CAVE is a Japanese developer that requires no introduction to fans of the shoot ’em up genre, but PC players might not be familiar with their work. Mushihimesama, which loosely translates as “Bug Princess” is the first PC venture for the developer and a very good showcase of it is that made CAVE famous. Players are cast into the role of Princess Reco, the monarch of a village afflicted with a strange sickness. The princess must mount her trusty golden beetle, Kiniro, and venture into the Shinju Forest to find the god of insects in the hope of gaining a cure.
As far as storylines go the one in Mushimesama is paper thin, but offers a decent enough excuse for playing as a girl on a bug shooting at other bugs. The theme of the game feels very inspired by the classic anime, Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, and makes for a nice change from the usual space themes. Mushihimesama only offers five levels, but since it is a bullet hell title it is definitely not a walk in the park. The good news is that the game features several game modes that allow even novice players to have fun while learning the ropes.
Purists can play the game in “Arcade” mode, which is designed to match the original arcade game as closely as possible. Newcomers can opt for “Novice” mode, which is similar to the Arcade experience, but a bit more forgiving. Finally, there is “Arrange” mode, which plays like a remixed version of the original game. In this mode you start out with your firepower at maximum and automatically drop your entire stack of bombs instead of losing a life when hit the first time. The difficulty of the game can be adjusted even further by selecting Original, Maniac or Ultra mode before playing. Maniac and Ultra modes not only increases the challenge, but also introduces a new combo system for scoring. In these modes your combo increases when hitting enemies and decrease when shots miss, which encourages players to let go of the fire button once in a while.
Death comes swiftly in Mushihimesama and accomplishing the very desirable one credit clear in any of the modes takes a lot of practice. The game does generously grant players unlimited continues, but at the cost of their score. This makes completing the levels an easy task, but doing so without abusing the continues and obtaining a high score is still a big challenge. The nice thing about Mushihimesama is that only Reco is vulnerable to enemy bullets and hot her beetle, which means the player hitbox is very small. This allows players to weave through bullet patterns that appear practically impossible at first glance and makes for a very thrilling experience.
At the start of the game players can select from three different shot types, the S-Power, M-Power and W-Power, and then upgrade these during levels by collecting power-ups. Speaking of power-ups, players can also collect smaller beetles, named options that follow Kiniro and enhances your firepower. Players start out with a limited amount of bombs and can occasionally pick up more during levels. Finally, defeated foes releases gems that add to your score.
For a game originally released in 2004 Mushihimesama still looks very good and features a range of customization options. Players are able to select the aspect ratio that suits their preference and can even play the game in Tate Mode for extra authenticity, provided they have a monitor that can be turned vertical. Playing the game in portrait results in large borders, but at least these have been made pretty thanks to some nice artwork. The borders can be spruced up even further by enabling score displays, input displays and even extra windows. In some modes you can even change the zoom level, choose the backgrounds and applying smoothing to the visuals.
With only five different levels there are not a lot of different backgrounds and levels take place mostly in forests, desserts and caves. The amount of enemies you face are rather formidable and every single one of them spits screens full of deadly purple projectiles in your general direction. Since all enemy bullets are purple there is no risk of them getting lost in the background or being mistaken for anything other than instant death. The game even features the slowdown that occurred in the arcade whenever the screen was filled with bullets, which is actually quite beneficial. The soundtrack is rather nice and features a selection of great songs to accompany the action. Sound effects are not too bad either, but tend to take a backseat to the music. The background music and sound effects volume can be adjusted independently, but even with the former muted the sound effects sound a bit puny. As far as the controls are concerned, everything is very responsive using a keyboard or controller.
Five levels might not sound like a lot, but there is enough content in Mushihimesama to keep players busy for ages. The co-op mode is a lot of fun, but sadly only local and not online. The game does feature online leaderboards for bragging rights and players can share replays of their best runs. While also quite challenging the game does have a practice mode where players can take on individual levels for training.
Mushihimesama has received quite a few fixes since its initial release and is a game that should be in the collection of any self-respecting bullet hell shooter fan. Novices will probably find it a little frustrating, but it is also addictive enough that they will find themselves coming back for more. Experienced players will relish the challenge as well as the opportunity to show off their skills. Overall the game is a great example of its genre and one of the best vertical shooters available on Steam.
- OS: Windows 7/8/8.1/10
- Processor: Intel Core i3 2GHz or higher.
- Memory: 2 GB RAM
- Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 4000, Geforce 9500GT, Radeon HD 3650 or better
- DirectX: Version 9.0c
- Storage: 1500 MB available space
- Sound Card: DirectSound-compatible sound card
Storage: 2 GB available space