For the past 14 years, tiny Japanese developers Cave have been the biggest thing in 2D shooting games or shmups as they’re know among the syllable-impaired, or simply STGs in Japan. Despite resolutely focusing on one waning genre, Cave have carved a niche for themselves that commands an incredibly hardcore following, and while other developers such as Raizing and Psikyo have succumbed to the difficulties of the modern Japanese games market, Cave are still going strong with at least two arcade releases a year, and more recently, some very healthy Xbox 360 ports.
Having previously licensed only two arcade games for release outside of Japan over ten years ago, western fans could be forgiven for thinking that Cave had no interest in the outside world, though at this year’s Tokyo Game Show, they had a message for potential importers of their forthcoming Xbox 360 title, Mushihimesama Futari (or Insect Princess), that will bring a smile to the faces of bullet hell masochists everywhere. As a trial, Cave are making Futari completely region-free, meaning anybody with the means of importing a copy can play it on their console.
Their previous 360 game DeathSmiles (and every other Japanese 360 shmup) was region-locked meaning that the only way to play it outside of Japan was to import a Japanese Xbox 360 – a high risk manoeuvre when you consider not only the costs of buying and shipping, but the inherent risk of buying a 360 with out that much-needed extended warranty. Speaking at TGS, Cave’s Makato Asada said that Futari’s region-free release was to gauge interest from overseas users, and if the results are positive, we may see the forthcoming 360 port of ESPGaluda II get a global release.
Mushihimesama Futari was released to Japanese arcades in 2006 and features three difficulties – Original, Maniac and Ultra – the first of which is suitable for regular human beings, the second of which is so brutally demanding it will reduce most people to tears and the third of which is designed almost as an in-joke between the supreme elite of Japanese arcade gamers and Cave’s malicious and vindictive designers. The 360 port features improved visuals (not the low quality upscalling that plagues most HD updates of 2D games, but true 720p reworkings of the original assets) and a huge array of game modes:
The original 1.0 release.
the 1.5 release that fixed bugs and made adjustment to the score system.
1.1 mode that straddled the previous two.
Black Label mode that introduced a number of changes including new colour palettes, huge changes to the game system, the God Mode that replaces Ultra mode with new patterns and a score system that makes you like a real hero.
The all-new 360-exclusive Arrange mode that allows you to reflect enemy bullets for outrageous score bonuses.
Those with an interest in bringing bullet hell to their continent should keep November 27th circled on their calendars where a standard release and limited edition complete with double disc arrange soundtrack will be available. I’ll be buying two of each. You should too.