Friday, April 30, 2010

Random images – some very rare

When clearing out an old laptop, I came across several game related images I thought I’d share (CLICK them to see the original full-sized versions), and I ask the question: what emulated games do you give to a non-gamer?

We were sipping batidas in the guest lounge of the Zurich hotel, when my dad asked me for my old laptop. It was Windows XP and overheated when you ran anything more advanced than a SNES emulator, resulting in impromptu and frightening shutdowns, but it was better than a Vista laptop we agreed.

When deleting my old files from said laptop, in preparation for the hand-over, I came across several images – some I’d never made use of, others deserved more exposure.

The most significant, for me, are scans of original artwork from the first two CDi Zelda games. When interviewing Dale DeSharone on the development of the games, he explained how he’d dug around in his attic to find his old CDi player and copies of the games (to play them again with his children), and also I believe this original concept art for the games. He sent me scans from all his old games, and proved extremely helpful when writing the feature.
So it was with much sadness that I discovered he’d passed away a few years ago. While these images have appeared in print, I don’t think they’ve ever been available in digital format before, and they’re so nice it would be a shame to have them languish on an old forgotten hard drive of mine.
A lot of people unfairly criticise the Zelda CDi titles because of the cinematics, but I’ve played the hell out of them over the years and they’re still a blast to complete. The artwork, as shown, is also quite nice. As the only person to have interviewed him on his work, I feel it’s my duty to share these images.
Next from my archives are some rare photos regarding Sega and TecToy. The first must be over 20 years old now, the second from 1997, and both were scanned from old prints. They’re a record from a seldom documented aspect of gaming history.

Stefano Arnhold (Tec Toy President) with Mr David Rosen (founder of Sega) and Mr Sakurai (Executive Director of Sega), making history by joining forces.

Stefano Arnhold with Mr. Nakayama (Sega´s President), when Tec Toy gave him a large amethyst to celebrate ten years of working together (1987-1997).

Not everything I found was of importance. Here are several shots from Final Fantasy Adventure on the monochrome Game Boy, for a Seiken Desnetsu/Secret of Mana feature I ended up never writing.

I actually replayed and completed Secret of Mana recently, and I might have to change my view on it being the best of Square’s Chrono Trigger/Final Fantasy 6/Secret of Mana trio.

It was good fun, but there was a lot more dungeon crawling and fighting than I remember. It was almost like a Final Fight/Streets of Rage game, albeit with magic and levelling, and only a handful of villages.
I think finishing it over two days, as opposed to over most of a year when I was a kid, changed my perception of its pacing. Too much combat and not enough exploration.
And the grinding, good lord there was a lot of grinding, especially for magic spells, which if you don’t level up renders some later bosses impossible. Great music though. Getting back to Final Fantasy Adventure, I recall it being excellent, though I don’t know how I’d fare if I played it again today. I also don’t feel like playing the remake.

What stood out in my mind, is that there’s a sub-quest where you need to get hold of some Medusa’s teeth in order to cure the brother of a woman called Amanda. In the end you slay medusa before you can get her teeth, and Amanda ends up getting bitten and turning into Medusa herself. The only solution, in order to save her brother and continue the game, is the kill her and take HER teeth. Her death at your hands saves her brother. I paused for a long time on this screen, reluctant to do the deed. The death of this NPC was profoundly moving, despite the small size of the screen – perhaps more so because of how intimate playing a GB game can be.

The rest of game took on a melancholy note after this, a tone reminiscent of its sequel Secret of Mana where, as Jeremy Parish pointed out, concludes with none of the characters in a happy situation.
The early Secret of Mana games are just depressing – which I’d say makes them worth playing more than a lot of the emotionally stunted RPGs out there.

Other Game Boy imagery I found was this map of Gargoyle’s Quest I made for a freelance article. Alongside it were maps for other games. It’s pretty redundant actually, since these past two days I’ve been playing Gargoyle’s Quest on the original Game Boy, and in doing so I discovered the VGMaps website. I don’t think I’ve ever heard of it before, or if I have, I forgot soon after. But it’s pretty amazing – some people have put a lot of effort into making maps for hundreds of games. Going through my folders, I found maps for other games.

