Mushihimesama Futari ver. 1.5

Surpassing its predecessor in virtually every way, Mushihimesama Futari delivers the ultimate Bullet-Hell experience that fans of the genre had been waiting for.

By fishdalf, Posted 16 Dec 2011

In 2005, famed Japanese developer Cave released one of its most successful titles – Mushihimesama. Presenting even the most experienced Bullet-Hell players will an uphill battle to fight, the game became well-known for its unforgiving difficulty and steep learning curve. Receiving critical acclaim from Japanese critics, Mushihimesama went on to become one of the most popular games within the genre. A year later Cave released the sequel to the iconic Shmup – Mushihimesama Futari. So does Mushihimesama Futari meet the standards set before it by the title’s predecessor? In a single word, yes.

Mushihimesama Futari, Ver. 1.5, Review

Most bosses are large enough to occupy the upper region of the screen

For those unfamiliar with the first game, the world of Mushihimesama is populated by anthropods called Koujuu, who emit their life force known as Levi-Sense, which is proving to be poisonous to humans. To avoid this hazard, humans live in scattered and isolated settlements, one of which is Hoshifuri village, the home of Princess Reco. After becoming lost while playing in Shinju Forest at a young age, Reco encounters a mysterious boy who presents her with a golden bracelet before showing her the way home. Now at the age of 15, Reco witnesses the inhabitants of her home fall victim to the deadly effects of the Levi-Sense as it spreads throughout the village. Harnessing the power of the bracelet to establish a telepathic connection between the golden beetle Kiniro and herself, Reco mounts Kiniro and travels to Shinju Forest to consult the Koujuu king – Aki. Learning that the only way to save her home is to destroy Aki, Reco reluctantly battles the king against her will whilst trying to find a way to protect both Aki and Hoshifuri. The fight meets its conclusion when Reco ultimately; albeit unintentionally; kills him. Learning of her son’s demise, Queen Larsa; overcome by rage and sorrow; swears the death of Reco. Determined to discover the truth for himself, Aki’s younger brother Palm journeys in search of his older sibling’s alleged killer. After hearing of the events leading up to Aki’s death from Reco, Palm decides for himself that Reco was not completely responsible for what transpired, and that she was actually trying to save him. Seeing no other option but to confront his mother himself and set things right by putting an end to her insanity, Palm and Reco begin a new journey together, this time to the Queen’s Palace.

As with other vertical Bullet-Hell shooters enemies appear from the top of the screen and advance towards the player at the bottom, usually whilst firing an enormous number of bullets in elaborate patterns towards the player, who must navigate the labyrinth of bullets and return fire. When the bullets start piling up and getting too close for comfort, Bombs can be used to clear the screen of bullets and eradicate all weaker, on-screen enemies, though the stronger ones won’t go down so easily. As enemies are defeated, the occasional power-up is left behind by a fallen foe. These usually increase the player’s firepower or add to their Bomb stock.

Mushihimesama Futari, Ver. 1.5, Review

I spy with my little eye something beginning with ‘b’…

While Mushihimesama Futari brings nothing new to the table, its core gameplay elements are so well conceived and implemented that it really doesn’t matter. Each of the five stages are dotted with countless enemies who blanket the screen in a curtain of fire. Despite the high bullet count, everything continues running a smooth 60fps and things never get so hectic that it becomes impossible to keep track of the action amidst the relentless stream of attacks. The bullets are coloured such that they form strikingly beautiful Danmaku patterns without becoming indistinguishable from the background.

While the game is rather short, the option of choosing from three difficulty settings and two different characters provides plenty of reasons to replay the game with or without a friend via local co-op play. And you’ll want a friend when tackling Ultra mode. For those new to the genre, Mushihimesama Futari offers Beginner Mode to ease new players into the game without throwing them into the deep end too early.  And for those at the opposite end of the spectrum, Ultra mode provides a daunting challenge that only those at the top of their game will be able to clear whilst saving their Credits.

While limited to a single player only, Arrange mode offers a fresh take on the game by introducing the mechanic of utilizing both characters simultaneously, with one character controlled by the AI. This character absorbs incoming fire to protect the character currently controlled by the player. The absorption of bullets is only possible however whilst a portion of the said character’s shield gauge is remaining, which decreases as they absorb enemy fire and increases as the character defeats opponents, thus forcing the player to alternate between characters and decide when to absorb bullets and when to weave through them to save the gauge for when it’s truly needed.

Mushihimesama Futari, Ver. 1.5, Review

Enjoy it while it lasts. Bullet-free screens are a rare sight

The soundtrack is particularly worthy of note, with each and every track creating a memorable atmosphere for each stage, thanks to the clever integration of traditional Japanese musical instruments into a style of techno music. From the menacing tones of the Boss theme to the calming melody of the Stage Results theme, the musical score delivers well in all areas. Cry! Scream! is one of the most memorable Boss themes heard in quite some time from a Shmup and captures the true essence of Larsa’s madness. Unfortunately the characters’ voices are quite annoying. Reco’s voice stands out as being particularly irritating, partly because it’s sometimes near impossible to understand what she’s actually saying (or trying to say).

Overall Mushihimesama Futari is every bit the sequel fans had been hoping for. With its colourful and vibrant visuals, beautifully rendered sprites, rock-hard difficulty and soaring musical score, Mushihimesama Futari is a Bullet-Hell player’s dream come true. Though not an ideal starting point for anyone still taking their first steps into the genre, this is guaranteed to please existing fans with its very challenging yet rewarding gameplay and suck them in for a long time to come. Mushihimesama Futari is a true testament to Cave’s legacy as the master craftsmen of the Bullet-Hell game.

Michael Groves, NoobFeed
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General Information

Platform(s): Xbox 360, Mobile
Publisher(s): AMI Co., Ltd.
Developer(s): Cave
Genres: Shoot-'Em-Up
Themes: Action
Release Date: 2006-10-27

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