate playing them somewhat differently. For instance the catgirl has a wide but short range shot that forces you to play further up the screen to keep enemies in range. The alien girl has a constant laser that narrows and powers up when in focus mode, so you have to pay more attention to where enemies are to keep damage on them. The starting character, some sort of minor forest deity or something, has a good middle of the road shot (wider than the laser and able to hit from the length of the screen) and gains homing shots when powered up. Those homing shots are especially useful since they let you focus entirely on dodging bullets and still be able to do at least some damage.

The story has something to do with trying to stop some sort of incipient darkness. I didn't really catch it. Mostly the motivation of the characters other than the primary one seem to be 'wander around and get into fights with other beings that look remarkably like teenage girls due to misunderstandings'. The story's not the point anyway; the point is to try and advance further through a combination of quick reflexes and pattern memorization. Much like a rhythm game now that I think about it; just themed as a shoot-em-up rather than a musical game.

Here we see an immortal diety and a centuries old extraterrestrial being.

Overall, it's a fun game with decent, if somewhat lo-fi graphics, (when you can actually look at them) and a catchy chiptune soundtrack. I would consider it worth the cost for a couple bucks, so for free I definitely recommend it if you have any interest in bullet hell shooters at all. And really, how many other games let you fly around blasting robots with a cat on your head? Actually, knowing Japan, probably quite a few.

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