One of the funny things about this whole column endeavour is how very dependent it is on what media I've been consuming lately. I had a bunch of things that I meant to write. . . and it turns out that I'm going to write about Ibara
instead, a shooting game by CAVE CO, LTD. "We make our clever plans and the gods kick them to pieces."
I think that's a George R. R. Martin quote, but I can't seem to find it. Anyway. Ibara
. As you might have guessed, I like games that are serious and hardcore. (I play other games, and even enjoy them, but I always feel kind of depressed afterwards.) Ibara
. . . is probably about as hardcore as it gets, even by the standards of shooting games, which is outright ludicrous. It's the spiritual successor to Battle Garegga
, which one can still watch people play at Hey in Akihabara, nearly 20 years after its release. (As far as I can tell, no one plays Battle Garegga
casually. If you go to Hey and put a quarter in the machine, you're very, very good.)
nothing is casual, nothing is accidental. It's got rank, which means that every action you take makes the game harder. Every bullet fired, every item picked up, every enemy destroyed. It's got medal chaining. It's got drops that depend on whether you shoot or bomb. (And a pattern of enemy drops that you want to watch and exploit, giving us in effect a chaining system.) Your powerups do different things depending on what angle you hit them at. (And they increase rank differently, don't forget.) There are ways of triggering certain powerups by letting other items go past. You can milk bosses. And you have to make all these decisions while dodging the traditional bullet curtain.
Needless to say, I'm terrible at it, but it's actually still fun, which might be its most impressive accomplishment.
And it's deep, with mechanics that you could play a long time without ever noticing.. For example, if you've got enough bomb, you can hold down the button and fire the wave motion gun -- and there's a momentary flash of invincibility right when it charges up. Not when it fires -- that happens when you let go, and you can hold the button down as long as you want -- but just for an instant about a half-second after you've started holding down the button.
It is, in short, a hard
and immersive game. The fact that it's also ridiculously cosplayable is just gravy.