“intimidating whirlwinds of bullets...”
July 20, 2018 5:02 PM   Subscribe

What Other Games Can Learn From the Bullet Hell Genre [Paste Magazine] “When you hear “bullet hell” what do you think of? It’s not a new term, but it’s gained increasing prominence in the mainstream games discussion over the last decade, and is often associated with any game with overwhelming numbers of enemy projectiles. While these barrages of bullets are what immediately capture attention, the genre is better defined by the way that it forces players to react to space. Taking elements from it can create new, novel approaches to the way we play in already established genres. Like roguelikes, the bullet hell genre has also seen a small number of games do just that, growing a small niche into something more visible and influential. It’s also muddied definitions of what exactly the genre is, and the elements that make it unique. In the strictest sense, “bullet hell” is a sub-genre of scrolling shooters, often but not strictly vertically oriented, that focus on intricate patterns of enemy projectiles, often building to encounters where most of the available play space is blanketed in bullets.”

• The Origin of The 'Shmup' Genre: A Historical Study [Gamasutra]
“In 2003 I began research for my PhD topic. As part of my research, I began to explore the family tree of the Shmup genre, the oldest and most profilific genre of gaming (within the context of the arcade medium). Using MAME, A Yahoo Auctions Japan account & a Sega Astro City Arcade machine I began to trace the origins of this genre by playing over 3,500 arcade games. This blog post is an excerpt from the final dissertation which explores the origins of the Shmup genre and examines the games which set the standards that we accept today. I thought it would be fitting to publish this work as a blog post now that it is a decade old and use this to reflect on the research and how it was conducted. I will present the chapter in it's entirity, as it was publsihed and then provide some quick reflection on the process at the end.”
• How Enter the Gungeon brought bullet hell to the dungeon-crawler [Rock Papers Shotgun]
“For example, they’d designed a boss called the Kill Pillars, which rises and then slams down, creating spokes of bullets that spin around the centre of its impact and rings of bullets that radiate out from it, causing you to have to dodge roll through them. None of the bullets have what Crooks calls singular velocity – they’re all on different arcs and moving at different speeds – and he says that the game also has to wipe some of them off the screen in certain cases to prevent the player getting stuck in a sea of bullets they can’t avoid. “What that meant is that the bullets have to be smart,” he says. “They don’t just have to know where they are and should be going, they need to know where the player is in the room, where the other bullets are, and to be able to have complex movement that’s not just based on speed and acceleration, but also game rules.” Gameplay programmer Dave Rubel was having to spend so long extending BulletML to fit Gungeon’s weird shape that he began making his own version, RubelML. And as it came together, the team finally started to be able to achieve what they wanted with bullets.”
• Enter the Gungeon: Gunner's Heaven [Eurogamer] [Video Game Trailer][YouTube]
“There are guns that shoot rainbows. There are guns that fire pillows to smother their targets. There are guns that hurl spinning letters of the alphabet that, when they strike a target, form comic book-esque onomatopoeic words. There's a mailbox you grasp by the post that fires unopened letters. There's a semi-automatic ant that spits acidic projectiles. Another fires live fish. Gungeon's smorgasbord of small arms makes Cotty's spud gun seem rather plain. Best described as a twin-stick Spelunky, Enter the Gungeon has you traversing the depths of an inverted fortress, one floor at a time, in search of the ultimate weapon, a gun that can shoot the past. Each floor is procedurally-generated, or, perhaps more precisely, procedurally arranged, to ensure that each schematic includes a shop, a boss room (behind which the elevator down to the next floor is situated), a couple of treasure chests and, as you plunge deeper, various new types secret.”
• An Insider Look into the World of Competitive Bullet Hells [Waypoint]
“"Shoot-em-ups" or "shmups" are a classic genre of video game, but also, these days, one of the least well-understood and appreciated. Their age and simplicity are easy to confuse with crudeness, and even though almost every video game player has encountered one of these games, few players even understand how they are meant to function or what they truly demand of skilled practitioners. Dr. Mark R Johnson has firsthand experience of this, having collected four world records in the genre to date, in addition to his academic work as a games scholar studying competitive gaming. Alexandra Orlando is a games scholar and critic, whose writing focuses on live streaming and eSports and draws on her experiences in the industry as a player, team manager and tournament organizer. Together, they'll explore this rarely-seen world of competitive shmups, and shed some light on the place of these games in contemporary gaming culture by drawing on their experiences and insights as both researchers and active members of the competitive gaming and eSports communities.”
