It does sound like point 2 to me.
Okay, good. I wanted to be sure there are no other underlying problems. It's hard to strategize anything if you, say, don't even have the time to strategize!
You probably know of the sikraiken way of practicing: strategize everything until you can get about 90% of some world record and refine from there. For a talented and very disciplined guy like him, he can make this work. For the rest of us, getting to 90% all in one shot could take months or years, and all the while our motivation dies off. As for me, I set goals that I can achieve in about a month. Here's a not-quite-short case study of how I got decent scores in Shikigami no Shiro II
In Shikigami no Shiro II
, I wanted to get a world record for any character. Intuition told me that Kuga was the best, but after watching the Arcadia
record replay, it looked like there were too few opportunities to improve upon it. Other record replays for the other characters had glaring flaws that I wanted to capitalize on. So my process will involve figuring out which character is right for me. If you want to commit to a character early on, then you can simplify my process.
There are two phases to my process: survival, then score. Getting a high score obviously involves beating the game. During the survival phase, I only use score as a means for getting extra lives. Once I beat the game, then I can slowly add on scoring tricks, starting from the easy ones. This way, I can get used to the complexity of scoring well while seeing progress.Survival phase, one quick and easy iterationShikigami no Shiro II
. In order to figure out which character was right for me, I decided to try them all! Luckily, it was quick and easy to do so. Since I didn't have the Appreciate DVD to have some idea of where to use the bombs, I used my bomb distribution process to figure it out myself. It goes like this: go through the game without using any bombs and note where you died. Then use a bomb where you died on your next run. Repeat until you run out of bombs to distribute. Then figure out which ones are too easy to bomb and practice those areas (the stage select in this game's ports is very helpful here). As you go farther into the game, you will find new places to bomb and find other places to stop using the bomb. Keep doing this until you beat the game.
Oh, I noted what scores I got when I beat the game with each character. This will come in handy for the scoring phase.Espgaluda II applications
. You can use the same bomb distribution process, but this game has two resources you can use to make the game easier: gems for kakusei mode and the guard barrier. If you lose a life in one area, try slowing down the bullets with kakusei mode. If you still get hit or waste lots of gems, try using the guard barrier instead.
If you're really motivated about beating the world record, you might have to go up against Shin Seseri. This involves not dying until you reach her. I would learn to do so before I would move on to the scoring phase. Intermediate goals would be to lose one fewer life upon reaching her until you can lose none at all.Scoring phase, iteration 1, the big pictureShikigami no Shiro II
. At this point, I have the Appreciate DVD in hand. But first, I set some goals. Each character has different scoring potential -- Chibi Fumiko can only get up to about 5 billion, but Sayo can get up to 7 billion. So for each character, I divided my current score by the Arcadia
record score to get a percentage. Then I took the maximum percentage and subtracted it from 100%. I forgot what my actual starting scores were so I'm going to make some numbers up. Say Kuga had the best percentage at 36% of the Arcadia
record. 100% minus 36% is 64%.
I have eight characters to choose from. I wanted to eliminate one in each iteration. Whichever character took the longest to get to some scoring goal, I eliminate. Now, I have 64% to go to beat some Arcadia
record. I divided that by 8 (the number of characters), which means I wanted to improve Kuga's score by 8% to 44%. Now I want to meet this percentage goal for every character. I did write down what the actual percentage goal was, and it was about 47%.
With Sayo, I started off with about 25% of the record. And I wanted her score to go up to 47%, too. That's not fair: Kuga started with 36% so he needs less effort to get up to 47% than what Sayo requires. Why did I do this? The goal is to find the easiest character to use for score. So I prefer characters that were naturally easy to score with even when I played only for survival.
Okay, now it's time to play. I kept a log of the amount of time each character took to get to 47% of the Arcadia
record. Again, whichever character took the longest to get to 47%, I eliminated. Sayo took the longest to get there at about 19 hours, so I graciously bowed to the genius that is Yusemi and eliminated her.Adjustments for less bookkeeping
. You can just set some arbitrary percentage for each character and eliminate which character you hated the most. You can even eliminate multiple characters if you want.
