Mushihimesama is a vertical scrolling shmup (shoot 'em up) that has you playing as a teenage girl, Reco. Reco is on a quest to help cure her village from a mysterious illness and the way to do so is by traveling though the Shinju Forest and meet a god. This quest isn't going to be easy, the Shinju Forest is full of huge bugs and I'm not talking about the glitchy kind, I'm actually talking about giant insects (yikes). These bugs also require a human sacrifice of a 15 year old girl every 150 years to help give humans the resources they need to survive and Rico is the next one on the list to be on the chopping block. Thankfully, Reco isn't going through this journey alone as she has a bug of her own to help guide her though the forest. This bug is named Kiniro and he has a nice golden coat and a whole array of firepower. It's Studio Ghibli meets Starship Troopers (1997) in this fantasy shmup. (Click on "Read More" to read the full review).
The story in this game is one that you'd have to look up in order to find out what the game is really about as the game gives you barely any information, you'll think that this game doesn't have a story to begin with. Once you have found out what the story actually is, you'll still find yourself confused with the convoluted plot and also disappointed due to the story being quite silly. Not all of this story is silly, the ending has a very strong moment that'll make you feel sad. The story in this game is also in no way important to your experience of this game as the importance is all about the gameplay and flashy graphics.
Gameplay is nothing new as it is the classic style of vertical scrolling bullet hell shoot 'em up, where you avoid an endless amount of bullets and fire until everything has been grounded to ash, and collect power-ups to ground even more enemies to ash, and fight gigantic bosses, so you know what you are getting yourself into right off the bat. The gameplay may be predictable but that doesn't mean that it is bad as there's a reason why bullet hell games use this style, it works. Once you've started the game, you get to choose one of three types of shooting patterns and these include: A spread shot that has a wide range but does lower damage, a straight shot that's a balance of power and range, and a short range straight shot that is heavy on power but has a very low spread. You also have a screen clearing bomb weapon that will come in handy but you only get a limited amount of them.
Blowing up enemies will force them to drop power ups and loads of gold and the power-ups will help make your weapons stronger, give you more bombs, and even change the formation of your weapons and while the gold just gives you points but the points will help you gain extra lives. Getting extra lives will only matter to you for if you're trying to beat this game on one credit as this game has unlimited credits, this is great for those that are not very good at these type of games. The difficulty of this game is very brutal but it is also very balanced due to all of the enemies bullets being purple... How does that help make this game balanced? Glad I asked, the answer to that is that the purple bullets stick out thus making the player know what to dodge. The other thing that makes this game balanced is that the hit-boxes makes it possible to dodge though very tight gaps between bullets, so the bullets won't kill you unless it directly hits you. While this game is brutally hard, it's not cheap and when you die, it won't feel like that it's the games fault but that of your very own.
This game has a small but sweet selection of modes including: Novice, Normal, Arranged, Training, and Version 1.5. Novice mode is a toned down version of the original game and serves as a great purpose to beginners for these types of games. The enemies won't fire as much bullets and they are all weaker as well, so you won't find yourself becoming very frustrated, plus it'll make you feel encouraged to give the other modes a go once you have beaten this mode. While a good experience for beginners, you won't be able to just simply beat this mode on one credit without some skill but you won't feel enraged from losing lives either.
Lastly, we have Mushihimesama Version 1.5, in this mode you'll play an updated version of the original, much like playing one of the updated versions of Street Fighter II (1991). This version of the game is actually very interesting as it's not a lazy rehash of the game. There are a lot of minor updates and a few majors ones but this is a version update where you'll notice them all as they are in your face, thus you'll actually feel like that you're playing a brand new game. The biggest updates are to do with the difficulty and the weapon selection. The difficulty in this version has been beefed up to where it'll get frustratingly insane to even survive the first level, yep, it is a mode that's suited for professional players. The weapon selection has also been expanded on to where you can choose to start off with a weapon at max level, opposed to starting off with a basic leveled weapon that you'll have to power-up as you go along. Picking the max leveled weapon isn't without consequence as by selecting this, all of the enemies will also start off with max weapons.
The downside to Mushihimesama Version 1.5 is that it doesn't come with the core game, it is a downloadable add-on that'll cost you an extra $5. Alternatively you can buy this game as a deluxe edition for $5 more than the standard edition and the deluxe edition not only comes with Mushihimesame Version 1.5, it also comes with the soundtrack as well. Having both a standard and deluxe edition of this game is a bit silly if you ask me, the deluxe edition should've been the standard version of the game as this is a game where you'll get the complete experience or not buy the game at all.
This game is very short and runs for only five levels but that won't bother you, the replay value is incredibly high and you will be playing this game over and over again, whether it is to check out the other modes or just to play that one mode that you love. The formula of each level is the same as it starts off with you blasting enemies, then fighting a big mid-boss, then fighting more enemies, then closing off the level by fighting a huge main boss. This format was fine for most of the game but it did make the game a little dragged out towards the middle of the game. The game picks right up again once you have gotten to the second part of level four and it is worth getting to as the levels were very interesting.
The aspect ratio of the game itself is quite small as it is a vertical rectangle in the center of the screen and is surrounded by an artistic boarder that'll change every now and then. You can customize the game to where it fills up the screen a bit more for those who have to squint to see the game or are distracted by the boarders. The picture customization is quite cool and I liked the option that surrounds the game with smaller screens that are zoomed in on key parts of the screen such as score, the player, lives, and the bosses health bar. You can also customize the soundtrack to where you've got a soundtrack that's a mix and match of all of the different variants of the tunes, so you can have the level one theme be from the arranged version and then have the level two theme to be from the original soundtrack. This game also has the ability to save a replay of your run, so you can sit back and show off your record scoring run to yourself and/or your buds.
Graphics in this game are mostly pretty cool looking as there's a lot of beautiful scenery and interesting enemies. There were some parts of the game towards the middle and the end that were a bit lazy looking due to the designs looking just like levels from the first part of the game and it felt like I was playing those early moments all over again. The background and border art for the menus are quite good, it has a very appealing anime art style that has well drawn characters and nice coloring.
The only problem you might have with the art is with the overly exaggerated design of Reco as she is drawn to be like a gorgeous supermodel that's in her thirties. I personally don't find the design to be offensive as she fits with the insane nature of this game, however some people will, especially when they find out that she is a fifteen year old with big boobs, it won't set right for some people. The animation is decent and did have some well animated moments but there's also some animations that looked rough due to being dated.
Music in this game is really good and has a great arcade styled electronic soundtrack that'll send you down memory lane to a time where arcades were commonplace. The only complaint I have about the music is not with the way it sounds but with the way some of the tracks were used. Some of the tracks were used terribly to where they ruined the mood as they didn't go with what was going on in the game. Despite that problem, the soundtrack itself is another reason why it is better to go straight for the deluxe edition over the vanilla edition as it is a soundtrack that's worth having.
Overall, this is an incredibly good shoot 'em up game and is one of the best that you'll ever get to play. I can not recommend this game to everybody enough and make sure to pick the deluxe version over the vanilla version as this is a game that's worth the full experience. It is really nice seeing rare and expensive Japanese import games such as this getting a really nice and affordable PC release, I hope we get more in the near future. Great game.
Genre: Fantasy, shmup
Price: $19.99 (Standard edition), $24.99 (Deluxe edition)
Recommended: Yes (Get the deluxe edition)