• New ransomware locks your files behind an anime bullet hell shooter [The Verge]
““Rensenware” is a new kind of ransomware — typically malicious software that locks your files until a fee has been paid to recover them — but, as Ars Techinca reports, it’s a bit different from the usual sort of malware. Instead of requiring infected users to pay a sum of money to regain access to their locked files, Rensenware instead requires them to reach a high score of 200 million points in the anime bullet hell shooter TH12 - Undefined Fantastic Object (a game in the Touhou Project series) on the “Lunatic” difficulty level. The creator of Rensenware, who goes by the handle Tvple Eraser, later apologized for the software. “I made it [as a] joke, just laughing with people who like Touhou Project Series,” says Tvple Eraser, who also released a tool to bypass the lock on the files for anyone who may have downloaded the original version by mistake. Tvple Eraser has since replaced the ransomware version with a safer “cut” version that doesn’t lock your files by forcibly encrypting them.”
• Ikaruga: The 10,000-Hour Rule [Destructoid] [Video Game Trailer][YouTube]
“If you're new to Ikaruga, the cornerstone of the game is your ability to swap between two polarities. All enemies and projectiles are colored either white or black; the same goes for your ship and your attacks. So long as you're the same color as incoming bullets, you can safely fly into them, permanently wiping them from the screen. Absorbing same-colored energy also allows you to build up and fire off powerful homing lasers, and enemies take significantly more damage if they're hit by the opposite color. This concept is easy to pick up, and in terms of controls, Ikaruga is a simple game. The true complexity reveals itself in Treasure's overwhelming but expertly-staged enemy formations and bullet patterns. As crazy and darn near indecipherable as it can look at times, everything in the game feels thoughtfully placed. This is so crucial, both in terms of maintaining a sense of fairness and also in giving players a reason to strive for mastery. There's a puzzle-like scoring system in which you're granted a bonus for killing three enemies of the same color in a row. Break the chain with a misfire, and it resets.”
• Danmaku Unlimited 3: One Of The Best Bullet Hell Games I've Played [Kotaku] [Video Game Trailer][YouTube]
“Danmaku Unlimited 3 chases after other bullet hell games like Ikaruga and the various Touhou games with its simple premise. You have a ship, there are bad guys, and those bad guys shoot everything they have at you. The joy of bullet hell games comes from testing your awareness, seeing if you can bob and weave between attacks to survive the enemies’ onslaught. One of the major mechanics in Danmaku Unlimited 3 is the concept of “grazing,” or letting enemy bullets slide as close to your ship as possible. As you get closer and closer to enemy attacks, you build a meter that can be spent on a massive, screen-clearing attack. There’s always a push and pull in Danmaku Unlimited 3, small segments full of narrow dodges before explosive retaliation.”
• Mothergunship: Guns, lots of guns. [Gamespot] [Video Game Trailer][YouTube]
“Mothergunship wastes little time in throwing you head-first into its fast-paced and over-the-top bullet-hell experience. As the spiritual successor to indie roguelike FPS Tower of Guns, this homage to '90s action games balances a number of clever mechanics throughout its pulse-pounding jaunt through the inner depths of alien ships. As you're dodging hundreds of enemy bullets [while wielding a railgun, grenade launcher, and a flamethrower on one arm] you'll find that Mothergunship offers a satisfying and fun take on classic first-person shooters. Stepping into the boots of a space soldier in a power suit, you'll work with a tight-knit crew of rebels, led by The Colonel, who plan to stop an alien invasion of earth led by the titular mastermind Mothergunship. The main story itself is entirely secondary to the action, mostly offering context for the game's antics.”
• Just Shapes & Beats: An A1, tip-top, clubbing jam fair [Nintendo Life] [Video Game Trailer][YouTube]
“Developer Berzerk Studio describes it as ‘musical bullet hell’, but bullets are the least of your worries – objects to evade range from simple Euclidean shapes to laser beams, spinning saws, spiralling tentacles and ocean waves made from EQ bars. Outlines or silhouettes appear before the shapes solidify, giving you time to steer away. Later levels introduce novelties like scrolling, but the basic premise remains the same throughout: don’t get hit. Each level is its own chiptune track from one of the featured artists and they’re divided by checkpoints. A bar shows your progress, so you’ll know when you’re approaching the finish line. Your cube can take two strikes before it shatters and the track rewinds to the last checkpoint. A brief period of invulnerability follows each hit, helping you compose yourself. After three rewinds you’ll see the (excellent) Game Over screen and have to start again.”
posted by Fizz (30 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
[***WARNING*** Some of the video game trailers might trigger seizures for people with photosensitive epilepsy. ***WARNING***]
posted by Fizz at 5:09 PM on July 20, 2018

