We're not joking with that title - this really is the biggest shmup ever developed, with a Hyper-High-Definition (HHD) of 3200 x 800 pixels. Not even the original triple-monitor version of Darius was not this big! As you'll see though, it's not just a gimmick. This 2D shooter makes some rather clever use of its incredible length.
We usually champion the unknown on Hardcore Gaming 101, and this is no exception. I want you all to at least try the demo for this.
I was actually chatting with Mikito Ichikawa - AKA: Albert G Mickey - about my up-and-coming book on Japanese developers. He founded and is head of Mindware, which has a rather interesting history. He brought up Super Chain Crusher Horizon which, given my love of shmups, instantly fascinated me (plus it's on sale for around €9 on Desura).
He also mentioned it was currently going through Steam Greenlight, which instantly caught my attention. Everything I've read about Steam Greenlight, on websites such as Gamasutra, proves to me it's basically no better than a high school popularity contest meets an ancient Roman amphitheatre. You pour months of your life into a cool project, making a great game, and then you have to stand on stage while some random, unimportant unknowns get to decide your fate. They take a brief look at you, your graphics, music and social clique, and then arbitrarily raise or lower their thumbs. Do you continue to exist, or are you thrown to the lions? Are you cool enough to be in their hip club?
This is why I dislike democracy. As soon as the apathetic outnumber the good, all that is right begins to fall asunder.
I paused our conversation and instantly logged in to vote YES - I had to stem the tide of anyone who possibly voted no. I didn't even need to play the demo. It got my YES vote without question - and my comment is plainly visible on the page from 1st of June.
This game deserves a chance.
As its promotional material shows, it has a longer horizontal resolution that any commonly available hardware. If possible, it's recommended you connect two high-resolution PC monitors to get the best effect. Though you can play with just the one monitor.
The game can be played one of two ways. Standard Mode allows you to fire rapidly, but each shot knocks you back slightly, and if you touch the far left side you die. The far more interesting option is Mono Shot mode, where you only have one shot at a time, but you can let it charge up R-Type style and - if you connect with an enemy - create a massive chain-reaction inducing explosion.
This is where things get interesting (open each image in a new tab for a full size view), because each chained kill increases the score received. Each enemy is worth 1 point plus whatever the length of the chain is. In the above screenshot it starts with 4, increasing up to 676 for the final enemy in a 25 hit chain. In a 31 hit chain a single regular enemy's values shoots from 1 up to 1024.
The chaining mechanic isn't simply for higher scores, it's integral to winning. Bosses can't be damaged with normal shots, they're only damaged by chained explosions, requiring you to make expert use of the tiny regular enemies - or "zako" as they're known in Japanese.
Failure to destroy the enemies results in them piling up on the left hand side, where they become a deadly obstruction. However, this debris can only be removed by a Boss or Mini-Boss crashing into them. The set-up produces a fun dynamic of holding back on destroying the enemies so as to maximise your chain count, while risking a deadly build-up on the left side.
There's also a variety of "High Score Challenge SPECIAL MISSIONS", with special mechanics, such as not being able to fire any shot at all, and needing to maximise your score by crashing into enemies.
It also has a cool simultaneous 2-player mode, where the second player can use the mouse to lay mines and help the first player. This always reminds me of a discussion I read, espousing the design philosophy where a second (possibly younger) player can join the fun, but have an easier time of things. A great example is Tails in Sonic 2, where the second player could feel involved and help out. With SCCH the second player's ship can be destroyed, but it creates an enormous explosion which helps the first player, and is basically penalty free. At least for the first player.
Adding to what is already genuinely unique, Mikito Ichikawa is developing a new kind of online leaderboard called GamersUniverse. Currently it allows you to upload high-scores, but he intends to enable trophies, friends, and of course the leaderboards. Plus he envisions a future for it where developers can set up a game's profile, players can click to buy it, and it will take them to the official site. In effect, an external shell which allows players to purchase games directly from developers, while enabling all the benefits found on other services. I've not signed up for an account, but if this comes to fruition, it sounds pretty cool.
What worries me about this game, is that it was announced last year August, and only now have I heard about it. And not from a news website or magazine, but the creator himself!
Do you like shmups? Try the demo, tell a friend, log in to Steam and vote YES on Super Chain Crusher Horizon. If you like what you see in the demo, it's also on sale, with 30% off.
My only complaint? My graphics card isn’t good enough to run it. ;_;
Check out this awesome video below.