Release Date: July 21, 2005
System: Playstation 2
My Score: 8.0/10
Let's start things off with the meaning of the title. "Mushi" means "insect" and "hime" means "princess". "Sama" is an honorific addition you add to someone's title or name to show respect. So the title can be loosely translated to Insect Princess.
So the story goes that you are in a desert world where giant arthropods are flourishing. Well, more than flourishing, more like like ruling the world since humans are obligated (forced) to worship these gods of the forest. Every 200 years the humans have to sacrifice a 15-year-old girl to the insect gods so that they may be allowed to live in the insect world, a small price to pay to be able to live among dung beetles. So a 15-year-old girl from a royal family in the Hoshifuri Village, named Reco, is up for sacrifice. She doesn't want to be sacrificed to the insect gods (naturally), nor does she want her people to die because of her selfishness. Some villagers resent this gesture of Reco, but dare not say a word due to her royal blood. They wonder what makes her so special. It makes them sad to think that for centuries young girls were being sacrificed but Reco feels somehow exempt from this centuries-old ritual. The remnant of dead bugs is poisonous to humans, but feeds the life force of the planet. This substance is called “Levi Sense” The bugs would use Levi Sense to kill humans as it causes humans to become cancerously sick. Reco’s insubordination has caused the poison to be released into the village and people are becoming sick. An epidemic is spreading and pressure is on Reco to make a decision. Half the villagers say “Please cure us! Defeat the insect god!” and the other half says “You are not above tradition! Sacrifice yourself!” So Reco is off to visit (kill) the god of all bugs so that she and her people can live without sacrifices. Accompanying Reco on her journey is Aki (the 2nd player character), a teenage boy who once lived in the Hoshifuri Village but has long since run away to live among the insects. More is revealed about him in the game's sequel.
So they both ride upon beetles into the Shinju forest where the insect god lives. Reco can harness the power of her beetle, Kiniro, by wearing a bracelet which allows her to control Kiniro telepathically. There is no mention of Aki’s beetle, so we’ll just assume it’s Kiniro’s twin brother. Nobody knows who gave her the bracelet, but some unknown “force” in the forest bestowed it upon her. Some villagers question the source of this bracelet that allows Reco to control the “enemy” and that perhaps Reco herself is unloyal to her race. Yeah, the drama is overwhelming!
Reco and her beetle, Kiniro, when they were young.
There are two modes of the game you can choose from. “Arcade Mode” and “Arrange Mode”. Arcade Mode is, you guessed it, set up just like the arcade version of the game. Start off with a weak ship and work your way up to maximum power by collecting power-ups. In Arcade Mode you can play simultaneously with a 2nd player (Aki) and you have unlimited continues. Also in the beginning of Arcade Mode, you choose what type of shot or “gun” you think is best for your style of play. The different types of shots will be explained later. There is also a “Practice” option within the Arcade Mode in which you can choose any of the game’s five stages or you can choose to fight only the bosses of each stage. In addition to choosing a stage, you can also choose the location within a stage in which you would like to focus your practice. This feature is really great to practice stages individually until you can memorize the bullet patterns in any given difficulty level. It is as if Cave wants you to master this game instead of punishing you for not playing it. Shmup purists see this as Cave just holding the hands of noobs, but they probably feel threatened by the ease of more casual players being able to hone their skills.
In Arcade Mode, you can also choose among three difficulty levels. These are Normal, Maniac, and Ultra. As you guessed it, Normal is normal, Maniac is where I am at now, and Ultra should just be called “Impossible”. If you look up “bullet hell”, the definition will be any Cave shmup in “Ultra” mode. Ultra mode is there just in case you get too cocky because you beat the game in “Manic” mode with no continues.