Oh what a wonderful post. Thank you, Fizz.

Jeez, I'm old, I was around for the release of Axelay on SNES and remember when the genre was called simple "shoot-em-up." At some point soon a grown adult is going to ask me "what's lickation?" when I talk about a computer program.
posted by infinitewindow at 5:31 PM on July 20, 2018 [1 favorite]

Intimidating is definitely the word for it. I have deep and complex feelings about shmups, but it seems to have almost completely niche-ified itself into obsolescence since the bullet hell subgenre took over. I'm no slouch (I was a tester on the Gamecube port of Ikaruga), but I don't see how anyone new to shmups can even get a toehold unless they go back at least two decades to when less than 50% of the screen was awash in enemy projectiles.

More than any video game genre, shmups have become bizarrely fetishistic, both in terms of actual game difficulty to the difficulty/price of obtaining some of the most legendary titles and the weird shift from spaceships and airplane themes to nearly every one having some weird underage anime girl aesthetic.

There are a few doujin groups that have turned out titles that are on par with what major studios were putting out for arcades back in the day, and I can completely appreciate that most people are not going to want to spend a fair amount on a game they can complete in about 45 minutes, but man I miss the heyday of Psikyo, Taito and Irem arcade shmups that had to give a new player a fighting chance for the first stage.

Old-timer rant aside, I'm looking forward to digging into these links some more. Great post!
posted by subocoyne at 5:32 PM on July 20, 2018 [5 favorites]

I give this post an A- for no mention of Metal Slug (wait, does it?).
posted by Brocktoon at 5:53 PM on July 20, 2018

More than any video game genre, shmups have become bizarrely fetishistic, both in terms of actual game difficulty to the difficulty/price of obtaining some of the most legendary titles and the weird shift from spaceships and airplane themes to nearly every one having some weird underage anime girl aesthetic.

Yeah, I've seen a fair number of these, so I get exactly what you're saying. I would like to counter that though with another 'shoot em up' I forgot to put on the list:

Sine More Ex. [Video Game Trailer][YouTube]
“And yet Sine Mora EX wants you to know all about its deadly serious dieselpunk world full of sad gazelle ladies and alligator men cursing the empire (literally, this game is rated M) that continues to slaughter their children for endless war. Stages are bookended with somber voiced monologues, and even if I never really cared about what they were saying, I was charmed by the straight-faced ridiculous of the presentation. Like a true gritty Christopher Nolan military movie, Sine Mora EX is also obsessed with the passage of time. The plot spans two different timelines, the lore involves prophets who manipulate time, and the signature gameplay mechanic is time control. That’s where the game gets interesting beyond its surface absurdity.”
posted by Fizz at 5:54 PM on July 20, 2018 [3 favorites]

It's a steampunk StarFox shoot-em-up!!
posted by Fizz at 5:56 PM on July 20, 2018

Ikaruga remains one of the all time best.

Sine More came is a gem on PS4, and it's been filling a pretty big void imo.
But. How can you post about the ascension of 2D shooters in the past decade and not talk about


Gunroar may be my favorite, but Tumiki fighters, rRootage, and Torus Trooper are all great.

This guy is a master, and he gives his amazing games away for free. He designed a whole language for specifying barrages of bullets, BulletML.. And then another, Bulletsmorph, just to revel in it.

