Raiding the Lost Arc(hives)
Backlog reduction project continues.
With most everything I play on PC coming from Steam this days, it’s easy to forget that I picked up quite a few indie games on various trips to Japan, which have wound in a box “for later”, particularly as that box got put on the bottom shelf of a set of shelves and then pushed to the back of the shelf. Fortunately I have backloggery to remind me of things like that.
So, I hauled it out and picked a couple of bullet-hell shooters and a visual novel to look at.
The Touhou series of shooters is one of those things that has transcended its roots; it started off as just this one crazy guy doing his own indie shooters and doing all of the art and music and coding himself and now it has a massive and rabid fan base and has branched out into all sorts of other games and merch.
I don’t really know much about that fandom. I just own three of the shooters, and I’d played through the other two thanks to credit-feeding, so I thought I’d give this one (“Unidentified Fantastic Object”, which I must credit as being a great name) a try and see why I hadn’t played it as well.
It turns out that it’s because I’m not very good at it, and while it DOES allow you to continue, it starts you at the beginning of the stage, so you need to play through the stage again, get to the boss again, die again, repeat. I got a couple of stages down and realized that it just wasn’t grabbing me enough for me to want to get better. It’s an older game and really not particularly attractive. So that leaves the backlog in shame.
Alternative Sphere, on the other hand, is a bullet hell shooter that I WISH I could get better at, because it’s gorgeous to watch. Playing it is like maneuvering through a fireworks display. Example screens, below, stolen from the internet as I am playing these on a Mac through Boot Camp and one thing that the Mac keyboard lacks is a PrtScr key.
Sadly I am not GOOD at maneuvering through fireworks displays and felt really quite overwhelmed, even on Easy. I managed to cheese my way to the end but won’t be going back to it.
I find that the biggest challenge in 2D shooters comes from how much of the playfield you’re denied at any given time, and I’m realizing that the shooters I like enough to get better at are ones that deny you that playfield through terrain and enemies that you need to avoid. There’s a solidity to the world, the level designers need to pay at least minimal lip service to it, and you actually see the enemies as more than just the origin points for a spray of fiery death. Bullet hell shooters like these two constrict your motion by filling the screen with, well, bullets in a variety of gorgeous patterns, and the actual opponents are just things that will hopefully die while you’re dodging all of the electric doom with the fire button held down.
A fewdevelopers pull off a decent balancing act – Cave most notably, and I’ve played a bunch of their games and enjoyed them enough to want to improve. I also quite enjoyed Triggerheart Excelica and Ikaruga, by Warashi and Treasure respectively. I should probably stick to those couple of developers instead of beating my head against the more obscure games. 🙂
The visual novel was a short affair called Fukigan na Natsumi-San, which according to vndb is a < 2 hour read, presumably if you’re actually fluent in Japanese. I am NOT fluent in Japanese and needed to have two dictionaries handy to get through it in four hours with a ton of skimming.
It had a pretty decent hook to it. The main character is a bit messed up because his mother died a few years ago, his father remarried two years back and now he has a new mother (and a sister, who hates him.) So, he withdraws from the world in general. The story is about him connecting with his new sibling and realizing that they both have a lot they’re going through, that she is likewise dealing with the loss of a parent, and becoming friends…or at least friendsish.
The hook is that after you play through his story, it flips around and you then get to see things from his sister’s point of view – her father didn’t die; he left. So she’s dealing with massive abandonment issues and the whole you’re-not-my-dad thing with regards to her brother’s dad.
So a little more dramatic than the normal very fluffy VNs I read. And I took some discs out of a box! So woo progress, as I have become fond of saying.