I'm not very good at bullet-hell shooters, but Stan paints an interesting picture of a game I've never heard of. Have any of you ever played this game? Let us know in the comments below.
Some games are made in relative obscurity. Rapid development cycles, from the mainstream to the indie scene, create a saturation in the industry. I’m not saying that that’s a bad thing (Who wouldn’t want more games to play?), but it means that we have so many games to choose from that a lot slip past the radar, classic and new.
One of these games is a little gem called Cho Ren Sha that was released for the X68000. For those of you who don’t know, the X68000 was a Japanese home computer created by Sharp in 1987, two years after the beloved Nintendo Entertainment System arrived on American shores. The hardware was very similar to arcade games at the time, and many popular titles were ported to this home computer. While Americans had to settle for improvised versions of arcade games on the NES and Sega Master System, near arcade-perfect ports of Strider, Final Fight, Thunderforce II, and Ghouls and Ghosts came out across the water for Japanese X68000 owners.
Cho Ren Sha never saw time in an arcade, nor was it ported to any of the major consoles. It was a homebrew game for an old, antiquated Japanese home computer, and many consider it a game of the highest caliber. Apparently, Cho Ren Sha is legend in shmup (shoot ‘em up) and indie game circles. I just found out about this game a little while ago. As an apostle of all things retro, I was ashamed that I didn’t know about this gem sooner.
Rather than waste time lamenting about how late to the party I was, let me instead preach the gospel of this wonderful game.
Cho Ren Sha is a danmaku, better known as a “bullet-hell shooter,” and it has a hell of a lot of bullets. You will dodge, you will weave, and you will die. Unlike conventional vertical shooters like 1942, your hitbox is the very center of your craft instead of the entire sprite. As long as the bullets don’t hit that, you’re gold.
The beauty of this game is its simplicity. Cho Ren Sha takes shumps to the lowest common denominators: shoot and dodge. You have a shoot button, and you have a bomb button. You do not have polarity switching or a menagerie of weapon power ups to collect. Boosting your craft is very minimalistic. Periodically, you see a spinning triangle of power-ups: shoot, shield, and bomb. Shoot will boost your guns to a wider spread, shield will protect you from one shot, and bomb clears the screen of lesser enemies and projectiles.
The power-up triangle is the most ingenious aspect of Cho Ren Sha. On its own, the power-up triangle sounds very pedantic. Compared to other shumps, you’d be right. Cho Ren Sha, however, rewards skillful players that dare to enter inside the triangle of power-ups. If you enter the triangle and continue to remain in the center for a few seconds, you’ll get the shot, shield, AND bomb power-ups at the same time. You’ll have to move with the triangle and dodge bullets. It’s hard as hell to do, but its a great way to give players incentive to take risks.
Speaking of hard as hell, Cho Ren Sha is exactly that. This shooter will make your thumbs red and your mother blush from the swears that will issue forth from your lips. Cho Ren Sha is not just Nintendo hard, it’s Contra: Shattered Soldier hard. But for all of its seemingly impossible odds, Cho Ren Sha is a game that is hard and fair. When you die, you died because you zigged instead of zagged. You lost because you screwed up, not because the game was designed poorly.
For all my love of retro-gaming, I can’t say with a clear conscience that I’ve beaten Cho Ren Sha. However, according to those who have, the game runs in a continuous loop that gets progressively harder with each successive playthrough. Even though I haven’t beaten the game, it doesn’t mean that I won’t continue to try. Cho Ren Sha is crazy fun, and I encourage everyone to give it a shot.
The creator of the game made a port for Windows, so it can be enjoyed by all (or most). Best of all, it’s totally free. Go here if you want to give it a try. Just unzip the files, run the executable, and prepare to get your ass kicked.
You’ll be glad you did.