You can give Gungeon some credit for maximizing RL elements but Kenta Cho was there doing procedural shooters back when those kids were learning to type

/offmylawn :)
posted by SaltySalticid at 6:12 PM on July 20, 2018 [8 favorites]

Metal Slug
That's canonical Run-n-gun (See also Contra, Alien Hominid). Far too few bullets to be squarely in the vein of bullet hell/curtain shooter, even if you ignore the dudes/ships distinction.

It's a damn fine series, and wicked hard, for sure. Like bullet hell shmups, it also demands obsessive memorization and and attention to detail to beat, but ultimately there are a paltry few bullets onscreen at any moment, in comparison to e.g. Ikaruga.
posted by SaltySalticid at 6:26 PM on July 20, 2018 [1 favorite]

But. How can you post about the ascension of 2D shooters in the past decade and not talk about


I don't know too much about this genre. Posting this was a way of learning a bit of history myself, so any insights people who are super into this genre can share, I'm happy to have, spread the love, send me your links!

The gamasutra article has a pretty good history of the genre and its influence.
posted by Fizz at 7:08 PM on July 20, 2018 [1 favorite]

Yeah sorry I got a bit into my Salty persona ;)
I mainly want to share the love too! Especially for indie/free/doujin type stuff. Also come to think of it, many of the games I mentioned are over 10 yrs old (I am now old).

If, like me, you don't like desktop/laptop computers for shmups, you can get access to many of Kenta's games through this one weird disc for Wii from 2009:
posted by SaltySalticid at 7:15 PM on July 20, 2018 [3 favorites]

That Gamasutra article is interesting, but missing that Nishikado has already cited Atari's Breakout as the big influence on Space Invaders -- the idea of having to clear an entire level then starting anew. (Breakout is hardly a shmup though!) They also missed Vanguard, though I think that came after Scramble

But when I think "bullet hell" I think Robotron.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 7:45 PM on July 20, 2018 [2 favorites]

The only person I ever ran into online who was into bullet hell games was into one of the ones that was all about anime girls and would constantly post anime girl pictures that were apparently from this one bullet hell game/game creator. Pretty much turned me off of the whole genre.
posted by runcibleshaw at 7:54 PM on July 20, 2018 [1 favorite]

Yes Gunroar! Such a beautiful game.
posted by ropeladder at 8:11 PM on July 20, 2018 [2 favorites]

OH my GOODNESS Kenta Cho is a nostalgic name. Such great experimental shooters!

Also, for what it’s worth, Enter the Gungeon just got a huge content update (Advanced Gungeons & Draguns), and it’s on sale for 50% off on all platforms to celebrate. It is, in a very literal sense, everything I wanted Binding of Isaac to be. Just… beware the mimics.
posted by DoctorFedora at 9:23 PM on July 20, 2018 [5 favorites]

The fearsome reputation bullet hell games have is a little sad to me. (I put 90% of the blame on the name, 10% on people sharing videos of the last boss of Mushihimesama.) Once I got over the initial speed bump, I found that they're not the pulse-pounding twitchy arcade experience I was expecting. They can actually be relaxing and almost meditative to play casually (again, after a learning curve). Ultimately the best bullet hell games are about absorbing beautiful shiny geometric patterns and doing as little as possible to flow through them.

The only person I ever ran into online who was into bullet hell games was into one of the ones that was all about anime girls and would constantly post anime girl pictures that were apparently from this one bullet hell game/game creator. Pretty much turned me off of the whole genre.

That's probably the Touhou series, incredibly popular Japanese bullet hell games I've yet to get into (because until recently none of them were legally available outside Japan). For what it's worth, while the cast is mostly female I've been told that the games themselves aren't even a little bit creepy. The same can't be said of parts of the fanbase, of course.
posted by skymt at 9:27 PM on July 20, 2018 [2 favorites]

Kenta Cho is great. Rrootage is like the whole of the genre run through a minimalism filter; there’s even an ikaruga mode in it!
posted by juv3nal at 9:44 PM on July 20, 2018 [4 favorites]

Intimidating is definitely the word for it. I have deep and complex feelings about shmups, but it seems to have almost completely niche-ified itself into obsolescence since the bullet hell subgenre took over.

