Espgaluda II: -be Ascention. The Third Bright Stone of Birth- is not only an amazing title for a Shmup but it’s also developed by the masters at CAVE, Livewire have published this alongside previous release Mushihimesama aiming to bring Shmup gold to Switch gamers, worth your credits? Read on to find out.
Espgaluda II (I’m not typing the full name again!) Is set in a fantasy meets Sci-Fi world and I believe it is a prequel to Esp.Ra.De which is currently most Shmup players wanted import title, while I believe there is a story here with the intro and ending sections I’m not here for that and fortunately aside from the 15 second intro at the start of the run, it’s all skippable!.
The presentation in Espgaluda II is outstanding, beautiful artwork in the menus lead into a perfect combination of 3D models and pixel art in a way that only the masters at CAVE could pull off.
Enemy shots are in blue and red and don’t blend into the scenery or behind your shots which is something some Shmups have a tendency to do, the colour scheme is brilliant here giving off that arcade style explosion of colour coupled with the explosions and gem dropping feeds that instant gratification part of the brain that eats oh so well with titles like this.
The music is fantastic here and while I can imagine some of it not being to everyone’s tastes I found myself humming along and not getting irritated by it at all when I was practicing sections over and over again for that 1CC, voice clips are in Japanese and aside from character select and boss sections aren’t used all too much.
Espgaluda II is if you haven’t already gathered a vertical Shmup of the bullet hell variety, this means you’ll have plenty of bullets to dodge as well as items to collect and hi-scores to smash, it’s a funky genre that is considered quite cult and usually isn’t that appealing until you play that one game that can and will convert you.
Espgaluda II has you pick from one of 3 characters, 4 if you go into the Black Label mode but more on that later and tackle six stages of bullet dodging, explosion causing and mass murdering while defeating the mini bosses and end of stage baddies too.
You have a standard shot, hold down the button you get the more powerful lancer at the expense of speed, an Ascension mode which powers up your shot and slows enemies down but should you run out of gems the bullets go faster than ever & your bomb which is a shield capable of absorbing enemy fire and producing a beam of death in return, lovely.
Espgaluda II offers you several ways to play the game and some really make it feel like a different game with wildly different mechanics, the aforementioned Black Label adds a “bullet time” mechanic tied to gold collection along with an additional playable character only in Black Label mode, novice modes for newcomers in both Arcade and Black Label.
There is also Arrange mode which features another little tweak where your shots can cancel out enemy shots but it depends on the colour of theirs Vs what shot your doing, following that there is another additional mode you can unlock as a secret, all in all there are 5 different ways to play the game which all feel different and force you to play in different ways.
The game also comes with a fantastic tutorial mode which teaches you every aspect of the game from what your buttons do to exactly how to approach the hi-score systems.
You can change wallpapers, adjust the display so you can lock it into glorious Tate mode and even have several zoomed in screens to keep an eye on that hitbox, there is also the ability to have a visual representation of an arcade stick tracking your button presses.
Sadly online leaderboards aren’t active just yet but the game says they are coming, this is a key feature of Shmups nowadays but until this goes live it’s time to make use of that screenshot button!.
There is a tonne of good Shmup here in what is easily my new favourite CAVE title, it’s newcomer friendly with enough mechanics and tweaks to keep you shmupping long into the night.
Shmup perfection, an essential purchase for any bullethell enthusiast
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