Progear - Cave

[Progear no Arashi / Progia No Arashi / Storm of Progear]

Review date: 7 Nov 2003
Platform: CPS-2
Release date: 2001
Company: CAVE


Progear takes several key Cave shooting game elements and tosses them into a horizontal environment. Bucket loads of bullets, a two button weapon system, wholly intense boss fights, and a sharp presentation round out Cave's one and only horizontal shooter.


If you've played any of Cave's other shooters, you probably won't have any trouble feeling right at home with Progear. Miniscule hitboxes, massive swarms of bullets, a two-button weapon system, and grandiose boss battles are just a few of the feature components. Progear is wholly manic right from the start; the game wastes no time in trying to throw hundreds of bullets in the direction of your tiny craft early in the game. The patterns are both treacherous and beautiful. The bullets do not simply move towards your ship: the formations they take on can be wholly complex and mind-bending.

How you can overcome these deadly patterns ties in directly to your ship's weapon system. Each ship features a so-called Shooting and Gunner mode. Shooting mode is the typical attack system accessed by rapidly tapping fire. This initiates your ship's primary weapon. However, holding fire initiates Gunner mode, or your secondary weapon. The secondary weapon is of the missile-type variety and has several degrees of homing capability, depending on which Gunner pilot you select. Holding fire also results in the slowing down of your craft, which is essential to avoiding bullets while navigating the more colossal patterns. In addition, switching between firing modes is essential to effective scoring, which I will explain below. Your bomb is accessed by pressing B, and works in a fairly basic manner except for one thing: its power is directly influenced by your Jewel count, which is also explained below. In short: more jewels = more powerful bombs.


Upon inserting your credit, you are prompted to choose from two pilots and their respective ships. Ring [Type A] represents the obligatory wide/weak shot type, and Bolt [Type B] pilots a narrow/strong ship. After selecting a pilot, you have a choice of three Gunners: Chain, Nail, and Rivet. Chain's weapon is a quasi-homing bomb. It does not home into enemies as well as Nail and Rivet's weapons, and it also slows down your ship to a greater degree as you hold fire. Nail features a more effective homing cannonball that shoots straight ahead and tracks enemies as you move up and down. Nail does not slow down your ship as much as Chain when in Gunner mode, and she is also slightly faster than Rivet. Rivet has the most complex homing weapon-a missile that does not shoot in a precisely straight direction. Her missiles have bit more freedom, so to speak. Rivet and Chain are somewhat equivalent in terms of power and how their weapons function, but Nail is significantly different.


Progear features a system called Jeweling, which turns enemy bullets into Rings and Stones. This system is essential for scoring, and it also helps in avoiding large bullet patterns by transforming the bullets into these items. When in Shooting mode, you can transform bullets that are within a certain distance of the enemy craft into Rings. You can then "vacuum" the Rings by holding fire, or you can collect them manually [which does not work too well 95% of the time.] There are different levels of Rings, some being larger and worth more points than others. By increasing your Jewel level as you collect more rings, your Stone level likewise increases. Therefore, if you switch to Gunner mode when your Ring level is maxed out, you can collect Stones by transforming the bullets as enemies release them. Each Ring has an equivalent Stone level, but the Stones are always worth more points. This may sound confusing, but it becomes second nature with some practice. It is not a very straightforward scoring system, and it does encourage players to wait for large groups of bullets before they kill off enemies in Shooting or Gunner mode.

[There is also a difficult technique which involves a "constant vacuum." It is very abstract and difficult to perform with consistency. If your Ring level is maxed out and you switch to Gunner mode to inflict damage on enemies without actually killing them, they will continue shooting bullets that are immediately transformed into Stones that vacuum directly to your ship. If you hit fire while the Stones vacuum to your ship, the process will end and they will continue firing bullets.] Confusing, yes.

In addition, your Jewel count drops every time you either die or use a bomb. Similarly, at the end of each level, you are awarded a bonus depending on your Jewel count.


The stages are remarkable in terms of design and are certainly a highlight of Progear in general. While the first three stages [of five total] are strictly horizontal, the fourth stage is actually vertical. While it may sound disorienting, the vertical switch works very well for the game. It opens up a lot of possibilities for some very unique enemy formations and bullet patterns. The fifth stage is actually both horizontal and vertical with some diagonal movement thrown in for good measure.

It's just damn cool, in plain English. The difficulty curve throughout these five levels is pretty much perfect.


Progear also features a second loop in which, of course, everything is significantly more difficult.

A mid-stage death results in your return to the start of the stage and there are some bullet types that cannot be transformed into Jewels.


Despite being developed for the CPS-2 hardware, Progear retains a very sharp presentation. The stages are very vivid, with lots of bright colors and smooth scrolling. The enemy designs are very appropriate, and the boss designs are nothing short of spectacular.

A mechanical whale and a flying fish-esque boss are just a few of the crafty designs that await your presence. The characters are of the cutesy variety, but they are very appealing. Joker Jun is responsible for all of the artwork, so you know that you're in for a treat.  

The music is enjoyable, but it's nothing mind-blowing. It fits the overall atmosphere, and the songs are catchy.


Plain and simple: I adore Progear. No matter how many times I became frustrated with the game, I always came crawling back with a fanatical desire to clear the game's first loop. Progear is worth your every penny: the elegant boss battles, the complicated bullet patterns, and the endearing design make for one very finely-tuned shooting game. If I have any complaints, it's that the scoring system is a bit less straightforward than one might like.