Agreed in general. And it's worth noting that bullet hell games are ultra hard in some ways, but easier in others. They tend to be about set patterns, and not dynamic systems caused by multiple independent entities, like say Gradius games.
posted by JHarris at 10:37 PM on July 20, 2018

Ikaruga is my bullet hell poison of choice. I used to practice on the GameCube version regularly (it had a half-speed mode that made it great for pattern practice and coming up with strategies (or more accurately, tweaking Internet strategies to suit your own play)) and I can still probably do the first two stages with a decent score after a couple of practice runs to jostle the ol' muscle memory back.

The great thing about Ikaruga is the way it can bring about the flow state in a way I've had no other game do. When I was playing it regularly it was typical that during a practice session you'd have one or two Very Good Games where everything would just click and you'd end up with a score that was way above a normal run. This was also a good indicator to stop practicing for the day since it would be mostly downhill from there. I remember the first time I beat the level 3 boss on a single credit run it was on a run like this and the subsequent snap out of the flow when the boss died was so distracting I basically died immediately after stage 4 started.

I haven't played the game in ages. I'd really love to buy the Switch version and maybe get back on the wagon. HowEVER, Ikaruga (and bullet hell games in general I guess) really really needs accurate, responsive digital controls and what passes for a d-pad on the Joycons is... well... lets just say suboptimal and I'd hate to be disappointed. I'm also old now and wouldn't want a video game to rub it in.
posted by Soi-hah at 12:09 AM on July 21, 2018 [4 favorites]

JHarris: And it's worth noting that bullet hell games are ultra hard in some ways, but easier in others. They tend to be about set patterns, and not dynamic systems caused by multiple independent entities, like say Gradius games.

This is very true. An interesting entry here is Gradius V (PS2, 2004): it has some of the bullet hell DNA in it (it was developed by Treasure after all) but it is still very much a Gradius game. Its a great choice if you want a little bit of both.

If one wants to eschew bullet hell completely, a great "modern" old school shmup is Irem's R-Type Final (PS2, 2003). It is very much not a bullet hell thing and more about weapon selection and managing beam energy. It also has tons of different ships that you can unlock which gives it that extra progression layer.
posted by Soi-hah at 12:26 AM on July 21, 2018 [1 favorite]

What is this Ikaruga? The more I hear about it, the more my frothing demand for this game increases.
posted by CottonCandyCapers at 2:47 AM on July 21, 2018 [1 favorite]

CottonCandyCapers: What is this Ikaruga? The more I hear about it, the more my frothing demand for this game increases.

Why its a bullet hell shooter! One of the best! fizz's OP had a Destructoid review of the Switch version which gives some idea what it is, but... if I may elaborate a little bit because I just like to gush about the game.

So basically what you have is a vertically scrolling shoot-em-up. Enemies come in two colors: black and white. They shoot bullets of their respective color. Your ship is special: it can be either color (you can change this at any time). When your ship is white it shoots white bullets and when its black it shoots black bullets, just like the enemies. You do more damage if you shoot at enemies of the opposite color. If you destroy an enemy that is the same color as you, it releases "suicide bullets", BUT (this is critical): you absorb any enemy bullets of that are the of the same color. Absorbing bullets charges up your super weapon that is a barrage of missiles that home in on enemies. This is the basic gameplay that is easily learned and the game really doesn't ever deviate from. Just knowing all this, it is very possible you can complete at least a couple of levels no problem.

However, completing levels is not the point. Where the game gets interesting is the way it does scoring. You see, every time you shoot three enemies of the same color, this is called a "chain". Successive chains net more points and for the best score you need to keep the chain going for the whole level. What makes this even more interesting is that the levels have been crafted in a way that makes it not only possible (although not always easy!) to do this, but also in a way that you can really start figuring out how to do it in a way that is the least risky to execute but keeps the chain going. It is MUCH more important to keep the chain going than to destroy everything and this can lead into... interesting circumstances. By now there are very near optimal routes that are actually executed by absolute madmen, but for us casual players even managing to complete a level while still holding on to the max chain is a feat in itself.