Snake’s Revenge is one of my all-time favourite NES games. Not because it was an early title I played, which might give it a degree of nostalgia based faux-quality, but because I think it represents a high mark in NES game design. I first played it sometime around 2002, having heard plenty of scorn poured on it, but desiring something – anything – Metal Gear related to play. I’ve played a lot of NES games over the years, and frankly it blew me away. I’d rate it somewhere after MGS3, MG2SS (MSX), MGS and Ghost Babel in terms of my favourite Metal Gear games. This puts it above the first MG title (MSX and NES port), plus MGS2 and MGS4. Which isn’t to say it’s better than a PS3 game – just that I had more fun with it.

In the context of NES games, it’s fairly sophisticated. Entry into the enemy base requires reaching an area with guards while staying undetected, then radioing your comrade who will come into the open and get captured, causing the guards to unlock the door, thereby allowing you inside. Another game might have just had you blasting stuff to get inside (Mission Impossible is also sophisticated in places, but Snake’s Revenge is easier to control I find). It also features a lot of things found in later MG games: spotlights, directional microphone, interrogating superior officers, truth serum, orange camo, a shotgun, starting the game with a knife, enemies on flying vehicles, a ship full of Metal Gear units. Of the entire NES’ library, Snake’s Revenge is one of only a handful I can still tolerate playing on the original hardware, as opposed to with emulation and save states.

Another map I found was for Jurassic Park, also done for a freelance article years ago. Though technically not really a map, since it doesn’t cover the whole level. I recall when the world was in Jurassic Park fever, and numerous games for it came out. I always liked the first Genesis game more, despite its technical shortcomings. I can still play it today and find praise for it. There are no lethal weapons for the dinosaurs, you can only temporarily stun them, meaning a raptor may later awaken and hunt you down. The AI is pretty good in places, especially the raptors in the visitor centre. Oh, and you can actually play as the raptor! The Rampage Edition sequel screwed up the digitised graphics to make them cartoony, and suddenly you had lethal weapons. The level design was also long and fairly awful, compared to the original was short enough not to outstay its welcome.

In my PC98 folder on the laptop I found old images of Tato from Popful Mail, and it reminded me that they’d drawn each standing frame for him independently. One thing which annoys me is lazy pixel artists who mirror the left and right images to make ambidextrous characters who switch weapon hands when you turn around. Note how Tato keeps his staff in his right hand at all times. Curiously, the PC-Engine port of the PC98 game lost this and instead mirrored all the sprites, while the Sega remake for the Sega CD redrew all the characters in an ambidextrous fashion. Reflecting on the higher quality of the PC98 version, I noted with irony that Tato is actually the Polish word for “dad” – and in my mental wanderings through my archive of images I’d totally forgotten to update the laptop.

He wanted all my junk removed, but didn’t ask for anything extra besides the usual staples, things like Windows Media Player and a PDF reader. Want any games, I asked? No, just Pinball and Othello for the NES, he replied. These were two titles I got with my system two decades ago, and it’s all he’s had any interest in playing. And suddenly, I was hit with a quandary I’d read about before: what do you get a non-gamer to play when introducing them to games? I’d read a similar thing on the old Insert Credit forums, a poster who worked in a game store encountered a middle-aged woman who showed a recent interest in gaming and wanted to know what was worth playing. He admitted that his mind froze at that moment and, despite discussing numerous non-mainstream and quality games on the IC forums, despite having the background to champion the medium, couldn’t think of what to recommend. Indie games? A SNES emulator and some classic? A current system?

It’s a worthy question, since you want something easily accessible and also free of a lot of the technical bullshit found in a lot of games – but at the same time, you want something gamey, because I personally wouldn’t want a non-gamer to have their entire collective knowledge revolve around something as derivative like Heavy Rain. Pole’s Big Adventure is good, because it covers a lot of known gaming tropes in an easy and fun manner (which is different to Heavy Rain’s ripping off of other games and calling it the Emperor’s New Clothes). But maybe PBA doesn’t have enough story... Non-gamers always seem to want to compare games to things like books and films, though I feel racquetball mixed with music and paintings would be a better introductory description. Stories then... A Square SNES RPG? The trio I mentioned previously have a little too much repetitive battling for a newcomer to the medium. I want to say Valkyria Chronicles, because it has a good story and is similar enough to chess to make comparisons, but now I’ve moved WAY beyond the means of my laptop. My dad likes Pinball and Othello because they’re based on pre-existing things he’s familiar with, and neither has a story. Maybe I’ll give him Snake’s Revenge and see how he gets on.

