If you order from Play Asia, Mushihime-sama Futari costs nearly $75! Add in shipping and it's at least $80. That's not inexpensive at all! Cave's reasoning for making this one region free was to gauge overseas interest, although apparently the word on the street is that this one has actually sold less than Death Smiles, which was region locked. I think this might just have to do with interest in the Japanese end - Mushi is a bit older, and doesn't have the goth loli thing going for it. Meanwhile, I'm not too sure there are too many folks on the non-Japanese side who are going to pay $80 for this, outside of the hardcore audience, anyway. Although I do have to wonder - would the audience be necessarily that much wider if they sold it for $20 instead of $80? You'd certainly pick up more curious and impulse buyers, although probably not enough to make up for the lost profit.
Now, the low price of digital downloads has proven a double edged blade for multiple reasons. In this case, you'll find people clamoring that every 2D game should automatically be a cheap downloadable title, which grows annoying and completely devalues it. On the other side, it does pressure the publishers to stick in extra stuff to make a retail purchase more appealing. This is exactly why Mushihime-sama Futari has gotten me hooked, where the previous Cave games never quite gelled.
There's a lot of different ways to play the game, with four modes on the outset - the Ver 1.5 (a rebalanced version of the arcade game) which comes in the Arcade flavor (with the original graphics) and Xbox 360 (with enhanced graphics which look quite good.) There are also two console exclusive modes modes, Novice and Arrange. In each of these four modes, there's three sub-modes with different patterns and scoring systems (the third of which, Ultra, is more of a practical joke than anything), plus two playable characters, each with two types of firing shots. Do some math and there's a lot of permutations you can play through, even if it is ultimately variations on the same game. There's also Ver 1.01, which is apparently closer to the original arcade game but can only be accessed via a downloadable voucher if you got the very first print - I ordered from Play Asia and did not get one, which does not seem to be an uncommon occurrence. There's also Black Label, another mode offered as DLC. I haven't played this, because frankly it's quite bitchy to charge $15 for additional content released a few weeks after publication, when it seems clear it could've been added in - the price is already high enough as it is.
I can't get too excited about the Ver 1.5 modes, honestly - it's a Cave shooter, much as they've always been. What I DO totally dig are the two Arrange modes. I've heard people call Novice mode stupidly easy, and that's really only true in the context of Cave shooters - anyone completely unfamiliar with them will still have some practicing to do. Still, I'm not terribly good at them and I was able to 1 cc it on the first shot, and only died at all on the final boss. On this level, playing for survival is a bit boring. Now, the reason I've never liked playing these games for score in the past is because they were so damned difficult that just surviving was hard enough - and these aspects are closely intertwined, because if you run out of lives, your score drops to zero. Novice mode is easy enough so it's possible to focus on scoring without getting killed every few seconds. (Even with all of the practice I've been getting, I still can't get past stage 3 on the Ver 1.5 modes.) I'm still not sold on the Original Mode in here, but Maniac offers a pretty damn fun scoring system.
The Arrange mode puts you in control of both characters at once, which you can switch between. The secondary character will mirror the movements of your ship, and is surrounded by a circle. If you're rapid firing (the R trigger on the 360 controller), the circle will slow down enemy bullets, allowing you to weave out and escape from them, sorta like the doujin shooter Trouble Witches If you firing a steady shot (the A button), it will reflect all of the bullets away. There's a counter at the bottom of the screen that determines how often you can reflect, so you can't abuse it, but it can be refilled if you don't use it. (Not ENTIRELY sure what refills it - I think it's the yellow gems that explode out from everywhere.) Each character has their own counter though, so you can exhaust one of them, switch to the other, and continue reflecting. It's pretty hectic, especially considering your own shots get even more super powered up - I think at a given instant the screen might be 75% filled with your own bullets. The only problem I have with it is that the reflecting doesn't feel completely implemented - it's more of a defense measure than an offense, although if you do it right you can replenish some (all, maybe?) of the counter gauge, turning it into a delicate balancing act. If the reflected bullets actually damaged enemies instead of running right through them, this would be a mechanic of Treasure level brilliance - as it stands, it's just merely a lot of fun.
I'm not still not sure that the framework is really my ideal - online leaderboards and Achievements are nice, but I'd still like some more tangible rewards for progress. But the Arrange modes go a long way towards making this one a fair bit friendlier to newbies than any of Cave's past console ports, and I'm certainly enjoying it a whole lot more.
On a closing note - I bought the regular edition, and my CD has a black and white label. Is it supposed to be like that? It feels weird how colorful the rest of the packaging is, and then get such a bland looking CD.