Often when people want to show Ikaruga gameplay they showcase these elite tier plays, but I've found this is not very helpful as even seasoned players can look at some plays and not understand how the players survive.

So, I did some digging on Youtube and let's take a closer look at this gameplay video. Its the first level, played with confidence, but not nearly in a perfect way.

At the start of the game the game is very easy: the enemies come in groups of six from the sides of the screen, just to introduce the player to the fact that yes, chaining is a thing. The exception is at 0:18 where two groups of white and black small blobs fly in. This is basically the first challenge for the player: how do I quickly destroy all of these while keeping the chain going? The player on the video gives us one solution which is pretty good: discharge the super weapon once the screen has been cleared of black enemies.

Note at 0:55 where the player discharges their super weapon to keep the chain going even though it would seem some ships will escape the screen. This a very simple example of how the super weapon is often used not to destroy things fast, but to reach things that are otherwise unreachable to keep your chain going.

At 1:05 notice how the enemy group that appears is in a formation that requires the player to destroy the enemies in specific order so their chain keeps going: after destroying a line of four enemies they need to pivot a little bit to destroy a two-group of the same color, otherwise their chain would break. Note also how the enemies switch positions to add challenge. This is probably the first section where people really need to start practicing to keep the chain going. You can do it off muscle memory after some practice, but the challenge lies in how to compensate if you do happen to screw it up.

At 1:33 the player does a very typical Ikaruga trick where they change their color to match a laser shooting enemy and charge their super weapon off the laser (also adding some extra score) before destroying the enemy.

At 1:41 the player is playing safe. You CAN chain all the small enemies in the middle of the screen, but the player decides to just take the white ones in order to remain in a better position from which to shoot the large white ship. Again, from 1:51 onwards all the little enemies in the middle are chainable, but the player does not go for them, most likely because they are not confident they can do it without dying. Instead, they decide to remain on the left side of the screen and keep the chain going by easily destroying the turrets on the large ships.

At 2:20 the boss battle starts. It is important to kill the bosses as fast as possible as they are on a timer (they self-destruct if the timer runs out) and every second remaining on the timer is worth 10000 points. Note how the boss is white, so the player tries to stay black as much as they can to deal maximum damage. Note at 2:49 they stay white to absorb the homing bullets the boss fires and how they change back to black before releasing their super weapon to deal more damage.

The player ends up with a score of 2.6M, 80 chains, a rank of A+ which is... pretty good. A chain of 100 starts to be very good, and can most likely be reached by this player if they start chaining the little enemies they miss at the end of the stage with the large ships.

So that's Ikaruga! There's five levels in total, with especially level four being an absolute pain in the ass, but practice pays off! It also has a story of sorts, but that's a rabbit hole I really don't want to go down right now.

It has been ported to almost anything under the sun from the Dreamcast on, most recently for the Nintendo Switch. There is a PC version on Steam as well. Get Ikaruga! Get good at it! It's great.
posted by Soi-hah at 4:03 AM on July 21, 2018 [7 favorites]

What is this Ikaruga?

The only reason I’ve ever rotated a widescreen TV to vertical, and the reason you should too :)
posted by SaltySalticid at 4:36 AM on July 21, 2018 [1 favorite]

What is this Ikaruga?

The only reason I’ve ever rotated a widescreen TV to vertical, and the reason you should too :)

No need to. Someone kickstarted a vertical handheld dock for this express purpose.
posted by Fizz at 5:07 AM on July 21, 2018 [2 favorites]


Yoko Taro says Ikaruga was a huge influence on NieR: Automata [Destructoid]
“According to Taro, it was much more than just "putting a ton of bullets on-screen at once" and bullet hell influences: "Ikaruga influenced how I synchronize the game sequences with the music. Combining the two in a way that appeals to people’s hearts is a task that’s quite difficult. This sort of technique has been a hurdle for developers to overcome since the early days of gaming history, and I think Ikaruga is the first game to actually do it. Because, up until then, BGMs were only split by different scenes in each stage. In that regard, I believe Ikaruga was a game-changer in gaming history. Iuchi-san, the planner and director of Ikaruga, was also in charge of making the music. Thanks to this, the stage progress matches the music as well. That is one part of what makes Ikaruga amazing. Stage 2’s music starts off with a sense of speed to go along with the opening scene, but as the screen starts scrolling slower, the song goes slower as well."”
That's pretty cool and you can see why the first couple of levels of NieR Automata feel like a straight up bullet hell before it turns into a platformer/RPG.
posted by Fizz at 5:25 AM on July 21, 2018 [4 favorites]

One of my favorite genres.

