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Mushihimesama (PC) artwork

Mushihimesama (PC) review

"A classic shooter older than most third graders finally comes to North America on a platform that does it justice."

If you've heard of the "bullet hell" shooter, chances are good that you're familiar with Cave. The specialty developer is responsible for a number of the genre's most memorable outings over the years, including the DonPachi and Deathsmiles franchises, as well as Espgaluda and Mushihimesama.

I'm not sure how to pronounce the names of most of the titles Cave develops, and if I'm being entirely honest, I'm not even sure how to play them at a particularly competent level. But I do enjoy them, filthy casual that I am, and I was delighted when Mushihimesama released on Steam a few weeks ago. Originally released in Japanese arcades in 2004, the title has since been ported to a variety of other platforms, including mobile devices, but the PC version is the first version to hit North America that feels suitable to me.

Mushihimesama (PC) image

The basic plot, in case you care about such things, is the same one you hear all the time: girl meets boy in forest, girl has bracelet that lets her levitate, boy ventures off into the forest to tell ancient bug monsters not to bother mankind, bugs respond with heavy firepower, girl blasts them to smithereens. At least, that's what I can gather from the ending, which I wound up watching quite a few times after working through each of the various modes. It's translated into English, but it still makes very little sense at all. And that's okay. Who really needs an excuse to blast giant bugs, anyway?

Gameplay is divided into a number of modes, with the total number depending on whether you stick to the basic $19.99 download or pay an extra $4.99 for some goodies on top of that (the title's pricing at the time I write this review). PR was kind enough to provide me with a couple of keys that gave me access to everything, and my advice to you is to plan on buying the expansion. While the default modes are fine by themselves and should scratch your itch, you could well find yourself liking the game a whole lot. The "Arranged" and "Version 1.5" modes that you get by paying the extra money feature retouched visuals, different enemy patterns, and some cool soundtrack remixes and (as far as I can tell) new compositions that can really pump a person up for some shooting action.

The main modes are where I spent my time, because I didn't feel like messing with Training. I might not be great at shooters, but I've played quite a few of them and it's not like Mushihimesama is all that complex. It's a standard vertical shooter of the bullet hell variety. After picking from three weapon styles--a spread shot, a focused missile, or a cross of the two--you fly through a wooded wonderland and blast everything that moves. Power-ups let you do that more efficiently, and you can let loose with a bomb blast when you need to clear shrapnel from the vicinity. Each time you die, you get a fresh supply of bombs, but they won't last long if you detonate one each time a bullet gets close, because that happens all the freaking time. You aren't really playing properly until you wave through lethal walls of firepower or (better yet) take out your enemies quickly and prevent such desperate maneuvers from ever being necessary in the first place.

Mushihimesama (PC) image

Stages are attractive and stick nicely to their theme. You're not flying over the standard volcanoes and alien bases. Instead, you're venturing ever deeper into a forest that is crawling with "Koju." Resistance starts out fairly weak and generic, but by the third stage you're dealing with giant caterpillars, centipedes, butterflies and moths that would give any alien spaceship a run for its money. Mushihimesama is one of those games that looks great when you watch someone else playing it, because you're free to admire the textures and intricate artwork. When you're actually controlling the flying heroine, though, all you tend to see are violet waves of bullets. With any luck, you're so firmly in "the zone" that little else even registers.

For its PC release, Mushihimesama has been refitted with 50 achievements, the bulk of which you're likely to earn without even having to stop and think about them, provided you play for a few hours. They reward you for clearing each of the standard five stages, for doing the same to their "arranged" forms (from the expanded content), for playing through without using bombs, and for reaching the closing credits without continuing. I haven't managed that last feat, and in fact I can't even seem to get to the end of the third stage without having to continue, but that didn't stop me from having a blast on the default settings. You can also modify the stock of lives provided, or select a different difficulty setting, but doing so disables achievements.

If you'd like to play the game with friends, that's also an option, though I don't have anyone handy except my wife and she is so thoroughly not into scrolling shooters that I knew better than to even ask her to join me. Besides, I have only the one wired Xbox 360 controller and would have probably made her use the keyboard or something, jerk that I am. And even if you're like me and no one in your apartment feels like shooting giant bugs, there are online leaderboards that let you compare your performance to the efforts your friends around the world have produced, which could be a lot of fun if you have a bunch of like-minded buddies. I myself do not.

Mushihimesama (PC) image

One feature that meant more to me personally, though, was the option to save a replay when you reach the end of a run. This is great if you manage a spectacular performance. You can save as many as 10 records, and they're quite comprehensive. Footage even includes a record of the selections you make from the menus at the start, which to me felt a bit overkill, but whatever. It's great for someone who might want to put together a video for YouTube or whatever, I would imagine.

Like I said, I'm not particularly skilled when it comes to shooters, but I do tend to enjoy them and I found Mushihimesama to be one of the better ones available. It's a little bit rough around the edges, with occasionally sloppy menus and a translation that only just barely lets me get a rough feel for the plot, but the shooting action is suitably intense and pretty and that's just what I was hoping for. If you're looking for a great shooter to add to your PC library, you could do a lot worse than this one.


honestgamer's avatar
Staff review by Jason Venter (December 19, 2015)

Jason Venter has been playing games for 30 years, since discovering the Apple IIe version of Mario Bros. in his elementary school days. Now he writes about them, here at HonestGamers and also at other sites that agree to pay him for his words.

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EmP posted December 20, 2015:

I was regretting turning this one down so I'm glad you decided to make this part of your late-year surge. Here's hoping it's the start of a biggest Cave presence on steam.

Good angle to take as well. Fine review.
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honestgamer posted December 20, 2015:

Thanks for reading, EmP, and for the input on the review's angle and quality. I'm glad it worked for you, and I'm glad you turned down the review opportunity and I couldn't find any other takers so I had to tend to it myself. It was a fun game to play, and I had been waiting for an excuse, anyway. Hopefully, the review does its job and lets other people know the game exists and is worthwhile!

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