Yep, it's finally here.1. Overview and TL;DR
Black Label Original mode scoring borrows heavily from Futari 1.5 Original. Most of the core concepts remain the same; however, score and skill ceilings are raised dramatically on high-level play. This time around, simply no-missing the game will not give you 50% of a world record for free—you have to be very aggressive in order to get anywhere in terms of scoring.
Conversely, playing for survival is a lot easier compared to any 1.5 mode, as the weapon types are stronger in general and have no weak points in BL, so they can be comfortably used in any situation to one's exact needs; in addition to that, BL has more slowdown and bullet canceling opportunities that can be used for both scoring and survival purposes. This makes the game more friendly to either approach, and the game has caught some flak for being "too easy" (undeservedly so in my opinion), yet players aiming for high scores may find the system frustrating due to high risk demands and mistake penalties. Playing at a world-class level makes the game comparable to Ultra and God modes in terms of difficulty due to the amount of highly technical elements in the routes and having to deal with some extremely
The gist of the scoring system can be summarized as follows:
1) conserve your resources—don't bomb nor die;
2) kill enemies with the right shot (rapid when the overall counter is green, focused when blue);
3) stay close to the enemies you kill and pick up the gems that come out immediately;
4) set up and time bullet-canceling opportunities to maximum advantage.1.1. Rank
There is notable rank (dynamic difficulty) in this mode. There are two main components to it with a slightly different effect.Survival rank
: gradually increases the rate
at which the enemies fire their bullets, thereby increasing attack density
. Maxes out over time as long as you don't die nor bomb. It's very important to keep this as high as possible for more lucrative bullet cancels. Stages seem to have a default rank floor, like in eg. Darius Gaiden. Whether you can drop the rank below the stage default is presently unknown, but so far there is no evidence for it. The rate at which survival rank increases and the earliest point at which it could be maxed out are presently unknown as well.Counter rank
: increases the movement speed
of enemy bullets. Unlike survival rank, this happens in distinct steps: as your stage counter hits 9999 (about a 1.2x speed increase), and as your overall counter hits 100,000 (about a 1.5x speed increase cumulative with the former). There are no in-between values for this; enemy bullet speed at 99,999 is exactly the same as at 0 on the overall counter. Likewise for any values between 0 and 9998 on the stage counter. If you have no-missed up to 100k on the overall counter, you've maxed out the bullet speed for the game; any further counter increases will not make them any faster.1.2. Character specifics
BL does away with the clunky shot types of 1.5 by straight-out combining Normal and Abnormal types. Which is fine because nearly no-one used Abnormal Reco or Normal Palm in 1.5 anyway. Unfortunately, their power was combined as well, so both characters (notably Palm) ended up clearly overpowered.* Estimates based on available replays and the current knowledge.
Beginner players should definitely start with Reco. She is extremely versatile, and has easier time point-blanking thanks to her option pods. Her only notable problem is that some of the bosses may have the time to let out dangerous attacks where Palm kills them before they do. But either character is good enough, and their usage boils down to preference more than anything else.1.3. Extends
There are two score extends at 100 and 200 million points, and a secret extend near the end of stage 5. It's located in a large building at the end of the S-shaped camera path, shortly before it dives down. To uncover it, do the midboss and the stretch immediately preceding the building without using any bombs. The score extends are relatively easy to hit; both can be had by the end of stage 2 or early stage 3 (the current Palm WR route can get the first one in stage 1).2. Scoring system
Despite being simple on the surface, BL Original's scoring system is quite technical and nuanced, which is exemplified by the fact that during the nine years the game has been out we've only had one world-class score on our forum. Hopefully this long-overdue thread will help people get better and appreciate the game some more.2.1. The basics
Most of the score comes from picking up amber gems
that enemies (especially the larger ones) drop when they're shot at, killed, or have their bullets canceled. The larger your counters, the more the value of these gems and the more gems come out (more details on this below).
The other significant factors are clear bonuses and boss destruction. In total they can amount up to 400–550 million on a world-class-level route. None of the other factors are as significant as these. The math is elaborated below.2.2. Counters
There are two counters on the left side of the screen: the larger one above is the overall counter, and the smaller one below is the stage counter. These act as multipliers, influence the game's difficulty, and provide secondary effects. Here's a reference table listing their effects briefly.
