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Saturday, January 8, 2011

Mushihimesama Futari 1.5 Review (XBOX 360)

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Game: Mushihimesama Futari Ver. 1.5
Developer: Cave
Publisher: Cave
Release Date: November 26, 2009
Genre: Shooting
System: XBOX360
My Score: 9.0/10

As explained before, Mushihimesama means “Insect Princess”. “Futari” means “two” when counting people. So a direct translation would be “Insect Princess Two People”. It doesn’t mean “Two Insect Princesses” That would be “Futari no Mushihimesama”. It is just a play on words since it is the sequel and there are two playable characters in this game.

I’ll try to explain the story without spoiling the ending of the first game. Let’s just say a lot is learned of Reco and she has a new title brought on by the truth that was learned about her. So once again there is a village in the forest where humans live, only now the giant bugs (Kojuu) live among them. The village is ruled by an arrogant queen named Larsa. One day the village was attacked by a giant bug that has never been seen before. The bug flew over the village and from its wings; it rained Levi Sense upon the helpless villagers. Larsa’s #1 prince, Aki (the 2nd player from the 1st game), was quick to lay a counterattack upon the unfamiliar enemy. Aki left his village kingdom to protect its people, but he never returned. Queen Larsa waited days upon days for her favorite son to return from battle. Although she knew the battle was long over, she still believed her son would come back. There were other princes, but the bravery and wisdom of Aki was special, even for royalty. He was irreplaceable.

A search party sent to find Aki had some very bad news to report to the Queen Larsa. Aki had been apparently killed by Mushihimesama herself, Reco. Queen Larsa, who wanted to avenge her son’s death, thought about dispatching an army right away to find and kill Reco, but she knew the Shinju Forest where Reco lives is blanketed with Levi Sense and that he troops would not stand a chance. A cold-hearted plan came to the Queen’s mind. Among her many sons, her eighth son, Palm, was the youngest and purest. Although Palm loved his mother greatly, she saw him (as well as the other sons) as expendable and didn’t think any of them could match her favorite and fallen son, Aki. Her plan would be to send Palm into the Shinju Forest to find Reco. Palm is somehow impervious to Levi Sense but was still weak and na├»ve. Queen Larsa knew that she could use her son’s charm and innocence to gain the trust of Reco to lure her into a trap of vengeance. Queen Larsa told Palm that if he succeeds in luring Reco out of the Shinju Forest, into her trap, that he could inherit the crown. Of course, whether he succeeds or not, Queen Larsa has no intention of making her disposable son lead prince.

Palm then thought to himself that this was the chance of a lifetime given to him by his mother. He could inherit the crown, avenge his brother, and be of the highest rank of this kingdom if he just brings back Reco to face Queen Larsa. Palm then saddled up his trusted dragon, Hirow, and departed for the Shinju Forest. He thought “I have six other brothers to inherit the crown, so if I die it won’t be a great loss.” Queen Larsa had no idea what to expect of her disposable son. This is his first test of life.

So by the story synopsis, you can tell that this game is pretty deep for a shmup. Your job is to get Reco and bring her back to Queen Larsa so that she can avenge her son. So, in the first game you are going deep into the Shinju Forest, but in this game you are venturing out. At the beginning of each stage your chara cter will say something to comment on the stage. For example, in the beginning of the first stage, Reco says with such joy and wonder: “Sugoi! Shima ga uiteru yo!” which means “Wow! The islands are floating!!” Reco is in amazement of how the world outside the Shinju Forest looks and also, it somewhat shows her naivety. You can totally feel her emotion and it is one of the best openings to a shmup I have experienced. I know it sounds like a bit much, but it really sets the mood and you get to know her a little better. She is welcoming the world outside the Shinju Forest with open arms. That is, of course, just seconds before she is met with a barrage of pink and purple bullets. Welcome to the real world, baby. Although nothing is mentioned at the start of the game, we can assume that Palm had already befriended Reco and convinced her to leave the Shinju Forest with her. The last boss is Queen Larsa, so it is clear that Palm is leading Reco into a trap, or could it be something else? You’ll have to play the game to find out.


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Like in the first game, there is Arcade Mode and Arrange Mode. Also, there is XBOX Mode 360 Mode. The differences being that Arcade Mode is a direct port of the Arcade version of the game with the same options and screen resolution as the arcade screen. This mode would be great for those playing with a CRT TV. XBOX 360 mode has improved graphics and the resolution is enhanced for HDTV play.


Comparison of Arcade and XBOX360 modes.
XBOX on the left, Arcade on the right.
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There are more modes in this sequel compared to the first. Most notably is the Score Attack mode. You would need an XBOX LIVE account to make proper use of this mode. No, it is not an online co-op mode where you and a friend or stranger can battle your way to Queen Larsa. There are online leaderboards for this game and the only way to post a score is in score attack mode. You cannot play a two-player game in this mode, nor are you allowed to continue. When your game is over, your score will be posted for all to be envied or gawked. There is also Normal Mode for regular play, Novice mode for noobs, and training mode is to practice the game. There is also a replay mode where you can watch replays of your past games to study bullet patterns and learn about your style of play and how it can be improved.

