There are SHMUPS, and then there are poofy 3d sparkle-bunny bs mindless
shooters. Cho Ren Sha 68k is a card carrying member of the SHMUPS club,
albeit a bit stark and to the point.
One of the first things you'll notice when playing CRS 68k is the fact that
there is really only one stage. Though you fight bosses and encounter more
and deadlier enemies, the background over which you are
flying while blowing everything to bits never changes, only whizzes by. At
first, this annoyed the piss out of me. It wasn't until I defeated the final
boss that I realized that this is, in fact, a keen idea that kept me playing
after winning once. More on that in a bit...
You start the game at the tail end of some huge explosion. It is a good way
to get you into the game, I think. You have a good 20 seconds to get used to
the feel of the ship and the rate of fire and the like. CRS 68k is an intermittent
SHMUP - you have to repeatedly hit the fire button to get a continuous stream of
ordinance - and it is good to have a few seconds to figure this stuff out. Right
from the get-go come the nasties ready to shred your metal.
From here, it is mainly
hundreds (yes, hundreds) of artfully programmed wing formations (with the occasional
mini-boss) per stage, each stage ending in a main boss. Not very new and different
yet, right? Well, it doesn't get new and different. Not at all. Though you
might think that this is a failing, I disagree - this is where and how the
Where some SHMUPS try to invent new an improved play mechanics, CRS 68k just
polishes tried and true methods to a tasty luster. No, you won't be measuring
your "scrap" level, or juggling "RGB" levels or choosing one of 50 power-up
classes because you feel like lightning Tuesdays. This is a meat and potatoes, balls
out classic style SHMUP with a few surprises, but nothing that will have you calling
mum on the phone because you are out of clean underwear.
Your weapon, a green and yellow tri-blaster, can be upgraded 5 times. Each p-up
will add another shot and, after 3, double the rate at which you fire them. At max
power, your tri-blaster will be able to nearly touch either top corner of the screen
if you fire from the bottom center. Along with your blasters, you come equipped with 3
full screen bombers. You can carry a max of five, so I am lead to question the dude
who equipped your ship before you left for battle. As well, you can obtain a shield
which will protect you from one hit and explode on contact with enemy fire, wiping
most in your area of the screen with it. These three items, p-ups, bombers and shields
are your bread and butter.
You need them if you want to live, and you are going to have
to chose which one is most important to you and when, because the enemy ship you tank
that carries them only carries all three - and you can only choose one. That is the
strategy, fellas; You can pick the p-up, the bomb or the shield. Once you chose, the
others magically disappear.
This might not sound like a huge deal, but when the screen
is inundated with fighters and their subsequent artillery and you are at p-level 2 with
one bomb and no shield the choice will oft-times decide the game.
With the simple, yet effective, item enigma out of the way lets move to enemies.
I must say, CRS 68k shines brightest in the area of enemy wing formations, interactions
and waypointing. When there is a huge enemy, you had better be sure there will be 30
little bastards at the other side of the screen making sure you can't outrun his
The thought put into the enemy formations was obviously the main concern
of the programmer, because not only do they work well on their own, they work
strikingly well together.
Another example: there are ships whose primary fire is a volley
of dual extra long lasers. If you want to do them in you've got to be in the center,
right between the lasers. This is simple enough, but when do you encounter these droogs?
That's right - right when there are 3 dudes whose attack is to spill a ton of shrapnel
you need to dodge at you.
This, effectively, locks you in and keeps you in while you
are killed. You can either try to dodge and hit the lasers, or stay put and be made into
Nordic cheese. There are occasions in this game wherein I had to pause and look at the
trickery and ingenuity packed into this little shooter. This is the reason to play. And
you will play hard, I promise.
The sound design was nothing special. A few of the larger sound effects are really
top notch, but most of the standard ships blow up with the same sound. That is
totally alright, though, because the music is spot on. It is the perfect mix of
old style Raiden tunes and Rockman (Mega Man for the US types) music. Each stage
song is a true song in both length and progression.
I was really impressed with how
well the pacing of the music kept the onscreen action feeling fresh and addictive.
Each stage song fits the stage very well, and each stage reflects the music. The faster
the tunes, the more enemies. Well thought out, seriously.
The gameplay is, as well, spot on. You and I, we are good at these games. No doubt about it.
That's why you are here reading this review, and I am here writing it. You wouldn't be
on the net right now searching for some home-grown Japanese shooter game that would fit on
a floppy disk if you weren't an up-scale member of the ass kickers club, right?
wouldn't even know what a SHMUP was if you hadn't grown up with them. Ok. So we rock. You
and I are the dog痴 balls. We rock the Kasbah. All your base are belong to us. You and I
set us up the bomb, right? Well, you are going to get your ass kicked come level 5,
young [wo]man, and I'm not going to be there to help you because I will be busy wiping
my face off the pavement.
The hit scanning is sexy. You can be grazed and still live, you need to take a real hit
before you bite it. This comes in hella-handy when there are 300 bits of firepower all
around and you need to do some touch-tap-dodging.
Pros: *Great* formation mapping and enemy interaction. Some of the best I've ever seen.
Amazing music. Nice strategy.
Cons: No indicator for p-up level (so you might pick up a few p-ups that give you points only
until you get a hang of the scheme). Graphics are old-school. Sounds are a bit lacking.
The trick is... You are fighting on the outside of a giant ring! The reason the background
doesn't change is that you are going around a huge bit of cylinder. When you get to the final boss, and blow him up, you are right back where you started. You take up level one again,
from the huge explosion from the beginning. The game never ends. Each time you beat it,
it gets progressivly harder. As well, the wins are indicated in the high-scores, so you
can show off.