Manic shmups have really come into
their own the past few years, with the likes of Cave, Takumi and
Psikyo jumping on the 'screen-filling' shmup bandwagon. Cave, especially,
seems to be a major player in the manic shmup market, with the likes
of Dodonpachi, ESP Ra.De and Dangun Feveron
setting shmup gamer's pockets ablaze in the arcades. Guwange continues
this tradition of manicness with great style.
The game itself is set in the era of Feudal Japan, and demons are
running amok, causing havoc and chaos. You are one of three guardians
charged with destroying the centre of the demonic hordes, and you
have the special ability to call upon a spiritual guardian in times
of need (more on that little gameplay aspect later).
Yes, as usual, you can select from three different characters -
a kabuki demon, a mystical archer and a bandit assassin. Each character
has their own spiritual guardian - the demon has a demon (surprise),
the archer calls upon a fox spirit, and the bandit has a tengu spirit.
They all have their own respective attacks too, for example, the
archer has arrows, the demon fires daggers and the assassin throws
knives. Attack-wise, they all fire waves of shots forward, their
attacks not really differing much. They all have the same bomb which
can be thrown forward, or if the bomb button is held down, can be
swung around the screen, even destroying enemies behing you. The
main feature of your arsenal however, and the main gameplay exponent,
is the guardian spirits.
Holding down the fire button will half your forward firepower and
call upon your respective guardian which can be controlled around
the screen using the control stick. Like most super-powers, the
spirit is indestructable, and can even slow down enemy shots! Using
the spirit to destroy enemies and slowing down bullets can be beneficial,
as if you destroy an enemy with the guardian spirit, the spirit
radiates a red glow, and any enemy bullets caught in the glow will
instantly be turned into coins and automatically collected. You
can get mucho moolah using this technique, but be careful! Using
the spirit drops your firing power, and slows down your movement.
the graphics and sound really reinforce the feeling that you're
in Japan, hunting evil demons and collecting money. However, graphics
wise, since your main character isn't flying about, you can now
bump into the scenery and get obstructed by the local landscape.
For example, in level two, there is a river you have to cross, and
the bridge is the only way over. However, it is patrolled by a vicious
gang of guards, and a boat which fires a nasty spreadshot at you.
You obviously can't go into the river, so the bridge is your crossing
point. In other levels, you can bump into (and get obstructed by)
the buildings, walls and cliffs in the scenery. It is hard to work
out where you're going at times...
The game itself is fantastic. It is typical Cave / Atlus output,
and the residue from the likes of ESP Ra.De is apparent in the graphical
and gameplay design. Although there are some small problems in the
gameplay design (scenery obstruction mainly) Guwange really is recommended
to those who like a challenge.