In Arrange Mode you do not choose what type of shot you have as they can be toggled in real-time. For each type of shot to be powered-up, you must collect the respective icon for the specific shot. An all-encompassing power up item will not power all of your shots at once. In Arrange Mode, your ship pseudo-invincible as long as you have bombs stocked. If an enemy bullet hits you, a bomb will drop automatically causing all the bullets on-screen to disappear and giving you a brief moment of invincibility. If you have no bombs in stock, you will lose a life. When all lives are lost, it is game over and you will NOT be allowed to continue. Lastly, Arrange Mode does not have a two-player option and you cannot choose the difficulty level. When you complete the game in one cycle, the next cycle is Maniac, then on to Ultra.
A boss in Ultra Mode!
If you have experience with Cave shmups, you know that in most Cave shmups, you can rapidly press the “shot” button for rapid fire, or if held down your ship’s shot pattern will become narrow but more powerful. We’ll call this the “Power Shot”. The cost of this increase in power is that your ship’s speed will decrease dramatically. Also, when you are in Power Shot mode, your ship’s hitbox can be seen which appears as a small ring dead center of the ship. As with most Cave shmups, they are very generous with the size of the hitbox (it is pretty small).
There are 3 different kinds of “guns” your ship can be equipped with. Each type of gun is different in power and also affects the speed of your ship when flying freely and when your ship is in Power Shot mode. The M-Power (green) shot shoots in a semi-spread pattern that covers most of the screen if you are bottom and center. When the shot button is held down for the Power Shot, your ship will slow down to half its normal speed. The W-Power (red) shot shoots wider than the M-Power and spreads out the length of the play field if you are bottom and center. When in power shot mode, your ship will slow down to less than half its normal speed. And finally the S-Power (blue) shot shoots straight and center. While it does not cover much of the play area, this weapon is the most powerful of the three. To make up for its narrow range, the speed of your ship does not reduce greatly when in Power Shot mode. You choose which type of shot is right for you at the beginning of the game in Arcade Mode. As mentioned earlier, in Arrange Mode, you can toggle between these types of shots in real-time.
In addition to these, there are 2 power-ups available when specific enemies are destroyed. One of them is called “Trace” which is similar to “Option” in Konami shmups like Gradius and Salamander. A tiny beetle will follow your ship while emitting a weak, but effective, laser. The other power-up is called “Formation” which causes your tracers to form in front of your ship in a fixed position as opposed to following you around. In Arrange Mode you begin the game fully stocked with 6 beetles with the formation power-up. Other items you can collect are 1-Ups and extra bombs.
Another available option in the menu is the Gallery. In the Gallery, you can see hand drawings of the characters and enemies. It looks much like movie storyboards.
The verdict: 8.0/10
This game ranks up there with one of the best shmups for the Playstation 2. So far I only think Cave’s “Ibara” bests Mushihimesama. Mushihimesama’s addictive game play and high replay value keeps you coming back for more. High replay value in a shmup? Yes. The different modes and difficulty levels make you want to keep improving your skills. There is also a somewhat interesting story attached to the game which is great since shmups usually don’t have complex stories or stories at all. Cave is great at creating stories around their shmups, and this is no exception. Also, this game has a great soundtrack and the CD is worth a buy if you are into gaming music.
The only complaint I have about this game are the grainy, pixilated graphics which isn’t really a big deal. One other thing that mildly irks me about some Cave shmups including this one is the claymation-style enemies. That is just a small matter of preference, though. Also, the game suffers from classic Cave shmup slow-down. The slow-down actually helps you as you can dodge bullets with more precision.
If memorizing complex bullet patterns is your thing, then this game should be in your PS2 library. While it can’t be had for cheap, it can be had at a reasonable price compared to other legendary shmups like Radiant Silvergun and Ibara. Arcade Mode is great practice, but I feel the Arrange Mode is the true test of skill of this game. Start with normal, and work your way up to beating the game on “Ultra”. If you can beat the game without using continues in the “Ultra” difficulty level (I sure as hell can’t), you are a shmup God. The highly-effective practice mode will help you on your way to becoming a deity.
For my review of the sequel for XBOX360, click below
My copy, no pirates or emus!