Also, if you want to commit to one character, then you can just use actual scores as your goal. Maybe with Kuga, you started off with 2.0 billion, so you can set the next goal at 3.0 billion, then 3.5 billion, and so on.Espgaluda II applications
. The same method applies, but with only three characters to work with, you'll notice a bigger gap between what you have and what your goal will be. For example, with Ageha, you could start with 10% and end up with a goal of 40%. You can create small goals within an iteration, and I might cover this some other time.Scoring phase, iteration 1, breaking down the big pictureShikigami no Shiro II
. For each character, I wanted to improve whatever I had to 47% of the Arcadia
record. The ports in this game have a powerful tool: stage select. With the stage select, I can set stage goals. Luckily, the Appreciate DVD booklet has a score breakdown by stage, so I basically used those numbers and multiplied each one by 47% to set a scoring goal for each stage.
I also modified my bomb distribution. I considered what bombs were being used in the DVD and thought about what I could add or needed to subtract in order to meet my overall scoring goal.
With a stage goal and bomb distribution in mind, it's time to play. First, I watched the DVD to familiarize myself with the scoring tricks the players used. Then I tried to repeat what I saw. If a trick became too difficult, I resorted to some less risky version of the trick or just plain surviving. Eventually, I would find out which tricks are easy enough to use in order to meet my stage goal.
Now, some of the stages required milking, so I had to decide whether to do it. If I decided not to milk a stage, then it would be too difficult to meet a stage goal. So a stage goal is really merely a guideline to get to what I ultimately want: the overall scoring goal. If all of the practice mode scores I got added up to my overall scoring goal, then I'm good to play the entire game. For example, if I had a goal of 435 million in stage 2-2, but I accepted a score of 399 million, then 399 million becomes my target anyway.
After tallying up all the stage scores in practice, I end up with an overall score that's bigger than my goal. For example, the sum of all the stages in practice mode could be 3.2 billion when I only wanted 2.9 billion. So I reduce each stage's scoring goal to the point in which I could just barely meet my overall scoring goal. For example, I might have a score in 396 million in practice mode, but I can tolerate getting just 358 million. The numbers that I can tolerate become the numbers I use in the full run.
Now it's time for the full runs. I usually have a notebook or a small sticky note on the score (in millions) I would like to have in the end of each stage. For example, I want 358 million in stage 1-1, 656 million in stage 1-2, and so on. At the end of each stage, if my current score is higher than my goal, then I'm all pumped to move on. If it's slightly lower, then I would plow through anyway just to get used to the nerve-wracking experience of a full run. If it's way too low, then I start over. I use mostly my mood to determine whether I want to start over.
If I beat my goal, then great! I'm done. If not, then I practice the stages that made me want to stop in the full runs. Once I get comfortable again, then I go through the full runs again.
What happens if you still can't meet your goals? I'll cover this a little bit later, but basically, just lower your goals.
So in summary, what am I doing here? Set some rough scoring goals for each stage, ensure that I'll have enough bombs to get to the end of the game, practice to get a better idea of what my goals should be, go through the full runs, and cycle between practicing and going through the full runs until I achieve my overall goal.Adjustments for less bookkeeping
. It's still a good idea to keep track of the scores you get in practice mode, but then you can arbitrarily adjust your stage goals until they add up to your overall stage goals. Also, you probably don't need to write down what your stage targets are for your full runs -- just keep in mind where you're losing points most often.Espgaluda II applications
. Uhh, I don't know how training mode in the port works...
One other thing to consider is the score bonuses you get for beating the game. I don't think you should get a perfect end-of-game bonus right away. You can set intermediate goals for it too, like dying one fewer times instead of going for the no-miss right away.The basic idea
There are more iterations to this case study, but there are a lot of things to consider already. Ultimately, what you want to do is to set goals that you can achieve in two to six weeks. Think about what easy scoring tricks you can do within that time frame and implement them through observation and strategizing. If you can't reach your goal, lower it and try again. As long as you see good overall increases in your high scores, you'll be fine.
. . .
As for me, I stopped playing Shikigami no Shiro II
when I didn't even peak yet. Why? I got a new job, and I don't have as much free time anymore. But finding free time is an entirely different problem. These days, I'm enjoying things that are more relaxing, like programming a game and learning the Japanese language. But I still maintain some interest in shmups, because I'll never know when I'll have lots of free time again.