For some reason, I keep picking up Cave shooters. I think it’s because I really liked Espgaluda II and I keep trying to find ones that I’ll like as much.
The problem, I think, is that they really ARE for the niche player and I’m not that niche player. I just like holding down the fire button and watching things go boom, so – with rare exception – I wind up credit-feeding my way through.
BUT, even when I’m feeling cheap for hitting the Continue button YET AGAIN, I’m usually enjoying myself. The rare flashes of actually being able to fly down the center of a bullet funnel and come out the other side are payoff enough – it’s like, look at me, I’m not THAT bad after all and then I run head-on into something that I should have seen coming.
Considering that Cave tends to release its home versions at the price of full-on retail games, this is a pretty expensive way to get that rare feeling of competence, so I was glad to pick up several of their titles second-hand a few years ago. I’ve been working through them as the mood strikes me (about once a year), and the most recent one to get pulled off the shelf was “Muchi Muchi Pork & Pink Sweets” This release was TWO Cave shooters for the price of one, so it’s a little more reasonable, especially since the copy I got was a budget-priced re-issue.
Pink Sweets first, because it’s much less fun to talk about.
Both of these are bullet-hell-style shooters with a Gimmick. Pink Sweets’ gimmick is that, if you stop shooting, your ship gains the ability to absorb certain kinds of bullets. If you absorb enough, you can fire a super-powerful shot which also makes a temporary safe zone on the screen that you can hang out in. This replaces the “Smart Bomb” mechanic that has been a Shooter Thing since, oh, Defender?
I never got very good with this because, while you can absorb certain bullet types, there are quite a lot of types that you can’t absorb and they tend to get mixed in with the ones that you are temporarily safe from, and the combination of never really getting the absorb / shield mechanic and the, let’s be frank, brutal difficulty level meant that I wound up really disliking the game. I managed to credit-feed my way to the end credits, but I must have continued a couple hundred times over the course of the seven levels, and I started feeling – towards the end – that it wasn’t even worth TRYING to dodge the bullet patterns that were being sprayed at me.
The back of the box describes Pink Sweets as a “Super Erotic Cute Shooting Game”, which should have been much more in my wheelhouse. As it was, it was just kinda meh.
Muchi Muchi Pork was much more fun, both as a game and as a great example of “Seriously, Japan?”, because it’s a pork-themed cutesy bullet hell shooter. The characters all have names that are puns on pork-based entrees, the bad guys are all named after food, you blow up robots to free pigs (with little parachutes) which you then collect for points, and your character shouts a cheery “PORK UP!” every time you collect a power-up.
I could not make this up if I tried.
The central gimmick is your Lard Attack (again, not making this up) which can be used to convert enemies into beautiful fountains of little collectibles that you need to grab for points.
Oh, and the girls – because of course a cutesy shooter has an all-girl cast – have pig ears and, to put it gently, a little extra junk in the trunk. This is a bit of a change from the “staple two beach balls to a toast rack and call it done” school of character design, so I guess I have to give them some credit there.
Muchi Muchi Pork also has a much more reasonable difficulty level. I still wound up feeding credits to get through some of the rough spots, but it felt like I at least had the POTENTIAL to get better. The bullet spray patterns were, well, still pretty good at covering the entire screen, but they had enough gaps that I could quite often find a small safe spot to hide out in, and there were far fewer cheap “and now the enemy comes from the BOTTOM of the screen” moments. Many of the times I died, in fact, were when I would hit a bunch of enemies with a lard attack, generating the aforementioned collectibles fountains, and I would run smack into a random missile as I tried to zip over and scoop up the goodies.
If I had any gripe, it’s that Cave didn’t make new hi-resolution sprites for the home version. Both games run in the arcade resolution, which is low-res and has HUGE borders. I guess it’s good for authenticity (and there’s no helping the borders) but it could have been a MUCH prettier game with some TLC.
I’m likely to pick up Muchi Muchi Pork for another run or two, but I have seen more than enough of Pink Sweets to last me.