If there is one genre of games that is criminally underrepresented in the current generation, it is the shoot ‘em up. Shmups provide an incredible thrill: charging forwards, guns ablaze, weaving through a torrential cannonade of oncoming enemy fire where the slightest of mistakes means instant death. They are one of the oldest and most venerated genres in the medium of videogames. Unfortunately, outside of Japan this type of game also happens to be something of a rarity.
Luckily, publishers like Los Angeles-based Rockin’ Android are keen on bringing them stateside. The Gundemonium Collection, a trilogy of Doujin shmups, have recently made their way from the Japanese indie scene and onto the PlayStation Network and PC.
The first title in the trilogy is set in an alternate 18th century and features a ridiculous and overcomplicated story. The world is in peril or something, and it is up to a young revolver-toting alchemist/cowgirl named Eryth to save the day.
Gundemonium Recollection is a simple yet well-thought-out horizontal shooter with tight controls. Of all the titles in the compilation, I found Recollection to be the most balanced in terms of difficulty. However, by no means is it an easy affair. For players looking for something deeper and more challenging, this simplicity soon gives way to an exciting system of risk and reward.
Graphically, the game looks gorgeous, featuring hand-drawn visuals with a distinct steampunk aesthetic, which would look right at home on a 16-bit console. Unfortunately, much like the other titles in the Gundemonium trilogy, the largest problem with Recollection is the forgettable soundtrack, which is drowned out by far more competent gameplay and visuals.
Recollection features an array of weaponry including a primary shot, a magic attack, and a third “bomb” attack which destroys nearly everything on screen. In addition to Eryth, there is a second playable character, the Earl-type alchemist, which is recommended for beginners due to her superior firepower and ability to be tailored to the player’s wants and needs.
Although the game can be completed in well under an hour, Recollection‘s arcade-style nature makes it highly replayable. With local and online leaderboards, as well as a plethora of trophies to collect, there is plenty of longevity in this package.
The second title in the trilogy is the direct sequel to Gundemonium Recollection, and sees the return of Eryth in her mission to repel the demonic army spilling from a portal in space-time. While GundeadliGne seems to do little to differentiate itself from its predecessor, this is not necessarily a bad thing; the old mantra of “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” certainly applies here.
Although GundeadliGne showcases a presentation that is incredibly similar to Recollection, a major difference between the titles is the newfound ability to make an about-face and thus change the direction of fire. This subtle difference in control changes both how enemies throw bullet formation at the player and also how the player must think about the game.
Eryth, while remaining largely unchanged from Recollection, now has several new methods of attack and defense to choose from, which replace her “bomb” attack. The customizable Earl-types from the previous title have also been replaced. In their stead is a new character, Elixiar. With a powerful beam cannon attack and a magic attack that slows both enemies and oncoming fire, Elixiar is perfect for beginners still honing their skills.
If multiplayer is something that you look for in games, GundeadliGne may just be your favourite of the trilogy, as GundeadliGne also offers a two-player cooperative mode. After an attempt at the “Demonic” difficulty setting, I believe playing with a friend may be necessary to successfully complete it. Well, that or Godlike reflexes.
As prequel to Gundemonium Recollection, Hitogata Happa is set nearly twenty years prior to Eryth’s first mission. While the first two titles in the series are strikingly similar in appearance, the third and final title in the Gundemonium Collection is far different. Taking a cue from many arcade shmups, Hitogata Happa shakes the horizontal nature of previous titles in the series for a top-down, vertical view of the field.
Aesthetically, the game is also quite different from the first two titles. While GundeadliGne and Recollection has a cuter anime-inspired art direction, Hitogata Happa features a more futuristic military aesthetic, with aircraft and tanks instead of steampunk alchemists.
In Hitogata Happa, the player controls dolls rather than a gun-slinging heroine. There are eight dolls each with their own unique attack and special ability. Once again differentiating itself from its predecessors where one must choose a character and weapon type prior to starting the game, Hitogata‘s dolls can be purchased between levels and freely switched between during gameplay.
With a seemingly straightforward control setup, one would be forgiven for thinking that this title was just another “shoot-to-survive” affair. In my first few attempts at Hitogata Happa, that same thinking left me staring at a Game Over screen on a number of occasions.
As if the first two titles in the series were not difficult enough, Hitogata Happa ratchets up the difficulty even further. Requiring a critical switch in thinking, Hitogata asks players to use suicidal tactics in order to progress. A “flow gauge” fills up with each successive hit on an enemy. Once this gauge is full, a bomb will appear above the head of the doll. This allows for the kamikaze attacks necessary to defeat the massive, screen-filling bosses that wait at the end of each level.
In conclusion, this is a great compilation of titles with finely tuned gameplay, tight controls, crisp visuals, and a wonderful retro aesthetic. Whether you are a newcomer to shmups or are a bullet-hell veteran, there is something here for everyone. This package offers a great value at $15 for all three titles. Additionally, each title is available individually for $6. With hours of fast, fun, and addictive gameplay in store, you simply cannot go wrong with picking up the Gundemonium Collection.
Graphically, the games all look gorgeous, featuring bright and colourful hand-drawn visuals with a retro aesthetic.
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The three games in this package are all challenging, well-thought-out shooters with tight controls and intense bullet-hell gameplay.
The largest problem with the games are the forgettable soundtracks which are not bad, but not particularly good either.
Although short in duration, the arcade-style nature of the games makes the collection highly replayable. With local and online leaderboards, as well as a plethora of trophies to collect, there is plenty of longevity in this package.
This is a great compilation of titles with finely tuned gameplay, tight controls, crisp visuals, and a wonderful retro aesthetic. With hours of fast, fun, and addictive gameplay in store, you simply cannot go wrong with picking up the Gundemonium Collection.