And the last image I dug out of this dying laptop? A logo I’d made for Greg Costikyan’s Manifesto Games. He had expressly said no communist imagery, so that's precisely what I went and made.
I didn't win the competition, I think the winner did a logo about Tiananmen Square.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Distrust your customer - Then and now (updated)

With the DRM debate heating up again on the blog very recently, I thought I might take a short look back on the history of dicking over customers while leaving pirates laughing.

I don't know much about early software copy protections for home computers, nor whether there were any inconveniences for the customers - I was pre-teen by the time I first played on the C64 and I didn't even know such a thing as legit copies did exist for the machine. So I can at least say one thing - it didn't work, just like most of the following examples didn't work. So I'm gonna jump right to physical means of copy protection. Making the manual a requirement in order to properly play a game dates back to the seventies. It wasn't always about stopping piracy, though. It won't be hard to believe that the early RPG Apshai put most of its "ingame" descriptions in the manual in 1979 just because of memory constraints. I'd be more suspicious about Pool of Radiance doing the same 9 years later, though.

Too long for a floppy disk?

Of course there were more blatant (and less effective) ways, too. Who doesn't remember all the "Type in word 7 in line 5 on page 25 from the manual" copy protections? Honest customers were leafing through the manuals, pirates had their handy list of all the possible keywords, or maybe even a version with the inquiry hacked out of the code completely.

More likeable were companies like Infocom and Sierra, who hid invaluable hints in interesting and funny flavor material, like faux advertisement flyers, lost journals and whatnot.

Don't forget to check the flight schedule before you start globetrotting(Leisure Suit Larry 5)

Then came the greatest atrocity of physical copy protection: The code wheel. Pools of Radiance was an offender here as well, but it became somewhat popular with publishers, and survived into the early nineties.

The code wheel most people remember would be The Secret of Monkey Island's "Dial-a-pirate". People who bought the game had to dread wrong dials, broken and lost codewheels, pirates skipped right into the game. In fact, even Lucas Arts distributed a hacked version in later compilations, as the costs to produce the wheel weren't warranted by the possible earnings, anymore.

Which year was this pirate hanged in Tortuga?

But like all times come to an end, so did the time of gamers being worth physical appendices, at least in the eyes of publishing companies, so copy production had to return to software solutions, as well. And here's where the real trouble began. Were many of the previous methods quite inconvenient, modern CD copy protection brought a whole new "feature": Games that couldn't be brought to run at all on certain machines thanks to the protection routines. I can explicitly remember 4 PC titles (but I had even more) I bought legitimately, but couldn't play or needed to find a crack in order to run them. Cue for my mantra: Pirated copies of course were usually cracked from the get-go for the illegal "customer".

Yeah, fuck you too, game.

UPDATE: I forgot to talk about a variation of this in the first place: Games that fake to be playable even when the copy protection triggers, but work in a number of "bugs" to take all the fun out of the game. I first learned about this when The Settlers 3 came out, which turned all the iron produced in an iron cast into pigs, among many other things. This may have caused some confusion with people who played pirated copies during the first few days after the game's release, but imagine the confusion of legit customers getting shit like that, as this time the copy protection would backfire without them knowing.

The most grotesque excrescence of this type would be that one Japanese hentai game that reportedly scans PCs for private data and uploads them on the internet when it decides the copy played to be illegal. Given the record how well this type of protection works, it can be considered guaranteed that normal customers will end up there, and it can only be hoped that they even notice it at all, in order to sue that company to kingdom come ...

And now we have DRM, which brings even more inconveniences to the customers by forcing them to consume completely unrelated products (internet connections with single player games), whereas the pirates... well, they keep on pirating, as always.

Oh, by the way, the first picture is from the CES fair in summer 1990. I gotta say there's more elegant ways to protect your display handhelds from theft...

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Song of the Moment - Otomedius G - Snow Field - Beyond the White Storm

I finally caved and bought myself a Japanese Xbox 360. It was mostly because I found one relatively cheap, and came with a copy of Otomedius, which was one of the only Japanese exclusive games I was interested in. I wrote some initial impressions awhile back and didn't feel it was that great. I've spent some more time with it and rather like it now, even though it's immensely awkward - it can't decide whether to be a modern score-driven arcade game or a classic Gradius-style game, and neither really works.

