I was playing Espgaluda yesterday when my girlfriend asked a simple question. The question she asked was asked so matter of factly that I just stared at her. Ageha of course took a bullet straight to the face.. poor bastard.
Let me just say that I really love Espgaluda. There’s just something about it. I’m not talking about the music or the graphics now, although I could easily go on about them for hours. I just love the game. I love the simplicity of the scoring system and how much fun it all is.
I’m no expert at it yet, but it goes something like this:
Hitting the B lets you enter Kakusei mode. In this mode time is slowed. You know this because all bullets turn purple and a counter around your character gradually decreases. Destroy the enemy who fired the bullets on screen and all of them turn into gold! Exit Kakusei mode again and wait for some other jerk to fire a bunch of bullets at you. Enter Kakusei. Destroy the jerks. Bathe in gold. Repeat.
There’s a lot more to it but that’s it in essence. There’s a multiplier and the guard barrier etc but I wont go into that now.
I was happily flying about blasting every enemy foolish enough to fire more than three bullets at me. Watching with glee as the multiplier kept increasing a warm feeling grew inside me. There’s something about watching a screen full of bullets turn to gold that gets the heart pumping!
So from the side my girlfriend, who was staring at the screen, suddenly asked:
“Are there shops in the game? No? What’s the point of earning all that money if you can’t spend it on anything?”
There was no mocking tone or malice in her voice. She simply didn’t get it. I was dumbstruck. I hadn’t thought about it at all.
I thought for a moment then replied.
“It isn’t about that,” I said. “It’s about getting the highest score you can and then trying to improve upon it. It’s about going as far as you can on one credit and starting over if you die.”
That’s when it struck me. This is what I love about shmups. There aren’t any achievements or other meaningless things to unlock. Not really. You don’t play a shmup for that reason. You play it because you want to get better at it. You want to improve. That’s what makes it beautiful. It’s gaming in its purest form. Gaming for gaming’s sake.
When you die you know it’s because you messed up. You respect the developers as you would respect a worthy adversary. When you somehow avoid a wave of bullets only to be killed by a single bullet headed straight for your hiding place you know. You know the developers outplayed you. You salute them, make a mental note, then try again.
I actually once found myself laughing out loud and yelling “You clever bastard! Next time I’ll get you! I swear it.”
I have a long way to go before I 1CC my first shmup. No doubt about it. There’s a long road ahead of me. I will continue though, because on the day I make it I’ll know that I did it. On my own, because I refused to give up.
It will be a great day indeed.