Only two craft types available, but each play quite differently. The sea-biplane on the top has a large thick spread of shots which is less focused in strength but covers a wide area.

The little red monoplane below has a tightly focused shot, much more peircing. I like this one better!

Hold start whilst selecting, for different costumes on the pilots.




Again, you can hold start for alternative costumes on the Gunners. Experiment with Gunner choice - depending on how you play and which ship you chose, there are a good variety of setups to try to find one that suits you.

Each Gunner has pronounced differences in how the shot works - power and homing capabilities being the most obvious.


A shot from the game's opening. Very stylish. Lots of attention to detail, with people jumping off ledges as bombs explode all around.

The characterisation means you can't help but feel some empathy for them as they leap to their deaths!




An unusual graphic style - quite similar to how Blazing Star works. The view is sort of to the side and above, giving a measure of depth to the backgrounds and lots of opportunities for all sorts of ground vehicles to trundle on.

This level is great for learning the jewel system, but soon becomes about as filled with blue spam as level 5 of ESPrade! Luckily, the hit area is tiny - a single pixel probably - based right on top of the pilot's head.


Some mid sized enemies appear - and the genius of the Jewel system becomes apparent. Kill this plane while he has a lot of bullets near him, and they will all turn into Rings to collect. The more bullets that are caught in the explosion, the more rings will appear.

The real trick in scoring is to build up your rings to their max level, then watch out for an opportunity with millions of bullets coming out of an enemy, and blast him to pieces in Gunner Mode.

Using Gunner Mode results in the more valuable Stones appearing instead of Rings, and if you have full Ring Level you can reap TONS of fullsize Diamond Stones instead. Once this is done, your Jewel Level goes back to the lowest type, and the building up process is repeated again.



The Stage 1 "flying fish-esque" boss. Shoot the fins!

He's actually quite easy, but trying to maximise points by chopping off certain parts of his anatomy whilst lots of jewel-giving bullets are passing close to them can be tricky to achieve.

It's worth it to keep interest up though on repeated play when you have his patterns sussed and feel confident to take it apart professionally.


Piece of cake! Ok, he does throw stupid amounts of bullets your way, but they are fairly predictable and in easily avoided clumps and patterns.

You can use his habit of throwing slow heavy chunks of bullets to advantage by blowing up the small ground tanks and cranes as they pass by.

Thus, a good player should be able to reap several harvests of full diamond Stones, before finishing him off!




Another fantastic situation to gather Stones, reaching the harbourside this destroyer spams the screen with solid masses of blue bullets. Time its kill carefully and watch the whole screen fill with pickups - and if you can continue to chain the tank kills the jewels will just keep on flowing.

Did I mention it was lots of fun just blowing things up as well? I don't think there is one moment when there isn't the rumble of multiple explosions.


The last form of the Stage 2 "whale" boss. Watch out for the final pattern!!! Tight is not the word!

The little touches of "death throes" artwork when a boss character dies adds to the sense of achievement when you finally polish them off.



<< STAGE 3

Darker in tone, this level features lots of trains and vehicles rolling nonstop onto the screen. The boss has lots of fast and swirly attacks - you won't have seen some of these patterns before!

A favourite of mine is the two spreads which turn themselves out, like coiling sine waves. Oh, just play it if you don't understand :)

STAGE 4 >>

This stage gets a little crowded at times. Don't get caught up!

Scrolling vertically for the first part of the stage, you will need to use your Gunner shots sensibly, as many enemies cannot be hit by the forward shooting main shot easily.

It's too easy to get pushed into panic bombing by this time - but saving bombs for the bosses is mandatory by now.


Malc: Well, thanks for an intelligent review of an ace game... Oh man, I love this game too. I really really really love this game. Cynics will say it's just the Cave engine horizontally with an odd scoring system but I don't care. I couldn't fathom out what the scoring system was all about - it really its quite hard to explain - and the first few plays I was confused as hell. Gradually, the process of ring gathering and stone converting becomes second nature, and its this process that makes the game so much fun, even if you aren't going for a hiscore, the system of vacuuming in insane amounts of full value diamond stones is utterly brilliant and joyful. Especially when you earn an extend by doing a particularly ridiculous reap. Many is the time I've shouted "Fuck me come and look at this!!!" at the disinterested missus. I've not done that since I dragged my mum in to gape vacantly at the graphics on Shadow of The Beast.

Probably more sprites onscreen than you've ever seen before, with loads of lovely new patterns and situations, but it works out somehow easier than many other Cave shmups. Whatever... the joy is in the playing of this game, blasting and reaping again and again and again through its five packed levels, and that's exactly what I do to it. Orgasmic gameplay then, and to top it off the graphics are simply wonderful 2D art that's so rare these days. Shame about the fairly average music though, it's certainly suitable for the game, but none of the tunes really bored into my brain. - malc

Oooh, thanks also to The Sheep for the nicked pics - have a look at his page on Progear for lots more secrets, scoring, and lovely scans.

Capcom actually has a very nice site devoted to Progear (in Japanese), but strangely features a few pics from level 1 only.

Plus, here's the Shmups Hiscore forum thread for Progear!


shmups!   © 1997 - 2007  Malcolm Laurie