CAVE’s excellent shooter arrives in higher definition on the iPad 2… Get ready for the ‘danmaku’ craziness all over again!
There’s something to be said for a good old top down arcade shooter, particularly the Japanese games. They are always rammed to the hilt with intense action, with a tonne of enemies on screen at once, thousands of mulitcoloured bullets all over the place, massive explosions and huge multi-layered boss battles. No doubt this is designed to attract passers by to play on the arcade. These days though, most people play games in the comfort of their own home or on the go on their iPhone’s, and even as the arcades start to dwindle, there is still a hunger for such games, as seen from the likes of Ikaruga.
Espgaluda 2, from Cave, is one such game. It couldn’t be more Japanese if it tried. It’s bright, garish, un-intelligable, and basically down right nuts! And do you know what?.. I wouldn’t want it any other way!
Hot from its appearance on iPhone and iPod Touch, the game has now arrived on iPad 2 in higher definition form – I say ‘higher’ because not everything is HD, with many elements, including background art, only rezzed up. I’d like to tell you what the game is about, but I can’t. You play as one of three characters Asagi, Ageha or Tateha and set off in your flying machine to bring down anything that moves and shoots at you. It’s balances somewhere between the realms of Sci Fi and fantasy, with both mech like tech and fairy like characters.
Much like many arcade shooter games, it appears in its original portrait mode. It didn’t quite fit on the iPhone and iPod Touch screen, and was wrapped in a border of cabinet art. On the iPad screen however, it’s far more at home, fitting to the edges of the screen perfectly.
Much like Infinity Gene, you pilot your character by dragging your finger around the screen. Your ship follows your actions precisiely, and just in front of your finger, so not to be covered up by said digit. My only dislike, and is still apparent on the iPad version, are the controls which are just plopped on the left or right sides of the screen and not really considered. I’d prefer if these were more tightly integrate within the game’s border, perhaps along the bottom with the power bars.
Your character has two types of weapon at his or her disposal. There is regular fire and rapier fire. Both emit crazy amounts of bullets and lasers towards your enemies, and can be powered up with gems from fallen foes. A weapon switch button can be pressed to switch between them on the fly.
Also available to you is a shield. Holding down this button encases your character in protective field, for as long as your collected power allows. Releasing this button lets out an almighty pulse, destroying or weakening any enemies in it’s path.
Finally there is Awaken. This button gives your character the ability to slow down time and tap on enemies to weaken them as well as evaporate incoming fire. It comes at a cost though, your character cannot move with Awaken enabled, and it will only last for as long as you have gem power. Gems are created when you kill an enemy, all of its bullets change into an explosion of gems, which you can then pick up.
So as not to alienate the more casual gamer amongst the iPhone userbase, CAVE have added easier modes which focus less on all the weapon types and simplify the gameplay experience. For amateurs you can use the simplified control mode. This just gives you basic controls of awaken and auto fire. Then there’s Normal mode, which adds the shield option. Finally, there is expert mode which adds in the weapons switcher. You also have the option of playing the smartphone mode, this differs from the arcade mode by giving you unlimited continues, essentially ensuring that you will eventually reach the end of the game.
As I already mentioned, the game is crazy intense. Each level bombards you with enemies and bullets. It’s a balance of avoiding bullets and activating your special powers. Each level ends in a boss battle. These feature various winged characters, generally with huge guns, as well as multiple mechs they control. The graphical style is a mixture of manga and steam-punk and if you can actually catch a glance at the artwork as it manically zooms around screen, there are some great artistic details to the sprite designs that I find appealing. The iPad version enhances this visual attack on the senses even further – like I said before, the backgrounds are not given the HD treatment, but your eyes are so intensely fixed on the enemies and bullets that you’ll barley notice – what you will see and appreciate even more however, are the details in the characters and ships which you may not have noticed on the smaller screen version. It’s worth noting that I found dodging the ‘danmaku’ (bullet hell) easier on the iPad. It’s slightly easier to spot a path through all the mayhem thanks to the zoomed up viewpoint.
Musically, it is no less of an attack on your senses. Pumping dance music, that can only be described as euro-house (similar to Base Hunter and Sasha), accompanies your intense shooting action, along with a medley of bullet sounds and explosions. Occasionally your characters and the enemies will utter something in Japanese, or let out an orgasmic scream as they weaken. This HD version has a brand new music track for the smartphone mode. It’s another great example of pumping synth work, and I even played it over Airplay to my home cinema for a more intense aural experience.
I thoroughly enjoyed Espgaluda 2 the first time. Sure, it’s pretty mindless arcade fair, but the craziness to it all makes for an exciting ride. Revisiting it for a second time on the iPad was no less of a joy, and perhaps even better. For those of you that did not catch it the first time on iPhone and love arcade shooters then it’s a must. If you do already own it in small format, then you’ll doubt whether you really need to purchase it once again. However, if you do, you probably won’t regret it.
Espgaluda II HD will hit the AppStore on October 13th for $10.99. The HD version is for iPad 2 only!