* More on this in section 184.108.40.206.2.1. Overall counter
The overall counter
(OC), or total counter
as it's called in the port, is the total value of all amber gems accumulated thus far, minus those lost to penalties. Any amber gem picked up increments the OC value accordingly.
OC determines the following:
— The shot you need to use to get large amber gems from the enemies. When the counter is green
, you need to use rapid
(unfocused) shot, produced by tapping A or holding C button. When the counter turns blue
, use focused shot (hold A). The color switch happens every 3000 points on the counter (e.g. it's green from 0 to 2999, then blue from 3000 to 5999, green again to 8999, etc.). The change of color is accompanied by a short chime. OC's value in the corresponding color is also shown under your character whenever an amber gem is picked up, so you can just look at the character instead of the upper left part of the screen. The color is harder to make out that way, however. Note that for the purpose of getting large gems from enemies you only need to deliver the killing blow with the right shot—this is especially useful when fighting bosses or large enemies that you can't point-blank for gem shedding.
— The amount of extra points you get from killing Larsa's forms (which is calculated at 100×<overall counter> for all three forms).
Additionally, at an OC value of 100,000
and above (referred hereinafter as "100k mode
"), the following effects take place:
— You gain per-frame score
for staying alive. It starts out at ~110 points per frame at 100,000 counter, and climbs up proportionally to ~1100 points/frame at 190,000 where it maxes out. On a WR-level route this corresponds to about 35–40 million over the course of the entire game, so don't expect it to influence your runs significantly. This gain stops during boss and midboss fights, so it cannot be abused by stalling (in other words, the 40 million figure is a hard cap on the score earned this way).
— The score value of all amber gems picked up is doubled
. This has no bearing on the counter value itself; i.e. the counter doesn't increase at a faster rate—only the score does. This is one of the two large effects that come with the 100k mode.
— Enemy bullets become much faster
(by a factor of 1.5 or so) and leave purple trails as they move around the screen.
— Bullet cancels turn both the bullets themselves and their trails
into amber, increasing the total amount of gems per cancel by a factor of 3–5. This is the other large scoring-related effect to take advantage of. Together they can just about quadruple your score increase rate, but the risk rises accordingly.
OC is decreased by:
, by 1/3 (33.3%) every time, for either character.
, by 5940 points flat for Palm and 6820 points flat for Reco. The point loss is tied to bomb effect duration which is slightly longer for Reco to compensate for her slightly lower firepower.
— Boss fights
, at a rate of about 40 points per second. The counter starts decreasing as soon as the enemy life bar is filled up initially, and stops the moment it is depleted to zero.2.2.2. Stage counter
The stage counter (SC) is incremented at the same rate as the overall counter by all the same means. The major difference is that it's reset at the beginning of every stage and is capped at 9999, same as in 1.5 Original.
SC determines the following:
— Amber gem score value
. It is calculated as such: <stage counter>×<gem color>×<100k mode multiplier>. The maximum point value of any gem is, thus, capped at 79,992 points
. See section 2.3 for more math.
— Boss kill value
. See section 2.5 for more math.
Additionally, at a value of 9999, the following effects take place:
— Medium and large enemies shot at point-blank shed large gems
rather than small ones (more on this in section 2.3.3).
— Enemy bullets become slightly faster
; the effect is cumulative with the 100k mode.
— You gain per-frame score
for staying alive, at ~11 points per frame. This is absolutely negligible, even on stage 1. This effect stops completely in the 100k mode; i.e. the stage counter value does not affect per-frame gain at all
as long as the overall counter is over 100k.
— Counter values shimmer
The stage counter is decreased by:
, by 1/3 (33.3%) every time, for either character.
, by 5940 points flat for Palm and 6820 points flat for Reco. The point loss is tied to bomb effect duration which is slightly longer for Reco to compensate for slightly lower firepower. Note that, compared to the overall counter, a loss of 5.9–6.8k on the stage counter has a devastating effect on the score for several reasons described above.
— Boss fights
, at a rate of about 40 points per second. The counter starts decreasing as soon as the enemy life bar is filled up initially, and stops the moment it is depleted to zero.2.3. Amber gems and proximity effects
Amber gems are the items you pick up to increase your score and the rate of score increase. There are many aspects to their generation and pickup, mostly those including proximity and timing.2.3.1. Gem types
Amber gems come in four basic varieties:
Any enemy killed with shot, regardless of counter values and focused/unfocused states, will drop a small number of small airborne gems. If it was killed by a correct shot according to the OC color, it will also drop a number of large gems, and the overall amount dropped will be larger as well.
