Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Eric Vs. 365 - Day 311 - Espgaluda

Today's Eric Vs. 365 game is Espgaluda - a Japan-exclusive PS2 shmup that is awesome. Today's blog, however, is more about bullet hell shmups in general and how they aren't actually as scary as they seem when you see the screen full of hundreds of bullets. Read more and watch gameplay here.

Espgaluda is a PS2 shmup that actually had an Xbox 360 sequel. Crazy how terribly the Xbox 360 did in Japan, yet it was THE shmup console that generation. Of course, shmups are a super niche genre to begin with, so even if every shmup fan in Japan bought an Xbox 360 it wouldn't have made much of an impact. 

That kind of brings me to my point, though. Shoot-em-ups are a very niche genre that I think everyone kind of appreciates, but few people actually play because they are really overwhelming and intimidating and difficult looking. Side-note: There are multiple types of shmups and not all of them are of the crazy overwhelming variety. Gradius, for example, isn't a bullet hell. 

Back to bullet hell shooters. They actually aren't as scary as they look for a variety of reasons. First off, even if your character is a gigantic sprite on the screen, their hitbox is usually very, very tiny. Sometimes even as small as a single pixel in the middle of the model. This is how you can wind your way through the maze of bullets and come out clean on the other side - your hit box is freaking small. Every game is slightly different, of course, but once you get used to the size and location of the hit box, it makes the game much easier. 

Also, while some games certainly are just about pure survival by dodging around the bullets, most of them have additional mechanics to help you clear the screen while racking up high scores. I don't just mean screen clearing bombs, either, I mean mechanics like turning bullets into points by changing attack modes or being able to absorb bullets or a bunch of other things. Again, once you learn the mechanics of a game - which isn't always easy if you're playing them in Japanese ... - bullet hell shmups get a lot easier and more accessible.

I'm not saying I'm especially good at shmups, I just enjoy them and want other people to enjoy them as well because they really aren't all that scary once you learn to play.