With the arrival of faster computers and HD graphics, the doujin shmup scene makes a leap forward onto this new generation. Edelweiss gave a shot by revitalizing their successful game Ether Vapor with this graphic re-design known as Ether Vapor Remaster.
Before you go to the battle, you must know how your weapons work. If you didn't played the original Ether Vapor, then let me guide you: You have three weapons to use and switch on the fly known as the "Bit System", unlike the traditional "Use a switch button to change weapons", each weapon has its respective button and it'll switch as soon as you tap the buttons. If you hold the weapon button you'll unleash the charged version of any of this weapons.
Bit 1 is the Gatling, your basic rapid shot, but don't be fooled as the basic weapon it makes a considerable damage as a rapid firing weapon, just keep tapping the button to inflict a good amount of damage on your enemies, if you hold the weapon button your ship will fire the Gatling:Pierce, a fast, powerful armor-piercing charge shot that passes through your enemies dealing heavy damages.
Bit 2 is the Winder, which works as your spread-shot weapon. Just like the Gatling, it's a fast shooting weapon, but here's the catch; it's a quite weak weapon but that doesn't mean that you will not gonna need it in one moment or another. Holding the button will release the Winder:Radiate, which is the "Shield" weapon because it's a defensive type because its damage is minimal, but it can absorb bullets and laser beams which blocks your way, giving you a chance to escape from sure death hazards.
Bit 3 is the Lock-On, just like in Raystorm and GunLock, this weapon fires rapid lasers that aims to enemies "on screen" and on the Z-Axis of the screen (in the background), but as a "Lock On Target" weapon it needs time to aim their enemies so it's not a good idea to use this weapon on situations where you fight "Wave-after-wave" of enemies. It's charge attack is the Lock-On:Cascade, a barrage of lasers that not only aim their targets, but they explode. However this attack will "overheat" the charge gauge, disabling it for a while.
Before starting the game you can choose if you want to keep the Original cutscenes or go to the Remaster mode, while the Original mode holds the cutscenes in-between and after levels, the Remaster mode removes all the cutscenes, focusing on the action in the purest arcade style. Speaking of cutscenes, even if they pop during a stage they don't feel annoying or frustrating because everything is on the move as the story unfolds during the game, the ships, the pilots and the action, the only thing missing there was the voice acting, but if you know japanese you'll be fine reading the plot.
Now let's talk about the action, everyone who played Ether Vapor before already knows what to expect, but for those who are not familiar with it, here's how this game works. Remember the scroll switching game Axelay on the SNES?, Ether Vapor is the evolution of the scroll-switch concept. The game begins as a vertical scrolling shooting where at first it may look basic and simple, but as soon as you can imagine the action becames fast and it requires fast reflexes and the right moment to use a specific weapon to destroy a specific enemy or a formation of them, switch the shot for the lock on or rather dodge the homing lasers?, but later the game will change the scrolling to a missile shooting "Bonus Zone" very reminiscent of rail shooters (pistol games) such as Steel Gunner or an "Hyper-intense version of Duck Hunt", then you'll go vertical again to fight the boss, but in the next stage you'll go horizontal, then into an After Burner-like 3rd person shmup, go horizontal, isometric and so on. This game changes its perspectives to give the player a multi-scroll shmup action. If there's something to complain about is the Viewpoint-esque Isometric view of Stage 6 and Stage 7, it's kind of confusing since it can be hard to detect what could hit you and what not, and this is then the Winder:Radiate comes on handy for beginners and amateur players who wants to be safe.
Memorizing boss attacks and enemy bullet patterns is a life-or-death priority, specially for the Hi-Score enthusiasts, because if you die and continue, you'll lose your score of all your progress prior to your death (example, die in stage 4 and the other levels are gone) like in Silpheed: The Lost Planet and Thunder Force V, but the worst part is during the boss battle because if you continue, you'll be unable to get any points and the boss timer will be on zero, losing your chance to recover until you start the next stage.
At the moment of starting the game you'll begin with 2 Shield points (out of 9) and 2 continues the most obvious thing is that you're gonna die and die and die and die. With a disadvantage like this, you might be asking yourself "How can i get more hit points and continues?", during the gameplay you can get an extra Shield point by getting a certain score (600,000 points), but if you want to get more life and credits to start the game, well, i can describe that with a quote: "Consistency is Victory", the motto issued by Ultra Magnus from The Transformers can be used to describe the Extra Shield and Continue feature in this game, 'cos since you start the game , and everytime you keep on playin' the game will add an extra continue and an extra shield point, extending your chances to survive, while the shield unlocking stops when they reach 9/9, the continue feature seems to increase infinitely, for example you can reach 22 continues and even more. Speaking of Replay Value, Unlocking the Overdrive Ex-tio is much easier here, since the only thing to do is just complete the game (continuing as much as you can) rather than complete without continuing which was a nearly-impossible to do task. Also there's other features to unlock which i prefer to keep'em secret so you can experience the whole replay value and enjoy this non-stop action packed masterpiece which it would not disappoint ya' if you're looking for heavy shmup action.
