Sunday, March 27, 2011

Sentimental Shooting

I mentioned this game briefly on twitter, but a 140 character per message medium just isn't enough to properly explain this game.  Hence the blog post.

No screenshot of the title screen or anything because the game's built-in screenshot feature isn't active on the main menu and PrintScrn gives me a 640x480 black image.

There will, however, be a jump break right here like in all my other game review-ish posts.

Sentimental Shooting is an ero-danmaku shooter.  You have a ship and there are enemies that fire at you like normal, but the background is a girl whose clothing you must shoot off to complete the stage.  And yes, like any danmaku, you have a really tiny hitbox.  I sucked at the game until I figured that out, because I was moving too much trying to fit my whole ship between bullets.  Your hitbox is inside the yellow portion of the center of your ship.

The game is playable with a keyboard, but also supports gamepad input.  The keyboard controls are arrow keys for movement, Z for shooting, and X for scrollstop. The gamepad controls are d-pad for movement, button 1 for shooting, and button 2 for scrollstop.  I'll cover what exactly scrollstop is later.

There are powerups to help you along your journey.  As you go through each stage merrily destroying clothing and any enemies that get in your way, you'll see boxes with either the letter M or the letter L on them.  The M stands for missiles, and the L stands for lasers.  Now, if you've played games with laser powerups before, your first instinct will be to choose the missiles instead, but let me tell you now: the lasers are way better.

Why?  Well, the missiles only go straight forwards.  The lasers will auto-target things.  This combined with the fact that it's a dannaku means that if you take the lasers, you can concentrate on dodging bullets and getting clothing with your main shots while the lasers take things out.  This is especially important on the boss fights.

Also, you can have up to 3 powerups at once.  When picking up one, it will either be on the left, right, or bottom of your ship depending on which part of your ship collides with the powerup.  This is important when you've got both missiles and lasers and want to ditch the missiles for that laser powerup that just dropped.  I personally recommend picking up the missiles, but only if you have fewer than 3 powerups.  Then replace them with lasers if/when the opportunity arises.  It's random when you get them and what you get, so you'll just have to have good luck.

There are 12 girls, and each of them have two stages.  In the first stage for a given girl, you get the regular enemies, and mini-bosses.  In the first stage, you shoot off everything but the bra and panties.  Finding some of the spots you need to shoot can be tricky, as some spots are initially covered up by others, and some aren't onscreen for very long.  Learning which spots you only get one chance at is key to completing the stage.  You can only progress to the second stage if you get 100% on the first stage.

The second stage is the boss stage, where your only enemy is the boss and the only clothing remaining is bra and panties (or in one case, an apron).  You need to be careful on this stage, for the obvious reason of "boss stage = harder", but also you need to not defeat the boss too quickly.  Unlike each first stage, the second stage will not end until either you or the boss is dead.  Concentrate on dodging and taking out clothing first, then worry about the boss.  Even if this means you have to stop shooting for a while to wait for that last bit of clothing to scroll onscreen.

Mechanic-wise, it's pretty simple.  While not firing, you move faster than while you're firing.  When dodging bullets in a danmaku, speed is actually your enemy.  You will want to be able to make very precise movements, because your hitbox is so small that you don't need to make larger movements to stay alive.  Also, you have a gauge showing your remaining "scrollstop" power.  By pressing its button (and releasing it immediately), it takes a chunk of the gauge and clears the screen of bullets.  By holding that same button, the stage will stop scrolling, allowing you to take out clothing regardless of how long it was supposed to be onscreen.  The gauge slowly drains while you hold the button.

When you reach the end of a stage, it tallies up your score and shows your percentages.  Then, it gives you the option to free scroll.  You can move your view around the stage with the movement controls.  Pressing X while in free scroll will export a .bmp of the entire stage to the SNAPSHOT subdirectory in the game's directory.  This is the only way to unlock the pictures, so make sure you do it (there's no gallery mode).  It names the images with each girl's name and a number that increments, but I went through and renamed each to specifically say whether it's a stage 1 or stage 2 screenshot.  I also converted all of them to PNG so I could compress them.

You might think that scrollstop makes the game too easy, but you need to save it.  Just forget it even exists.  All of the stages can be completed without it, and doing so without dying and getting 100% on both stages will give you a hidden second boss.  Defeating this second boss will unlock the omake picture for that stage.  This is actually fairly difficult to accomplish, only on the "no deaths" front.

I've completed all 24 stages to 100%.  The first screenshot of a stage that I have saved has a timestamp in 2006.  I just finished and screenshotted the last three stages I had left earlier today.  That's right, it took me 5 years to beat this game.  In those 5 years, I've only gotten one omake picture, that I got earlier today, on the very last stage I had left to complete and screenshot.

Since unlocking that first omake picture without actually knowing how to do so, I googled around, figured it out, and now I'm getting more of them.  It's worth noting that once the second boss appears, you're guaranteed to get the omake picture if you defeat it.  This means you're free to die or use scrollstop.

The mechanic that makes the game easier in a more skillful manner is related to destroying clothing.  When you successfully destroy an entire piece of the clothing (a sock, a skirt, etc.), the screen will flash and all bullets will disappear.  Shirts are usually broken up into the separate sleeves and then the main part.  If you're about to be cornered by bullets, but the last bit of a particular piece of clothing is onscreen and accessible, you can destroy it to save yourself.  This is the primary reason why you can just ignore scrollstop.  The secondary reason is that if you don't suck, you don't need it.

The game runs perfectly in Windows XP, and will run on Windows 7 if you go into the options and disable the music.  That's it, no compatibility modes, no running as administrator, and no extra settings.  You might want to play some of your own music in the background in this case.  It's not like the game's music is stellar or anything, but without it the game just doesn't feel the same.

Overall, I'd have to say, if you like danmaku shooters and eroge, try and find a copy floating around on the internet somewhere.

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