Any gem in proximity will be picked up automatically: to be "hooked" with the autopickup system, airborne gems require being unfocused (either shooting or not), and ground gems require shooting focused. The autopickup radius is pretty large—at least half a screen wide. Offscreen items can be picked up if they haven't scrolled over 1/6 of a screen away or so.
Bullets canceled by a destruction of a large enemy or a stage 5 lantern always
turn into small airborne gems. Bullets erased by bombing won't give any
gems. Any gem generation process stops as long as the bomb is active, so enemies killed by a bomb won't drop any gems either; however, if the gem generation effect persists some time after their death (most easily noticeable on stage 2 midboss's death), and the bomb's effect ceases until then, they will be able to generate some gems even if killed by a bomb.2.3.2. Gem colors
In addition to four basic types, amber gems can be colorless
or have one of the two colors: green
, signified by a light green or a whitish-blue aura, respectively. Every gem picked up adds its nominal value, which is multiplied by its color modifier, to the two counters; then the resulting stage counter value, multiplied by the color modifier, is added to your score. If your SC is at 9999, every gem type (small, large, airborne, ground...) adds the same amount of score—their color is the only aspect affecting the difference.Blue
gems add quadruple
value to the counters and the score. They are the single largest contributor to your score at the high level of play. In order to pick a gem up as blue, move within its auto-pickup range within 44 frames of its creation (48 for ground gems). If the gem was hooked during this window, it will be picked up blue. This includes gems shedded by proximity shooting, though milking them this way is rarely ever feasible because the frequent interruptions required to suck in the drops are difficult to time so much as to break even with continuous shedding.Green
gems add double
value to the counters and the score. If you couldn't pick up a gem as blue within the corresponding window, you have 48 more frames to pick it up as green (80 for ground gems).
Note that airborne gems are created colorless by default and only change color when hooked, depending on the time spent since their creation. This aspect makes it very important to unfocus your shot regularly to suck the gems currently released in the air while their value is still high, unless you're executing continuous shedding with focused shot (though after the enemy you're shedding from is dead, this will have to be done regardless). In contrast to this, ground gems will always give the full value regardless of whether they're picked up automatically or by manually hovering over their location—as long as the timing is respected.
Thus, you have a total of ~1.5 seconds to hook an airborne gem or ~2.1 seconds to pick up a ground gem for an above-nominal-value pickup. If you fail to do so in those time windows, it will be picked up colorless, only adding nominal values to the counters and the score. This is highly undesirable, as seen in the table below.Note: there are approximately 60 frames in a second.Example:
you have killed an enemy that dropped 9 small and 3 large airborne gems. 5 small gems are picked up colorless, 1 large and 2 small gems are picked up blue, and the remaining 2 large and 2 small ones are picked up green, all at 9999 SC and above 100k OC (so the 2× score gain multiplier is applied). The resulting point gain is thus:
5×9999×2=99,990 (colorless) +
4×9999×2×2=159,984 (green) +
3×9999×4×2=239,976 (blue) = 499,950 points in total
As you can see, blue gems, despite constituting only 25% of the item haul, contributed almost half the point gain in this case. Maximizing the amount of blue gems in your pickups is paramount for high scoring.2.3.3. Effects of proximity on gem generation
The effect of proximity is twofold. First, as mentioned above, is the change in gem color that affects its value. The other, no less important, is that shooting at certain enemies from up close with the right shot makes them release extra gems. This effect is called gem shedding
To be exact, medium and large enemies and structures, when shot at near-point-blank range with the right shot (see section 2.2.1), will release a massive amount of extra airborne gems while shot at. If you're at below 9999 SC, the gems will be small. At 9999, they will be large.
A mid-sized flying enemy in stage 1 can drop a few dozen extra gems this way. A midboss can drop several thousands if point-blanked the entire time. Due to the enormous amounts of gems that can be generated this way, the score value of shed gems is divided by 10
(i.e. decreased to 10%) of its nominal value to provide balance to the scoring system.
