At a basic level, the shooting of dinosaurs and lobsters is pretty easy to understand and enjoy. Each character has multiple weapon configurations which are selected before playing and then within those are separate fire-modes which the player will learn to use in different circumstances. The difference between a tight beam that slows the character down and a fast-moving spread-shot being obvious (with this being flipped between the two characters). The player is also equipped with a number of bombs which, rather helpfully, neutralise enemy bullets as well as dealing damage. This is a game which intends to overwhelm the player with bullets to dodge and the bombs start as a ‘get out of jail free card’ deployed in panic, but players soon learn to save them for specific occasions (often in boss fights) in order to get through the game.
The game is a port of an arcade game, but with updated balancing and bug fixes (hence 'ver. 1.5') and, in the normal display mode, features fabulously chunky sprites that at once look both antiquated and beautiful. Seeing sprites like this in a game in 2009 is glorious eye-candy. For players that have become used to the intricately detailed and bombastic worlds of 3D games, the simple pleasure of seeing these distinctly Japanese sprites is a pure joy. The game also features an Xbox 360 version that has dramatically sharper visuals that still retain the art design and look of the game but clean up the rough edges of the sprites. The updated graphics are only part of this package, though. One worry with a port or update is that it could be a rush job, a simple conversion just stuck out cheaply and quickly. Nothing could be further from the truth here, though. The game features the most comprehensive display options that allow players to tweak the game to look as close to arcade as possible on their TV, and even change the frame delay to match the arcade or even simply change the background image around the edge of the screen. Cave knows its audience and has truly catered for them with a port of the highest quality.
The scoring system of a game can make or break it, and Mushihime-sama’s is regarded as one of the best around. Each mode except Ultra (Original, Maniac, Arrange) has its own distinct scoring system that uses gems, shot types and multipliers to change up how the player earns points. In all modes the enemies drop gems when killed and the player needs to collect these for points. In Original mode the player will be switching between different shot-types to maximise the size of gems dropped. The score counter will be either green or blue, with the hundreds digit in the score being between 0-4 when it is green and 5-9 when it is blue. When the counter is green, the player needs to use the spreadshot and when it is blue they need to use the lasershot. Killing an enemy with the correct shot will cause them to drop large gems, which significantly increase the score counter.
On top of this is Arrange mode, in which the player controls both characters at once. The player can switch between them on the fly and the second character will either slow down bullets or reflect them back, depending on the shot currently being used. Using these will raise and lower a counter respectively and when both counters hit 9999 using a laser will unleash Fever mode, increasing the player’s power and causing large gems to be dropped from reflected shots.
At first these systems are daunting and overwhelming but with time and practice the player can start digging into and exploring these systems, once the matter of just surviving has been mastered. Newcomers are helped by Arrange mode and Novice automatically deploying bombs should they be hit and expert players looking for increasingly granular tips and strategies can download saved replays from the leader board to see how the highest ranked players are working their magic.
A review by Oli Clarke Smith