Okay, so these games aren't precisely new. They are, in fact, all varying degrees of old. The three games on this disc, all developed by Milestone, are Chaos Field, Radirgy, and Karous, which were originally released on the NAOMI arcade system in 2004, 2005, and 2006 respectively. Each was a potential "last game ever" for the Sega Dreamcast, coming out in Japan in 2004, 2006, and 2007. But, with the exception of Chaos Field, this is the first North American appearance for these games. In any case, they're a lot more recent than the Virtual Console's shooters, and they all represent a variety of shmup that emerged post-SNES: bullet hell. While most shooters rely on patterns of spawning enemies who each fire a few bullets, bullet-hell shooters subject the player to cascading, screen-filling curtains of glowing projectiles.
All three games share certain design elements beyond bullet-hell. In each, the player has both a projectile weapon and a sword; all feature special attacks that must be charged; and there is a heavy emphasis on combo-building through risky behavior in all of them. In addition, all of them are rendered in 3D, though in wildly different styles.
is the only game in the set that uses the full screen; the rest have large bars on the sides due to their tall "Tate mode" orientation. Chaos Field
is a very
nice-looking (in my opinion) shooter whose gimmick is the ability to change "fields" between Chaos and Order. In the Chaos field, your bullets are larger, but the enemies' are as well, and more numerous; this is both dangerous and useful for chaining special attacks. Chaos Field
is a "boss rush" game, meaning that you are shunted from one ridiculous, overblown boss encounter to the next. Radirgy
or Radio Allergy
(the title says one, the logo another!) has a profoundly unique visual style: candy-colored, cel-shaded graphics with a cell phone user interface. You even receive email in-game with tips on upcoming areas. As it turns out, the cel-shading both looks really cool and, because of the black outlines, makes it really
easy to identify bullets on the screen. The major gimmick in Radirgy
is the ABSNET system, a shield that absorbs enemies within its confines, building a combo meter. It's possible to chain together enemies to keep the ABSNET shield going. Using the sword also helps build the combo meter faster, though you have to get all up in enemies' personal space to use it.Karous
is perhaps the friendliest of the three games, with more traditional shooter segments between the increasingly bullet-spamming boss encounters. The cel shading from Radirgy
returns for this game, but in a muted, greyish color scheme that totally changes the feel of the game while still leaving the bullets highly visible. All of these games use Dreamcast-level graphics, of course, but they all manage to impress in different ways, with the unique look of this one being the most memorable. Unfortunately, if the text was teensy in Radirgy
, it's totally illegible in Karous
, due to the small screen area used for the game. Maybe
you could read it if you're somehow playing on a monitor in vertical mode, but who really cares about text in a shmup anyway? Karous
also features a sort of experience point system through which players can pick up items to upgrade their shots, speed and shields.
All three of these games are, of course, really hard. But Karous
is almost, sort of, manageably difficult for the shmup novice, and the other two games are pretty and enjoyable enough for the few seconds you get to play them before failure. In addition, between the combos, shields, and swordplay, all three games provide ways to make survival easier, along with more complexity in gameplay than the usual shooter. It's worth the time it takes to learn each gameplay system in order to eventually feel success
Final verdict: 7.5/10