The bonuses can be found not just by clearing the stage (Stage Bonus), when you get an "Overkill" on a large enemy you can shoot it before it explodes, each hit on the dying enemy will be multiplied x8. The other Bonus feature is found on the "Bonus Zone" which consists mostly on Multi Lock-On Mode by using your Lock-On Reticule on rail shooting action in Stages 1 and 4, and shooting down enemies in Stages 4, 5 and 6 on vertical scrolling shooting.
To finish the gameplay review, the game also improved the loading times, which are non-existant, virtually there's no wait during game start and between stages, the player scores now have Online Scoreboard functionality.
Let's go with the graphics part. In the original Ether Vapor we had one spectacular visual show that rivalizes with the PlayStation 2 in visual terms, now in "Remaster" the visuals can be comparated with those of the XBOX360, your ship looks really like a 3D design with visible detailings rather than a 3D-like sprite, but the best example can be found in the heavily improved lighting effects which create a beautiful visual show at the moment of dodging the homing lasers, along with the trails left by the missiles on the Bonus Zones in stages 1 and 4, the City scenery of stage 3 looks more realistic with the graphic redesign, matching with flight simulators such as Ace Combat 6 and Microsoft Flight Simulator X on combining textures with CG buildings and bridges for a 3D look. The enemy lighting on their laser-based attacks was reduced to ease the visibility, because there was situations where the enemies were hidden due to the intense lighting.
Speaking of 3D, the game now includes an Anaglyph 3D mode, yep those which requires those old school "blue and red glasses" (remember Rad Racer on the NES?), since "Remaster" uses a lot of "depth of field", a very unexpected use of this feature if you ask me.
As for the character design, it's the same of the original version, so most of the cast are still the same Gundam Seed Destiny Knock offs, starting with Luca Earlgray (Ex-tio) who looks like Shinn Asuka, Sana Bergamot (Whittard) is a Cagalli Yula Athha rip-off, Keim Juniper (Pteryx) is a grey-haired Athrun Zala, and Tetley Einser (Megarachne) is Meyrin Hawke's clone, as for Selva Cypress (Archaeo) he's more of a rip-off of Gaara from Naruto.
The sound department was also improved with a immersive effect added on the sound effects, for example if you shoot down an enemy on the left side on the screen, the shots and explosions will be heard on the left speaker, as for the music it keeps being the same cool combination of techno, piano and rock-style tunes that fulfills the intense action on this game, starting with a serene but still dance-paced rhythm in Stage 1, to an enigmatic tune as you fight the boss and rush into battle to a mystical rhythm in stage 2 and fight another boss with a hard rock-electronic beat, you've gotta check the rest on your own, even explain you the music of this game should be a spoiler.
- Dunkleosteus concept name was "Great Archelon", which would also explain why Daniel is its pilot
- Sana Bergamot and her Whittard ship were intended to be included in the Try-Side ships (Try-ning Mode) for the "Vermilion Fall" patch of Rayging Blue's Conflict Warred, but unfortunately she wasn't included
Prehistoric Lifeform References:
Most of the bosses names are based on prehistoric lifeforms.
- Ex-tio (The player ship) is a word play and abreviation of "Extinction", the end of an organism as a species when the last one of its kind dies without having a chance of breed and recover such as Dodo birds, Tasmanian Tiger (Tylacine) Dinornis (Giant Moa) and Tyrannosaurus Rex.
- Apitex comes from Australopithecus, one of the first hominids which played a significant part of human evolution, the word "Evo" on it's final form comes from "Evolution". Australopithecus means "Southern Ape".
- Archelon is the name of a giant turtle which lived on the Late Cretaceous period. Its name is translated as "Ruler Turtle"
- Archaeo and Pteryx are named after the Archaeopteryx, a Late Jurassic primitive bird considered as the transition between dinosaurs and birds. It's name means "Ancient Wing".
- Megarachne is named after the eurypterid (primitive arachnid) of the same name which lived on the Upper Carboniferous. The name Megarachne means "Giant Spider".
- Dunkleosteus name comes from the Late Devonian arthrodire placoderm (plate-skinned fish) of the same name. Its name translates as "Dunkle's Bone", Dunkle's name comes from David Dunkle, the curator of Vertebrate Paleontology at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History.
Ether Vapor Remaster and it's previous version can be considered as "The Shooting Game for Real Pilots", where consistency and preseverance are well rewarded.
Ready to Shmuppin' again... No Guts No Glory!