In keeping with the general quality of the game, the music, outside of a few songs, is pretty anemic compared to Konami's legendary library of shooters. However, Otomedius was one of Konami's first big experiments with DLC, offering additional levels and characters, for a price. Amongst these were a total of seven music packs, each of which accompanied one of the main characters and gave them new theme music for the entire game. All of this music consisted of arrangements from past Konami games, including Gradius and Salamander, as well as XEXEX, Thunder Cross and others, many arranged by longtime Konami composers like Michiru Yamane and Akira Yamaoka. Alas, this experiment didn't turn out too well, because while the original music was all excellent, the arrangements were (mostly) kinda bad. The cost didn't help - buying all seven packs at $5 each means it costs $35 for the whole deal, or approximately how much it costs to buy the recently released Platinum Hits version. (Which, unfortunately unlike Halo Wars or Fable II, does not feature any of the DLC.

It's not a total wash though. A handful of the songs rearrange the music using the synth of a different sound chip, in some cases going technologically backwards. I've seen some fan arrangers do this, and it's always fascinating to hear, say, Genesis music done like NES music. The particular arrangement above is the Snow Field theme, "Beyond the White Storm", from Gradius Gaiden, a Playstation game, done with chiptune synth. It's a bit more advanced than a typical Famicom, although it's sounds similar, so let's just say it sounds like it could be from a fictional enhanced sound chip like the VRC6. I always loved the original theme - it ranks up next to "Burning Heat", the first level song from Gradius II, as one of my favorite pieces of music in the series - and this arrangement really captures why I love it so much. It's so warm, peppy and upbeat, typical of the 8 and 16-bit Gradius games, and it sounds right at home. You can listen to the original PSOne version below to compare, although any sane person should hunt down a copy of the Gradius Collection for the PSP to play it immediately, since it's one of the best shoot em ups ever made:

If you want to hear all of the music from Otomedius, including the arrangements, the fine folks at the Gradius Home World have ripped them for download here.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Final Fight Double Impact is online only

If you want to play the PS3 version of Final Fight Double Impact, you need to be online even if playing in single player. Furious at this turn of events, I wrote a letter to Capcom’s PR departments demanding a response. This is my letter and their reply.

My main problem with this situation is that it forces me to be online at all times. Even if you only need to be online when FF:DI first loads and can then disconnect, this is a huge pain in the ass. It totally removes the option of random casual play, because I’d have to plan long in advance. I live in the countryside, and despite being extremely fortunate to have ADSL broadband where I live, the only telephone line for 6 hectares goes to a utility shed and is then divided up, sometimes for up to three people using the internet. If I want to connect to PSN I need to ask everyone else to get off, otherwise the speed is so low I end up disconnected from the servers, and I need to set up a 10m ADSL cable from the router to my house with the PS3. It’s a pain in the ass and WiFi isn’t an option (PC connection is a little easier, thankfully). This means each Friday/Saturday I kick everyone else off, connect, and spend a few hours downloading games, demos, updates and enjoying a couple of hours of mahjong multiplayer. If a demo is several gigs in size, I need to leave it downloading overnight. Constant PS3 connection to the net is not possible without some pretty drastic life-changes (like moving house).

I tried to explain this to Capcom, who force you to remain connected to the internet as a form of DRM, and while they replied, the hilarious thing is their response didn’t match my original email. I don’t think they even understood my original email. (EDIT: I've just discovered that the reply was actually a standard one sent to everyone who complained)

With this development, I no longer trust any game on PSN, because it’s likely others will follow. I had to ask around on forums regarding Afterburner Climax, just in case it tried to pull the same stupidity. And I’m going to have to ask for all future games. If this is to become the norm, then the world of PSN has suffered a serious blow.

I miss the days of buying a cartridge, and knowing that forever more I could enjoy that cartridge without constant, additional fuckery just to get it to function. Jeez, when did games get to be such high maintenance?



I freelance for various publications including GamesTM, Retro Gamer, The Escapist, and Hardcore Gaming 101.

Right now I'm considering writing a scathing article against Capcom due to the fact that despite me wanting to pay for Final Fight: Double Impact, you don't want me or others actually playing it.

The PS3 version does not function offline - it forces you to be logged in to PSN. While I am able to thread an ADSL cable across the distance of my large country house, purely to log on once a week (normally Saturday) to download updates, demos, buy games and have a few quick multiplayer games, it is not convenient to keep my PS3 net-ready the rest of the time. To do so would require re-arranging my entire house and therefore my life - which is an absurd demand to make, regardless of how good the game is.