Upon starting your game you will choose a difficulty level. Normal, Maniac, or Ultra. If you get the Black Label DLC, you can choose a more difficult mode, God Mode. God Mode should only be played by God himself given he or it exists. After playing with God mode, I have been converted to atheism. There can’t be a being, supreme or not, that can beat this mode without continuing. Next you choose between Reco or Palm. In the first game you did not have a choice as the first player will always be Reco. Reco has a traditional spread shot, and Palm has a swaying laser shot. After choosing your character you choose Normal or Abnormal mode. In normal mode, your ship acts like most other Cave shmups, and just like in the first game. Rapidly fire the button for regular shots and the ship can move at full speed, hold down the shot button for Power Shot mode where all of your shots are concentrated into a thick beam of bullets. Your ship’s speed will be reduced to half while in Power Shot mode. In Abnormal Mode, this is reversed. Your ship is at full speed while Power Shooting and your ship’s speed is reduced while firing normal shots. I cannot get used to Abnormal Mode and I don’t think it works as well since it is easier to dodge intricate bullet patterns while your ship’s speed is reduced.


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Normal Arcade mode is pretty self-explanatory and is much like Arcade Mode in the first installment of this series. The real milk and cookies is in the Arrange Mode. Mmm, cookies. No continues and and no simultaneous 2-player co-op in Arrande Mode. In Arrange mode you control both Reco and Palm together. I think this is a really nice touch and it makes the story make more sense. This is how this game should be played if you are following the story. You can choose to be in total control of either Reco or Palm. The character not chosen to be the lead will follow you, much like the tracer beetles do in the first game. You can toggle between the characters while playing so you can have the best of both worlds.

The big difference in Arrange Mode is that there is a circular aura around your characters which protects them from enemy fire. While holding down the rapid fire button, the aura will decrease the speed of any bullets which enter it. This cannot be done unlimitedly as there is a numeric meter that counts down as it is slowing bullets. While in Power Shot mode, enemy bullets will be deflected away from the characters. On the lower right corner of the screen there is another numeric meter that can be filled to 9,999 and will work its way to zero if you are constantly using this feature. Use this wisely as it may not be there for you when you need it most. Bosses rarely emit the golden stones needed to replenish this meter, so save up for the final battle of each stage. The strategy here is to fill one character’s meter and when it is full, switch to that character. The character not being controlled has its meter filled more quickly by collecting the golden stones that emit from dead enemies. This makes the game a lot easier, even in Ultra mode, but the rate of toggling between characters increases as the more bullets the aura deflects, the faster your meter depletes.

Co-op Ghosting
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You will also notice that their stage intro comments change from talking to oneself to interacting with each other. They will have a short conversation at the beginning of each stage. Again, this helps the story along and it gives some depth to characters of a genre where character development is usually nonexistent.

One last thing that is cool about this game is the many different screen options you have. You have the requisite “tate” and “yoko” options but you can also choose from many different pre-arranged windows. For example, you can have a screen where you have your regular gameplay window with another window next to it that magnifies your score so that it is in your face and below that is a window that zoomed into your character and follows you around. This is great so that you can dodge bullets with better precision because your hitbox is much easier to see. I suggest this for people who are playing with non HDTVs. Unlike the first game where your hitbox was only visible while in Power Shot mode, in Futari your hitbox will always be visible.

One of the special windowed screen options.
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The Verdict: 9.0/10

This is a perfected version of the first one. They took everything that needed tweaking from the first game and they improved upon it. The enemies no longer look like claymation, the intricate details and color of the backgrounds are a breath of fresh air compared to most bland, simple shmup backgrounds. On higher difficulty levels you won’t even be able to see the background because the screen will be filled with enemy bullets, point values, golden stones, and your own shots. It gets pretty intense. The voice acting in the beginning of each level also is a nice touch. It sets the mood of the level knowing what your character is thinking. Reco usually has something cute to say even though she knows of the bullet hell that is in store for her. The music is also great. I especially like the boss music as it hypes you up for the rain of bullets to come

This is a very polished shmup with some very creative bullet patterns. This installment’s bullet patterns are much more complex (and harder) than the first game. The story progressed quite well and answered some unanswered questions from the first game. This is a must-buy for any shmup fan, hell, even casual shmuppers. All you casual shmuppers, don’t be put off by the reputation of Cave’s danmaku nature, you’ll enjoy this game as well. Take advantage of Cave’s decision to make this game region-free. There is no doubt about it, this is one of my favorite shmups on any system or generation. So, again, if you like shmups, GET THIS GAME. Also by getting this game you will tell Cave to send more games to the US and/or not to region-lock Japanese releases. Be sure to get the Black Label/1.01 DLC for more modes and difficulty levels.

For my review of the first game for PS2, click below
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My copy (w/ the first game for PS2). No pirates or emus!

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