RF Generation.  The Classic and Modern Gaming Databases.RF Generation.  The Classic and Modern Gaming Databases.

Posted on Feb 1st 2013 at 09:20:01 PM by (noiseredux)
Posted under Sega, Dreamcast




There was a time when I thought that the shoot-em-up was the dullest video game genre out there. I'm serious. I'm not afraid to admit my ignorance. It's totally true. But there was a chain of events that led me to discover three very important games (at least to my own gamer development). Games that caused me to fall deeply in love with the genre. Not surprisingly all three games were very different from each other -- but those differences caused me to realize that shmups were not the boring "everything is just Space Invaders with different sprites" that I had originally thought.

The first game that led me to this conclusion was Galaga and I was introduced to it as part of Racketboy.com's Together Retro game club back in early 2009. I remember dreading the thought of playing such a game for a full month, but then getting completely sucked into it for 30 days. To this day I consider Galaga one of my favorite games of all time. It's the one game that I seek out the second I find myself inside an arcade. I love the rare chance to get to play this masterpiece on original hardware. And I've since purchased way more Namco Museum collections than I care to admit.

The second game was Chaos Field -- introduced to me here on RFGeneration all those years back when Crabmaster2000 was still doing his "Unloved" series of blog posts. I remember him comparing it to Shadow of the Colossus in space -- a description so odd that I had to look into it. And really the game is odd, or rather unique in that it's basically just a boss rush with stunning music, incredible visuals and a solid dual-field mechanic that is addictive as all get-out.

But the third game I discovered totally on my own.





Shikigami No Shiro II (or Castle of Shikigami II as it's known in America) is a truly unique shmup. Rather than space ships you've got tiny little flying characters, all animated so impressively. The characters are definitely something that the developers Alfa Systems obviously cared a great deal about. Unlike most shmups which offer you three or so ships to choose from, Shikigami II gives you eight. And each character has an insane storyline to play through. Of course if you're playing the DC port it won't matter if you're an English speaker. But the translation (available on the PS2 port) proves that the story is so bat-poop insane that it doesn't even matter if you're following it or not. In fact, you have the option to turn off the dialogue which is often helpful as it can actually interrupt the flow of things.

What really matters is the game. And the game is just incredible to look at. Though the sprites are tiny they are well detailed. And the Dreamcast version does in fact offer a tate mode for those of you (like me) who are deranged enough to have monitors that you can rotate. And trust me it's totally worth it. This game looks incredible in its original vertical display mode. And audio-wise the game offers up one of my absolute favorite shmup soundtracks of all time.





The gameplay is incredible though, and that's why you're really reading this. You've got this tiny little character with an even tinier hit box. Each character (remember there's a lot of them) plays completely differently -- with different "Shikigami Attacks." Believe me when I say that each character can feel like you're playing completely different games. It's a very deep system. But what's even more intense is that you get far more points if you kill an enemy when grazing bullets. This alone adds an insanity to the game that is riveting. It's a truly unreal risk vs. rewards system where you must put yourself in constant danger in order to score higher. And this system alone means that once again, playing the game for score or playing the game for survival are two totally different games.

Though Shikigami No Shiro II is not the true bullet-hell that games (such as releases by Cave) would be later, they are also not quite as borderline old-school as say Psikyo's (Gunbird, etc.) would be. In this sense it's a similar bridge-game from old school and bullet hell though leaning far more toward the latter -- and of course you've got the crazy grazing dynamic to consider. This game is intense, and incredible and highly, highly recommended.


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Comments
 
Have you given any of the Touhou series a go after this? I would heavily suggest it, even if the difficulty does get ramped way up. However, the Touhou series isn't just the shmups that it inspired. The storylines have been ingrained into every genre possible and often emulate popular games of those genres. Rosenkreutzstilette and Megamari are two examples that utilize the same mechanics as Mega Man X with the Touhou universe. The games have inspired innumerable fan-made songs, games and albums.

To think, all of that craziness of the Touhou universe was originally inspired as an indie game by one person, Zun.

It's Psikyo, by the way. Tongue
 
I've read so much about Touhou stuff, but never delved in. I'm not a huge PC gamer though so that's probably why I've put it off. I'm sure I'd be into it though.
 
@noiseredux:

There was a time when I thought that the shoot-em-up was the dullest video game genre out there. I'm serious. I'm not afraid to admit my ignorance.

I forgive you.

The second game was Chaos Field -- introduced to me here on RFGeneration all those years back when Crabmaster2000 was still doing his "Unloved" series of blog posts.

And here I thought I was the only one who still remembered those "Unloved" blogs.

BTW them's some really colorful laser blasts. If I try this out, I might seek out some hallucinogenic substances to help "enhance" the experience. Maybe it'll even get the "insane storyline" to make some sorta sense, who knows...

 
I don't understand why this game has your favorite soundtrack of any shmup...I thought it was fairly grating. What did you like about it, and what else would you rate in your top 5 or so shmup soundtracks?
 
Are the levels and soundtracks the same across platforms?
I have the Japanese Xbox version.

 
My brother and I played quite a bit of Castle of Shikigami II and absolutely loved it. The gameplay is spot on, the characters are quite varied and the dialogue is hilarious!! Great game!! I'm with dsheinem though, I didnt think the music was very good Sad

Also thanks for the shoutout on my Chaos Field blog!! I think that was literally the first one I ever did. You and Zag make me want to do another..........
 
@Crabmaster2000:
Do another! I loved them!
 
@dsheinem: "grating"? Really? Weird. I don't know I like the kind of "rock" style it went for.

Other shmup soundtracks I really like... um... Chaos Field is incredible. Deathsmiles is amazing. I'd have to really think about it to come up with a Top 5 or whatever though. These are off the top of my head.

@gamer2112: Yeah the levels are the same across platforms.

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