Gem shedding is important for three purposes:
— Getting the stage counter up to 9999
quickly. As such, point-blanking is necessary to build up the score multiplier at the beginning of every stage, with the exception of stage 5 where it can be built up very easily with other means.
— Getting the overall counter to 100k
quickly. By abusing point-blanking in the first three stages it's possible to enter the 100k mode by mid-stage 3.
— Getting more blue gems
. Non-popcorn enemies killed at close range will not only drop gems that can be picked up blue, but will also drop more
of them, significantly increasing the score gain compared to picking off the same enemies at range and getting their drops green or colorless.2.4. Shooting and killing enemies
Shooting something gives a minor per-frame score increase. This is most noticeable on bosses. The weaker your weapon, the larger score you can get this way, but the gains are minor and easily offset by the extra loss of counters due to stalling, as well as extra danger from having to dodge more attacks.To do: calculate this.
Enemies have fixed point values awarded for killing them. They range from 240 points for flying popcorn enemies in stage 1 to a few hundreds of thousands for midbosses. Counters don't affect this in any way. The relative gain from this is minor, so don't go out of your way to kill every single enemy.2.5. Scoring on bosses
A stage boss is, essentially, a very valuable enemy. As such, their destruction has a lot more more noticeable effect on the score. They are also the only enemies where counters play a role in their destruction score.
Larsa (the final boss) is the only boss who awards a kill bonus based on overall
counter, and a hefty one at that, so keeping your OC as high as possible is warranted even past 190k. Note that the counter-based bonuses are only awarded if you deliver the killing blow with rapid or focused shot. If a form is destroyed while your bomb is active, or is timed out, this bonus is denied.
This is particularly important for Larsa due to the magnitude of the bonus.2.6. Endstage and endgame clear bonuses
At the end of every stage you're given a bonus equal to:
small airborne gems × 100 +
large airborne gems × 1000 +
small ground gems × 200 +
large ground gems × 2000 +
remaining bombs × 500,000 +
<stage number> × 1,000,000 if the stage has been no-missed
Note that the gem tally takes colored gems into account (so one blue gem is tallied as four for the purposes of bonus calculation) and only includes gems picked up since the last death
on the stage. A flawless stage 5 done entirely in 100k mode with optimal bullet canceling should provide around 41–44 million, every other stage gives less than half that value.
Additionally, at the end of the game there is an all-clear bonus equal to:
10,000,000 × <remaining lives> × <remaining bombs>
As such it's pretty obvious that you shouldn't end the game with no bombs in stock. If you have more than one remaining life, don't hesitate to suicide before delivering the killing blow so that you are given any bonus at all. Below is the table for all combinations of remaining resources with the corresponding bonus values. Combinations in yellow are those where a suicide would have increased the bonus; combinations in orange are unrecoverable.3. Strategy3.1. General strategy
Useful things that apply to scoring in general. If you see some phrases being repeated or reiterated from the earlier paragraphs, it means this is important information that should be learned by heart.3.1.1. Build up your counters ASAP
Your primary goal on every stage should be to cap the stage counter
as soon as possible to receive full value from all gems and make enemies shed large gens instead of small ones. Abuse gem shedding as much as possible in order to build the SC up, and avoid bombing.
If you're below 100k on the OC, getting to that point should be the next priority. Pro players say the game is divided into two distinct stages: first is aggressively pointblanking to get to the 100k mode sooner (stages 1 to 3), then aggressive bullet canceling to cash in on the multipliers (stages 3 to 5).3.1.2. Proximity matters
You should remain as close to enemies as possible, since the two major mechanics—gem shedding and blue gem generation—are closely tied to the distance to the enemy being shot at/killed. With Reco, this notion is partly relaxed, as her option pods, though moving separately, are considered parts of her for the purposes of gem shedding, allowing to keep a safer distance from the target. Similarly, Palm can kill and shed gems from enemies located behind him as his "options" are suspended behind his hitbox.
As mentioned earlier, killing certain enemies at close range may easily triple the score gain compared to killing them at range.3.1.3. Never bomb during a stage, and preferably not at all
— Bombs absolutely murder
the SC, increasing the time spent below 9999, which is extremely undesirable.
— They drop your survival rank for a while, making potential subsequent bullet cancels less profitable.
— Having less bombs at the endgame bonus tally cripples it as well, as their amount is multiplicative with the rest.