This is grossly unfair and has so far stopped me from buying FF:DI, despite really wanting to own it. But before pouring scorn on your incompetent decision, for all the public to read, I thought I would email you and ask:
Is this mistake going to be rectified so the PS3 version can be played offline? There are others besides myself who for 99% of the time do NOT have access to PSN.

Rumour has it you did this to stop game sharing - isn't it possible to have a "one-time-download-only" version for people who don't have constant access to the internet? I refuse to buy anything which forces me to be online for it to function.

What happens when PSN closes down in a similar way to how the original Xbox One online system is closing? What happens if I move to a place which does not have ADSL - do you expect all my purchases to become void if this happens?

I've played games from over 20 years, and I've written about them for half of that time, and the stupidity of this decision, to shackle people to a transient, intangible and impermanent technology, is both short-sighted and disturbing. Compare for example other Capcom games, such as Super Street Fighter 2: HD Remix, also on PSN. In 50 years my children will still be able to play it from my PS3 HDD, even if PSN and the people at Capcom who make such decisions no longer exist.

What is Capcom's official stance on all this?

Best regards

Capcom’s official response, courtesy of Jason Allen. Apparently this has been circulating to other places, meaning I was simply sent a copy and pasted version which they hoped would end the matter:
Capcom would like to formally apologize for the issues consumers are having with the PS3 version of Final Fight: Double Impact. Typically, the notification for a required PlayStation Network connection appears in the full game description when a game is downloaded from the PlayStation Store. Unfortunately when populating this content this detail was overlooked and wasn't included in the versions of the game that released in North America and Asia. It was included in the release for Europe. Capcom should have checked to make sure the notification was included when the final game was made available and we sincerely apologize for this oversight.

The DRM requirements for Final Fight: Double Impact are not unique to this release. This protection mechanism has been implemented in numerous games offered on the PlayStation Store before. When it was brought to our attention that the notification was missing, we acted quickly with Sony Computer Entertainment America and a fix is on the Way.

We would like to thank our vigilant fans for bringing this to our attention and we will exercise better scrutiny on future Capcom releases.

Thank You

Shin Megami Tensei: an artwork retrospective

I've been playing a lot of Strange Journey lately, the newest DS version of SMT, which is full of all kinds of new demons. Many of them are brand new to US audiences, leading many to thinking they were completely new to the series.

In doing some research on some of the more interesting newcomers, I learned that wasn't the case.

Grendel, Siegfried, and Dionysys, among others, as seen in a Kazuma Kaneko art book. Grendel makes his first US appearance in Strange Journey. Siegfried and Dionysys had theirs in Persona 3.

The additions to the demonary mostly come from some of the more obscure games in the series, notably ones that never came out in the US.

The Hare of Inaba for instance, a rare demon detected through scanning, comes from Devil Summoner: Soul Hackers.

This brutal little beast is a physical monster, leading some to believe it was an homage to the legendary killer rabbit from Monty Python & The Holy Grail.

I also happened to play some of the Megami Tensei fantranslation for the NES, which is still in the works(and likely will be for quite some time).

Some of the demons there even seem familiar.

It's quite interesting to see how the demon art has progressed along the way.

The character designs have had their fair share of changes, too.

Some early designs from Shin Megami Tensei: IF shown above, and below, a comparison between the Main characters of SMT II: SNES to PS1.

The SNES designs, as seen below, have more of a hand-drawn look:

And, the higher resolution art in the PS1 remake:

While the new design is certainly crisper, something about the original design just seems more detailed to me.

Shadowgate in Japanese

I've been working on an article on the ICOM MacVenture games, which includes Deja Vu, Uninvited, and Shadowgate, as well as its handful of spinoffs. What I found bizarre was that the Famicom version of Shadowgate was often listed as a "kusoge", a term which is usually applied to...well, crap. It's a silly game, no doubt, but how did it reach the status of "legendary" as evidenced in this clip of Densetsu no Kusoge Daikessen ("The Legendary Kusoge Showdown"). I pitched the question to Kevin Gifford at Magweasel and he gave a very interesting response.

