Review – Guwange

Guwange
Cave’s bullethell blast from the past hit Xbox Live Arcade with all the trimmings this week, plus a few features I wouldn’t have anticipated. Running through modes and stages, I can’t shake the thought that Guwange would make a spectacular Wii title. That isn’t intended to veer completely off topic, but has just been floating around in my brain while tackling the core of this game – controlling two physical objects on screen simultaneously.

Each of the game’s three playable characters is linked to a shikigami, an entity that player’s can summon at their leisure, and also one that each character seeks to free themselves from, the driving bit of narrative beneath the barrage of bullets standing between the player and that goal. At first this can result in several shades of retina overload, keeping track of two objects on-screen while Cave’s fine sprites vanish beneath the chaos of color changing bullets and loose change, until survival seems like sheer luck while pushing the analog sticks of the 360 controller in all directions. But a one size fits all difficulty setting, generous screen display and co-op options, as well as three modes to suit all possible tastes should help the uninitiated quickly discover an elegance at work that speaks to Cave’s well earned legacy as shooter royalty.

Guwange

Guwange places each of the available characters on foot, walking into a war-zone and capable of firing both regular barrages as well as an obligatory special that offers some brief breaks – stopping the bullets caught in its wake while chewing through the endless waves of opposition. Tapping the fire button offers quick bursts, while holding the button down summons the shikigami – and slows down both the player’s fire and footsteps. The reason why someone would want to slow down at all while dodging bullets is because the shikigami is the only real means of surviving them, the player able to control its movement with the main character, flailing it around the screen like a ball of doom that destroys whatever it touches. The shikigami also has the ability to slow down any bullet it touches, turning them from blue to a lovely and more visible shade of pink, which opens up more manageable routes and a chance to gain some added coin.

That’s a rough sketch of the Arcade Mode, and Guwange also offers a Blue Arrange Mode which plays by the same general rulebook but offers a more challenging trip for seasoned players. But wait, there’s more, because Guwange goes on to also offer an Xbox 360 Arrange Mode that makes the entire affair more inviting to players of any skill level by substantially changing how the game is controlled – a mode that became love at first sight for me.

Guwange

Within this new mode the main character unleashes a constant stream of autofire and is controlled by the left stick, then allowing players to summon the shikigami by holding down the right trigger and controlling it with the right stick, allowing both objects to be freely manipulated independently of one another and offering a much easier means of orchestrating a bullet symphony with a happy ending, where players live to see the credits and don’t embed the controller in their television screen.

Any eccentricity in that previous statement isn’t meant to portray the Arcade Version as unplayable – far from it – rather that this added mode offers a more inviting means of getting to the heart of what makes Guwange worth revisiting, an offensive / defensive dance that requires players to find the harmony in moving two completely separate objects to maximize the efficient accomplishment of a singular goal. Sometimes this involves enemies only the shikigami can reach, and most other times this involves slowing down that aforementioned and never-ending hail of bullethell to ensure the main character reaches the end of each stage – hence the earlier Nunchuk / WiiMote fantasy distraction.

The remainder of the addiction owes entirely to the economics of Guwange’s scoring system, which revolves around a meter that fills as enemies are attacked and/or bullets are slowed. Getting this gauge filling is essential in causing enemies to drop coins when killed, and also for converting the slowed bullets of slain enemies into coins. This all leads to a chain that eventually has the screen as covered in gold as in bullets, which lasts so long as the meter doesn’t deplete and has left me chasing after ever more ridiculous sums in an attempt to prove my shooter worth. There’s a personal level of addiction that you’ll have to take my word for – chasing gold is so much more satisfying than just piling up a straight-up score.

Guwange

An important final point to hit is that this release of Guwange is stuffed with an insane amount of options to balance out the age of the title – though don’t let the age concern you, Guwange can teach plenty to new shooter releases. You can tackle the game in online or offline co-op to introduce friends to Cave’s bizarre monstrosities, potentially passing along nightmares of demonic Spidercat mutations. Player’s will also find that Guwange offers so many options for customizing the display of the game that the possibilities are earnestly overwhelming – if it exists on screen, Cave has given you the means to tweak it to your exact liking, so have it your way baby.

Overall Guwange’s single difficulty, brief set of stages, and infinite continues leaves chasing the glory of coin chains and high scores the long term draw. The shooter faithful needn’t hesitate at the purchase, and those with even a bite-sized interest in discovering more about Cave’s cult status shouldn’t have trouble spotting the immense value served up via this release.


Developer
Cave

Publisher
Cave

System
Xbox 360 (Xbox LIVE)

Modes
Singleplayer, Co-op

Release Date
November 10, 2010

Price
800 Microsoft Pts

*A copy of this title was provided by the publisher for review

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • N4G
  • Reddit
  • RSS
  • http://www.reverbnation.com/ujnhunter Ujn Hunter

    That was a tasty Guwange sammich! Thanks. I shall catch up to your high scores my friend!

    • http://www.gamesugar.net Jamie Love

      I’ve only gotten 55/200 achievements so far, with a 10,000 coin-chain, it’s effin hard to keep that going!

      • http://www.gamesugar.net Jamie Love

        oh! I’ve apparently got a wifi adaptor coming my way though so co-op is totally happening!

      • http://www.reverbnation.com/ujnhunter Ujn Hunter

        Sweet! I look forward to Guwanging with you.