1. That article on the history of shmups had better mention Cave, their vertical shooters were the first ones I saw that really started to define a lot of the conventions of what we now call “bullet hell” games - big patterns of bullets that you learn to see as solid entities rather than lines of dots with holes between them, until they get far enough from their source that they lose that coherence.

2. There used to be two names for this style of bullet pattern. “Curtain fire” was the other one. And maybe it would sound less intimidating, more approachable, if that was the one that stuck.

3. For those who are new to this form of play, I offer a gnomic piece of advice that a friend gave me back in the mid nineties: Be where the bullets are not. Which is to say: sure it’s nice to shoot with precision, it’s great to take out enemies that will generate particularly heinous patterns... but your first goal is to not get shot. Watch the patterns, see the spaces, focus on navigating into them while you hammer on the fire button without worrying about aim. Dance between the raindrops without getting wet.
posted by egypturnash at 9:46 AM on July 21, 2018 [4 favorites]

Oh geez that history article does not mention Cave at all, mostly because it stops somewhere around 1981. Go search YouTube for DoDonPachi or ESP Ra. De (psychic teens!) or Dangun Feveron (rescue the disco dancers!) or Guwange (crazy Japanese monsters!). You could also delve into the games of Raizing/Eighting and the other companies that formed when Toaplan went bankrupt soon after releasing Batsugun, but they all blended together for me compared to Cave’s diversity of theme.

Also the venerable Raiden series is pretty important to the pre-history of the genre, its interplay between bosses that spammed a lot of bullets and your limited supply of bullet-cancelling bombs is something that countless Bullet Hell games would use as their foundation, along with the way your starting peashooter could be quickly upgraded to something that filled half the screen with pain. Raiden 2 is where it really started to come together with the introduction of the Purple Toothpaste Laser that curled around multiple targets.

Also I guess there is Touhu if you want a lot of anime girls in your bullet hells but I have never played them as they are largely PC-only and I’ve been a Mac girl for years.

And finally: I have been enjoying Gungeon a lot since picking it up again; it was initially really stingy with keys to open chests full of Cool Guns, but both of its updates have improved that a lot. It’s a gloriously goofy arena shooter. (Assault Android Cactus, mentioned in one of the articles Fizz linked to, is also a lot of fun, with a pretty interesting gameplay loop around a constantly-ticking timer...)
posted by egypturnash at 10:38 AM on July 21, 2018 [2 favorites]

Many, is that shmup PhD guy gonna be pissed off when he finds out about Zaxxon and Tempest, two games that break his strict XY rule.
posted by scruss at 1:04 PM on July 21, 2018 [2 favorites]

Egypturnash, for what it’s worth, “curtain fire” is almost certainly based on the Japanese term used for these games, literally “bullet curtain.”
posted by DoctorFedora at 4:02 PM on July 21, 2018

Someone kickstarted a vertical handheld dock for this express purpose.

What is more, the person who created it is Jeremy Parish, of USGamer and game design books fame! He's even got a MeFi account, although he's only posted once.
posted by JHarris at 2:18 AM on July 22, 2018 [1 favorite]

In addition to Sine Mora EX, mentioned above, If anyone is still looking for some good Doujin shmups that would, in my opinion, fall outside the "bullet hell" level of things and doesn't involve panties as a central aesthetic, check out the following (all steam links):

Trizeal Remix

Siter Skain's Alltynez, Reflex and Kamui trilogy in particular could have been developed by Treasure in 1998, they're excellent. Watching a trailer pretty much lets you know what you're in for.
posted by subocoyne at 3:34 PM on July 23, 2018 [2 favorites]

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