It is difficult to indulge
in the Dreamcast community
without hearing a great deal about "shmups"
. Or, as I call 'em, "flying space shooters". Even though they're often not set in space. Shut up!
Anyhow, there is an absolutely primal pull to these games. Once you realize you can interact
with moving pictures, probably the first thing you want is to make pictures go by very fast. Second, you want to make things blow up (=make/control pictures of 'splosions). Thus, the two original genres of video game: driving/racing, where pictures go by quickly; space shooters, where pictures go by quickly and Blow Up!!
There are times when I absolutely want to play nothing else.
This dovetails beautifully with the 'Cast, since for the past couple years, new shumps come out for the little grey guy!* On yon Nets, I had researched a bit and determined that Karous
was the most interesting to me, (pretty!!), that Radilgy
was a stout second, and that I gotta buy Rez
** (to play) and Ikaruga to cement my nerdly bona fides
Last Hope, Trigger Heart Excelia and Trizeal
didn't rate for me, for whatever reason.
So, after all this planning, all this research and effort, I found myself at the mall on Portland's recent Snow Day, buying Chaos Field. Review-wise, this game was pretty much a non-entity. Some authority named "Randorama" held it to be pretty thoroughly mediocre
, whereas the delightful Richard Davies thought it was super-fun
What strikes me most about it, aside from the great music
is that this most simple of genres, this pick-up-and-play arcade staple, has somehow morphed into a bafflingly difficult "Hardcore" game style.****
Once, you could move around, touching nothing (maybe a powerup now and again) and firing, ever firing. Maybe you'd have two different attacks, and you might have an area-attack option. If you were lucky, that area attack would destroy enemy fire, raising your defensive options to two
. With one or two exceptions, my beloved Iridion II and the less-compelling Nanostray both hewed to these ancient conventions. But Chaos Field?
You fly around, not touching enemies. You can touch chargeups, but it's better to collect them by holding a button down for a bit, which prevents you from doing anything else (firing, etc.). You fire, ever are you firing. There's a second gun, too, an area-attack option that you have to charge. And a defensive weapon that you can charge. And you have a sword! This sword can attack enemies at VERY close range, but its primary purpose is to swipe-away enemy fire in like a 270-degree arc around you. Which you have to do a lot. A LOT. Because this is a "bullet hell"
game. The screen is usually completely
filled with enemy fire, and I have yet to discover exactly where the fabled "hit box" on my craft might be. And everything happens within very demanding time limits. And there's a bunch of combo-based scoring options that'll make you want to finish each stage with a flurry of charged attacks.
These already establish substantial increases in complexity for the genre. Even leaving aside the wholly insane bullet hell crap, the genre's clearly changed a bunch since I was shoving quarters into Raiden. And all this change comes before
I mention Chaos Field's actual claim to originality, pace
Randorama: you can play in either of two "fields". In the Order Field, you hit less hard, and so do they, and they give out lots of chargeups. In the Chaos Field, you hit super-hard, and your charged attacks can autotarget enemy fire. But they hit much harder, too, and the fire patterns are even more challenging to...navigate. Survive.
I've got like ten fucking hours in this thing and have made it to the third stage (of 15) exactly one time. P'raps this is due to my predilection for playing whilst intoxicated ("shit, bitch, I'm drunk right now!" is sorta the Contradiction family motto), and p'raps it's a sign of my badness at video games.
However, as Tycho says somewhere, we're in this for increasing challenges coupled with increasingly-cool visual rewards. And in the Chaos Field, when you target a whole BUNCH of shit
at one time? Man. It looks really nice. Usually once a game starts to go south for me, I just flip into that field and do charge-attacks until I'm out of continues, just so I can see some pretty pictures.
Anyways, until Radio Allergy comes out, or until I talk myself into dropping a vasty chunk of dough on an import shooter, Chaos Field will serve my shooty needs most adequately.
*There's reasons for this, having to do with the existence of magic places in Japan called "arcades" and the Dreamcast-like innards of some arcade cabinets. Some chick named Naomi
is apparently responsible for this, but I (a) understand this point imperfectly and (b) am bored by it (this point).
**Rez is by the dude who did Space Channel 5, so. Must-have, obviously.
***Actually, looking over the links while I compiled this, Radilgy is more attractive to me than Karous. Since the former'll see a Gamecube port
(!) in the next couple months, I'm going to buy it. And while I've got you here, in this buried footnote, I shall offer an embarassing admission. I bought Chaos Field for the Cube. I want
to support the 'Cast, I want
to buy imports...but I scored this one for 15. Radio Allergy will be 20. If I stuck to my grey guns, I'd drop sixty fucking dollars. Sixty! Really
hard to talk myself into that. I'm sorry.
also had an absolutely great soundtrack. Nanostray too, maybe? Haven't made it far enough to tell yet.