So, finally, I can play NTSC games on my PlayStation2. So, yes, this entry will be about Mushihimesama, Espgaluda and Ibara. In that order.

But first I’m going to show you this. I’m pretty sure it’s not a good stick, at least not if you ask people with experience of sticks. But what the hell, I like it. Wasn’t very expensive either. Can be used for PS2, GC and XB, as you can see on the pic. Works like a charm on PS2, probably on GC as well – haven’t tried it. Though it didn’t cooperate with my USB to PS2-converter, so I’m going to take a whack at rewiring the XB contact on it to an USB contact. Though I fear doing that, I failed Electronics A in school… but whatever. Worst case scenario, the XB cable part becomes useless. I don’t even have a XBox.

Now, onto the games! Which I of course all play with that stick.

About Mushihimesama there’s not much of a question – BEST ARCADE (and of course console) SHMUP EVER. Closely followed by DoDonPachi. Well, to say arcade may be a little of a stretch since I love ARRANGE mode the most, a mode which wasn’t even in the arcade version. But it’s just MANIAC mode with some twists – full arsenal of options (in formation mode!) all the time, auto-bomb and you can switch between the three weapon types at will. So about the other modes – ORIGINAL is actually not that great, since it’s not very much of a bullet hell. It’s more few fast bullets. Luckily they are as purple-glowing as in the other modes, so they are hard to not see. MANIAC mode is the classic Cave-style bullet hell. Purple shots almost everywhere. Bring your shmup reflexes or die horribly. ULTRA mode is nothing short of nuts, something of the hardest I’ve ever played. Though I’m sure there’s some japanese person who no-misses it with one hand. I need more training.

I can’t decide if I like ESP Ra.De. or Espgaluda the most. Both are completely fantastic bullet hells from Cave, and both are on my top ten list of the best shmups ever. Espgaluda has a great game mechanic – kakusei. When triggering kakusei the bullets slow down and your shot becomes stronger – actually, in ARCADE mode your character changes form when you trigger kakusei – to a person of the other gender. Wtf. And since it’s a Cave shmup, kakusei of course has a great deal to do with score – when you kill a enemy while in kakusei, all bullets that enemy has fired becomes bonus items. So waiting for a large pattern and triggering kakusei when a boss is almost dead yields a neat amount of points. But of course there’s much more strategy involved around it if you want to get the really high scores. Kakusei of course can’t be used unconditionally, it sucks green crystals which you get by killing enemies in normal form. If you try to trigger kakusei without crystals, the bullets speed up instead – but while in this mode, you get points all the time. ARRANGE mode feels like a mix of Espgaluda and ESP Ra. De.. The two characters are very similar to ESP characters – Black is a carbon copy of Jb the 5th, and Chihiro is very similar to Irori. The major score mechanics from both the games are included – of course kakusei from Galuda, and the special shot from ESP. ARRANGE mode is also much harder than ARCADE. I like ARCADE better than ARRANGE in this.

I will not talk very much about Ibara. I have not played it very much, but I don’t like it very much yet. ARCADE mode NORMAL feels awfully much like a souped-up Battle Garegga – a game I have never liked. I have seen that Raizing/8ing can deliver – Armed Police Batrider is good, and Battle Bakraid is my favourite arcade shmup that isn’t from Cave – but sadly Ibara isn’t inspired by those. Cave, what have you done? Nasty rank and bullets that sometimes are hard to see… I have however heard that ARCADE mode EXTENDED, which I haven’t tried yet, is a little friendlier. ARRANGE mode is better than ARCADE – more Cave, less cheap – but still doesn’t reach the heights of Mushi and Galuda. Ibara 2 Pink Sweets looks much better than this.

The bottom line is that if you have a PS2, get Mushihimesama and Espgaluda. If you’re a big fan of Battle Garegga, get Ibara as well.

There will be more about these games in coming posts, when I have made progress enough to write about… this was the introduction.

Progress in other shmups are pretty slow at the moment. Shortly after the last post, I increased my high score in Twin Seeds but stupidly forgot to save the replay. No 1CC yet… I have attempted more Bike Banditz, but while I 1CC’d it again easily, no 1LC and no higher score. I have some kind of target of getting 50 million points, but god knows if I’ll ever get that…

And in other news, katamari damashii wins incredibly.