This new shooter from the land of the rising sun is f***ing crazy!
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 it’s appearance on Xbox 360, the game has now arrived on iPhone and iPod Touch. And despite touch based contorls and an iPhone specific mode, it’s pretty much exactly the same. I’d like to tell you what the game is about, but I can’t. There is no storyline in the game, and I can’t even find a plot anywhere online. Basically 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 Xbox live aracade games, it appears in it’s original portrait mode, and is wrapped in a border of cabinet art. You can stretch the picture to the very edges of the screen, but it never quite fits the iPhone fully, showing that this is more of an emulation/port, than being built from the ground up.
This is also apparent with the virtual button layouts, which are just plopped on the left or right sides of the screen and not really considered. 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.
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, which adds the shield option. Finally, there is expert mode which adds in the weapons switcher.
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.
Musically, it is no less of a 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. While not to my particular taste, the music and sound just fits!
I thoroughly enjoyed Espgaluda 2. Sure, it’s pretty mindless arcade fair, but the craziness to it all makes for an exciting ride. It’s perfect for a spot of on the go action if you are caught bored on a journey to work or waiting in a queue. At $8.99 ($4.99 launch price) it’s certainly on the high side of AppStore gaming, though in comparison to the Xbox 360 version it’s peanuts! A lite version will be available so you can try before you by. For fans of manic arcade shooters though, it’s a must.
Look for Espgaluda 2 hitting the AppStore sometime this weekend here…
(Tested on 3GS)