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 Post subject: Espgaluda [AC] [PS2] [MAME]
PostPosted: Sat Feb 12, 2011 7:02 pm 

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Joined: 12 Feb 2011
Posts: 793
Location: The sky on my television set.
Espgaluda is a digital adrenaline cocktail which has quenched the thirsts of many gamers the world over for years. It remains one of my favorite games to this day, and I have just as much fun playing it now as I did when it introduced me to the Shoot-Them-Up genre three years ago.

Forget about Esprade. What makes Galuda preferable to me lies in its less complicated scoring system. Rather than relying on timing, distance to the enemy, and precision of shots sticking to the enemy to get the highest multiplier (which is painfully difficult for me to execute in many of the game’s heavy danmaku patterns), the sequel introduces a new and interesting mechanic in its place that allows room for flexibility and ease of movement. This scoring mechanic, I think, is much more appropriate for a game of this difficulty.

I am, of course, talking about Kakusei Mode. Once activated with the third button (The previous two being main shot and laser), it slows down all bullets on screen for a period of time – the longevity of which is determined by how many gems you have collected from killing enemies in Normal Mode – relieving you of some mental stress while simultaneously doubling as a scoring mechanic. Killing enemies in Kakusei will turn all of their bullets into gold, which improves your score a lot. It is always preferable to become pregnant with gems, killing as many popcorn enemies as possible and saving scoring for the most difficult, most bullet-filled parts in each stage, which allows me to concentrate better on navigating through enemy fire and scoring big at the same time. This is a breath of fresh air compared to the Donpachi series’ strict chain timing– chaining which calls for added concentration in the midst of already insanely difficult odds (That of dodging a shit storm of bullets aiming at your destruction, and more of them there than in this game. And that’s not even bringing DOJ’s immense levels of rank into the picture, whereas Galuda’s rank is practically non-existent.). The latter is by no means a bad thing. Quite the contrary, in fact: Dai Ou Jou has more depth than Galuda, and therefore requires more skill to master. Indeed, one must only witness the hyper mechanic to realize that DOJ is, as far as difficulty goes, the antithesis of Espgaluda. However, at my skill level, Espgaluda provides just the right level of challenge without being miserably difficult to play. This is the perfect convenience for anyone who is interested in giving this genre a try, but perhaps much less satisfying to more seasoned players.

Adding to this depth is Overdrive Mode, which is activated when your gems are completely depleted. In it, bullet speed is increased to ridiculous levels until you are hit. While scoring in this mode is largely useless – due to the fact that you get close to as many points from killing enemies in this mode as you do when you’re in Normal Mode -- I found it to be very helpful during boss battles, because your laser deals damage quicker. This is a perfect example of risk and reward. Knowing the right time to switch between and utilize each mode with maximum efficiency is what separates novice players from the elite.

The first stage boss is incredibly boring, much like many first stage bosses in Cave shooters. But they get progressively harder throughout the game, so that’s good. The true last boss is the greatest challenge of all, and proves even harder than the final stage itself due to a sudden spike in bullet density, speed, and variety (Some patterns are obviously reminiscent of those in Esprade) – whereas the final stage only has a couple of tiny bullet types to navigate through (And unlike the boss, the enemies in that stage don’t move side-to-side across the screen repeatedly when you’re shooting them! So not only do you have to use your best reflexes against his attacks, but you have to worry about moving your laser to wherever he goes as well). You’ll be shitting your pants when you see his final attack – laundry room guaranteed (Ok maybe not that far, but you get the idea).

I enjoyed this game so much that when I made it to the final stage too quickly, I just had to rank up the difficulty setting to Very Hard. The extra hours put into the game were well worth it, as I was able to discover a hidden extend in level 3 this time around.

Cave games are a treasure trove of memorable moments, and Espgaluda is no exception. The first time I fought the stage 3 flying saucer boss I was mystified to the point of ecstasy by its beautiful turbines spitting bullets out at me in a deadly haze, as we ascended higher and higher into the daylight sky. Such a moment is only rivaled, in my mind, by the red sub-boss in Dai Ou Jou’s third stage, with the music intensifying the moment of his rise into action.

The backgrounds are gorgeously detailed, and the sprites look better than those in Esprade. The Kakusei timer around your character looks very stylish, too.

The music in Espgaluda DOES GET EXTREMELY BORING AFTER THE SEVEN HUNDREDTH TIME HEARING IT. But I will not let that fact overshadow the awe and excitement I felt when I heard each stage’s respective track for the very first time. I absolutely love how each section of stage 5 seems to synchronize with the tune’s “seasons”. The pulse pounding sound of the music after killing all of the guards at the level’s end only to wait in silence for the boss to appear is beyond sensational-- indescribable. There are things so beautiful in life that mere words cannot express their beauty. That was one of those moments. My heart was racing like a jackrabbit at that point.

I recall a particular session of play when my stomach felt like it was lit ablaze with a match and gasoline. It wasn’t indigestion; it was pure passion, and I wouldn’t have traded it for anything. Not a Goddamn thing.

***** out of *****
"Too kawaii to live, too sugoi to die. Trapped in a moe~ existence"

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