Seriously, don't bomb if you can help it! On average, it's better to take a 50% chance of bullshitting through a hard attack than to bomb. If you often die at the same spots, look into making your route less aggressive, but avoid incorporating bombs if you can help it at all.
Cases where bombing might be preferable to dying:
— If your OC is below 150k and you've accidentally trapped yourself, so dying will bring your overall counter below 100k upon respawn. This has a more pronounced negative impact compared to the temporary loss of stage counter as long as you can restore the latter reasonably quickly (e.g. on a good bullet cancel).
— Boss fights. Since stage counter is less relevant there, it can be sacrificed to get through a nasty pattern (which many of them are in 100k mode). Do NOT
use bombs to end Larsa's forms—this will result in a massive hit to your score. If you must bomb, do so preemptively, or at least stall so that the killing shot can be delivered already after the bomb effect wears off.3.1.4. Abuse offscreen invulnerability
Much like in DDP games, Futari has a mechanic by which enemies and structures that are partly offscreen are invulnerable, though in case with Futari it only applies to enemies entering
the screen (they can still be destroyed while scrolling offscreen). This can be abused to shed extra gems from them, especially at the beginning of a stage, where you want to build up the SC as quickly as possible.3.1.5. Cancel bullets efficiently
Lure as many enemies onto the screen as possible before you destroy a bullet canceling enemy. This way you will not only benefit from canceling extra bullets shot at you into gems, but will also be able to safely pick them off from a close distance while the bullet canceling effect is active, producing even more gems.
Unlike ground structures, the bullet-canceling effect of large enemies and midbosses lasts longer—up to a few seconds. This can be abused by stalling them so that more enemies enter the screen and start shooting at you, and then delivering the finishing blow. All the bullets shot at you during the few seconds of the bullet-canceling effect will be automatically turned into amber gems you can pick up from a close distance for massive score increases. This is especially prominent in stage 5 which has a lot of such bullet-canceling enemies as well as a lot of popcorn enemies willing to shoot at you. Beware of them ramming you afterwards, though!3.1.6. Don't get hung up on killing and picking up everything
Always prioritize two things: getting to 100k ASAP, and canceling more bullets afterwards. If that requires you to forgo killing some enemies in favor of eg. leaving them alive so that you can cancel more of their bullets, or shed more gems from a ground structure—so be it.3.2. Techniques
Generic techniques useful to get a hold of.3.2.1. Lagging the game up
In 100k mode bullets become too fast to be sightread. Thus you can rely on one of the two things: 1) executing muscle-memory cutbacks, and 2) making bullets slower by making the game itself
The latter happens during one of the three things:
1) shooting the laggy shot (see the character table in 1.2) during a computation-intensive part
of the game (boss fights, etc.);
2) shooting while having a lot
3) shooting while having a lot
The latter can be attained by shedding gems continuously from a large enemy without taking breaks to suck them up. This way, by executing a normally risky maneuver, you can actually make the game a bit easier.3.2.2. Cancel stalling
More often than not bullet-cancel enemies and structures tend to be more useful if not destroyed immediately. This is especially noticeable on the large moth enemy shortly before stage 4 midboss: normally there is a lot of hard-to-discern popcorn enemies following it that fire slow return bullets at you when killed, cluttering the screen, but by stalling the moth until it almost leaves the screen you can keep the screen clean of return bullets and destroy the annoying popcorns without putting yourself in danger, while the bullet cancel effect is going. The same principle also applies to stages 3 and 5, and to some extent to 1 and 2.
