Once again there is no quarter given and not a shred of mercy shown.
I’ve been looking at some STG’s lately in the hopes of finding something to practice on. Mainly I’m looking for a game that I can play on the side, something not by Cave. OK I’ll be honest… I’ve been looking for something a little easier to start with! If Ketsui is my main quest, then I want something a little more light-hearted to be my lover on the side. Something relaxed and distracting. There are a few candidates for this, games I’ve spotted around the net and on random forums. I’ve tried a bunch by now and was starting to get worried. Why can I make it to stage 3 on one credit in DonPachi when I die all the time playing games like Battle Garegga, Shienryu and Strikers 1945? I think I would have gone mad if I hadn’t stumbled across a great review of Shienryu over at Edward’s 1CC Log for Shmups. It was here that I read about rank management for the first time. I’d seen the term in other places before of course, but I’d never thought much about it. Turns out I should have.
I followed a link on Edward’s blog to a review of Daioh by shmupper called Battletoad and continued from there across forums and blogs as if following a digital grapevine. Slowly understanding dawned on me. One glance at the strategy section for Battle Garegga over on the Shmups! forum told me all I needed to know. I’d been going about it all wrong. I’d been holding the fire button down and dodging bullets for all I was worth. Looking for something a little less manic in terms of the labyrinthine bullet patterns of Cave games I’d found something else, something decidedly unsettling. Here was intelligence, even thought perhaps. In the code behind the detailed and inviting graphics something lived, pacing to-and-fro in the gingerbread house. That something wasn’t very nice either. It watched you from behind the shiny reflection of the screen, greedily caressing your fingertips from beneath the buttons. Battle Garegga sneers at your feeble efforts at fame and wants nothing more than to bring you to your knees.
I think I may have flinched a bit when I realised just how many things affect your rank. I tried to find something less bullet heavy and succeeded in finding something far more manic in a totally different way. Not passive, as bullet patterns mostly are, but active and constantly evolving. Not only was it menacing, it had teeth.
Scratch the surface and you’ll be amazed how many shooters employ some sort of rank system. Few are as psychotic as Battle Garegga though. In my mind the AI trapped in 8ing/Raizing’s shooter has the cold calculating voice of HAL from A Space Odyssey 2001.
I would have simply put this damned thing in my rear-view mirror if the game itself wasn’t so incredibly fun. I can understand why this particular shmup has such a devoted following within the community. Just have a look at the list of TV tropes attributed to Battle Garegga for instance. You can feel that there’s something special about the game just by looking around the internet randomly. This is perhaps why I hate the game a little. I wanted to find something easy and fleeting and what did I end up with? I fell in love with a game that would need even more attention and hard work! It’s like dating a girl who’s really terrible for you. You know this, yet for some ungodly reason that you’ll never understand, you simply keep at it.
You drift, a slave to every sweetly torturous moment.