Beyond the actual writing, as he describes, the most hilarious bit about it is that the Japanese version is written in the first person, while the original English was written in the second person. That alone makes the monologues that much weirder. Take, for instance, the death message, which compared to the others, was translated pretty closely. In English it's "It's a sad thing that your adventures have ended here!", while in Japanese, it's something like "Oh no! My adventure has ended here!" It was sort of cool in English since the Grim Reaper was supposed to be taunting you, but here it sounds like some crazy dead guy is lamenting pointlessly to himself.

Anyway, Magweasel has a video of all of the English death scenes. Here are the Japanese ones:

Why Shoot1up is one of the most interesting shooters in a long time

There's an ongoing thread on SHMUPS forum asking why shooters are such a niche genre. The reason can be found on the exact same forum, in the form of their Top 25 Shmups of All Time List, which are voted on yearly. Every time, more awesome classic shooters are ditched in favor of the newest Cave games. That's not entirely unreasonable, because one of the only companies putting out really decent titles on a consistent basis, but it does point to the genre becoming extremely homogenized. Milestone consistently puts out stuff (you can find three of their games in the Milestone Shooting Collection for the Wii for about $15), each usually with some kind of vaguely interesting mechanic which totally doesn't work in practice. And there's the Castle of Shikigami games, which are a bit better, but not anything super impressive either. When was the last great non-bullet hell shooter? Otomedius was only alright, Gradius V is five years old at this point, and Ikaruga even older, and even that is arguably a bullet hell game.

Which is why I'm so incredibly impressed by Shoot1up, available on the Xbox Live Indie marketplace for the shocking low price of 80 points (AKA: $1.) It's a self-described "manic shooter for normal gamers", although it isn't quite a bullet hell game. It is, however, a surprisingly well developed game with some very compelling core mechanics. Around the 'net it's most well known for the gigantic woman robot shooting missiles out of its nipples, a testament to the "why the hell not, we don't have suits to impress" mentality of independent game development.

In Shoot1up, you don't control a single ship, but rather a whole squadron of them, with each counting as a life. (The in-game terminology is "phalanx".) You can expand and contract your phalanx with the L and R triggers. Spreading out your ships will not only earn higher points, but will also trigger a laser in the center if the formation is wide enough. Of course, in doing so, you're also more exposed to danger, turning it into clever risk/reward mechanic. If you lay off the trigger for a moment, a small circular shield will also form around your ships. If you lure an enemy close enough and press the trigger, it'll cause the shield to dissipate but kill the enemy in the process, awarding 10x the standard point value. Obviously, waiting for it to charge and then getting close is even more dangerous, but is really the only way to score big.

This is all very simple and easily understandable within a few minutes of play. Compare this to ESPGaluda II's various arcade scoring systems, which are so incredibly complicated that I've seen a number of people try to explain them, and then just give up.

Like many modern shooters, the goal is to reach the end of the game on a single credit. (Unlike others, you aren't allowed to credit feed, at all - once your ships are all gone, it's Game Over.) This is often a daunting proposition, because it takes a remarkable amount of practice and memorization. Over the course of twenty minutes or so, you can only screw up three times, and then you're done. Shoot1up, on the other hand, doesn't focus on isolated moments where you can die, but instead emphasis is placed on the overall picture. In general, dying isn't something you need to precisely avoid. In fact, when you're controlling twenty ships on the screen at the same time, it's almost impossible to get through completely unscathed. You can make a series of mistakes and wipe out a huge chunk of your squadron, but with some smart flying, you can eventually rebuild them. In other words, it takes more than a few misjudged bullets or mistimed maneuvers to put an end to your game, and more how you deal with the general flow of gaining or losing power. While it can get hairy in the later levels, it's not a terribly difficult game on the Normal setting, and with a few games you can probably get skilled enough to reach the end without much of a problem, and can then concentrate on score.

EPSGaluda II is what happens when you continuously target the hardcore fan with arcane scoring systems. Cave has been creating a more diverse spread lately, in hopes of reaching wider audiences, but the fact is a lot of people are still going to be intimidated by them, no matter how many times you try to tell them that they aren't that hard. (Which is a lie, of course.) We need more games like Shoot1up, that can distill the better parts of modern shmup design without backing itself into a corner than only a few can master. It still has some minor issues - the camera is zoomed in too closely, making it feel claustrophobic at times, and its status as an Indie game means there's no online scoreboards, which would've been really nice. Still, for 1/80th of the price of ESPGaluda II or Ketsui, you can get an extremely solid title, the kind which there desperately needs to be more of.