The other, scoring-centric benefit of cancel stalling is, obviously, waiting until many popcorn enemies enter the screen and start shooting at you. While the cancel effect is going (and it usually goes on for a couple seconds), all the bullets shot will continually turn into amber. Obviously, the enemies shooting them must be kept alive for this. They can be disposed of when the cancel effect wears off.3.2.3. Scrolling enemies offscreen
Enemies can't shoot you from offscreen. If they're also ground enemies or structures, they usually can't follow you to the other side of the screen, either. This can be abused in eg. stage 4, with the beacons shooting rotating 5-way streams. A few of them are located at the edges of the screen and can, thus, be offscreened to leave a large gap in their bullet streams.3.2.4. Large enemy attack time-out
Some large enemies are hard to shed gems from due to their aggressive attacks. However, most of them will stop attacking once they have completed their attack cycles. This usually happens when they have scrolled about 60–70% of the screen's height down. At that point they can be safely point-blanked for maximum profit. This applies to the rhinoceros beetles in stage 3, beacons and mantises in stage 4, and dragon turtles in stage 5. Note that you will have to dodge both their and the other enemies attacks while you're waiting, so most of the time this isn't the safest scenario.3.2.5. Boss milking
The best way to end a boss form is by waiting until it shoots an attack that cancels into the largest amount of amber upon destruction; the ideal setup is to aim it at one of the lower corners of the screen so that more bullets can fill it without going offscreen. The character, especially if it's Reco, should be positioned close to the center of the largest amber cluster so that more gems can be picked up blue. Mild stalling might be necessary with some of the bosses (e.g. stage 2 boss's first form).
Some bosses fire an anger pattern if dealt with too aggressively or by attempting to take advantage of a safe spot. This is abused on stage 1 boss which, in its 2nd form, shoots a dense and very fast-moving bullet spread if you to too high up on the screen. Aggressive routes start the 2nd form high up to take advantage of the residue cancel, and end the form similarly by delivering the last shot as the anger pattern is about to hit them.3.3. Stage-specific strategiesTo do: populate this section.3.3.1. Stage 13.3.2. Stage 2MidbossMidboss pointblank strategy video
by SMC.3.3.3. Stage 33.3.4. Stage 43.3.5. Stage 53.3.6. Larsa fight4. Records and replays
Some notable score runs and otherwise noteworthy videos. I will attempt to preserve and link every Reco run above 3.2 billion and every Palm run above 4.2 billion that I can take a hold of.4.1. Reco4.2. Palm5. See also6. CreditsThanks
Sources of information
- To Erppo, for helping with the superplay DVD booklet translation and providing useful discussion and criticism in preparation of this thread.
- To SMC, for helping with videos.
- To Darurun, for being such a good sport and streaming his progress towards the new Palm WR from Matmouse Game Center. We've learned a lot thanks to his replays. Good luck on that 4.5 billion!
- To M2, for making an awesome port with a really good training mode that helped me research this game to the point where I had enough information for an ST thread, and to CAVE for making the game.
- First-hand research using training mode and superplay studying.
- Futari BL & DeathSmiles BL superplay DVD information booklet (pages 3 & 4).
What this thread (and this post in particular) lacks. Help it become better if you can.Screenshots
I lack a capture setup, and taking photos of a CRT screen is pretty lame. We need screenshots taken from an emulator, a PCB, or an Xbox 360. High priority ones are Reco/Palm sprites, counters, and the 1-up building. A map of st5 lanterns would be very useful as well.Separate trick/strat videos
See above. If anything, we need at least one for every boss at high rank (over 100k) for Reco, as well as three vids for every midboss (scoring-oriented for Reco and Palm, survival-oriented for Reco). Also desirable is the st5 extend video, though I guess we can refer to the 1.5 version which to my knowledge has the same requirements.Separate stage score videos
- stage 1: 85+ million (Reco);
- stage 2: 160+ million (Reco);
- stage 3: 360+ million (Reco);
- stage 4: 1050+ million (Reco);
- stage 5 (up to Larsa): 2080+ million (Palm), 1900+ million (Reco).
If you spot any of that anywhere, PM me with the details.Distances
Emulate the game and use frame advance to pinpoint the exact distances required for gem shedding and eg. lantern bullet canceling.Enemy HP and weapons
Do bombs do variable damage depending on how they're placed? How large is the difference between focused and unfocused shots' DPS? how large is the difference between Reco's and Palm's DPS? How much lag does every type of shot generate?Survival rank
Emulate the game and use a RAM search interface to figure out the exact mechanics (floors, ceilings, rate of increase, causes and amounts of decrease).Hitboxes
Emulate the game, elaborate upon player character, enemy, and bullet hitboxes, provide actual data.Other tricks and unsolved mysteries
Why is it possible to shed gems from powerup carriers using focused shot even if the OC is green? Can this trick be used on any other enemies?8. Revision history
2016/08/29 — expanded sections 5 and 6, misc fixes all around.
2016/08/27 — added sections 3.2 and 8, expanded sections 2.2, 4, and 7.
2016/08/25 — initial revision.