Genre: Awaken-em-up | Developer: Cave | Year: 2003

Where to get started with STGs?

Well, ideally, you should play a lot of well-regarded games, and then keep playing whichever you find fun. Fun builds a habit, habits build consistency, consistency builds proficiency – proficiency lets you have even more fun. But, if that takes too long, there’s plenty of good beginner options out there. I designed one – I designed it specifically for that purpose. Another is Imperishable Night. Yet another is Espgaluda.

The name of the game with Espgaluda is options. Not only does the kakusei button (“girl mode”, as I often call it) slow the action down and boost your attack power, it also allows you to cancel difficult enemy patterns into score – and also features an autobomb for hedging your bets if you’re unsure of your skill or what’s ahead. The bombs give you options too – tap the button for a quick relief from bullets, hold a little longer for true screen-clearing potential, hold longer yet to try to buy your way through a boss, or through hell itself. You even have the option of dipping into the super-dangerous “overmode” to upgrade your gem economy, making even the slow moments something to be treasured and leveraged. It’s like one of those immersive sim1 games.

Having a game that presents a player with all these options does something crucial for a beginner – it makes it clear that no matter what you’re playing, perfectly dodging everything is rarely the only option. No matter what you play, there’s always a different angle to try, a different enemy to rush down, a bomb button to mentally ready.

I wish I knew what the announcer voice says when a boss phase is nearly done, because to my untrained ear it sounds like it says “smoke weed”.

  1. Sports fans will of course know that the phrase “immersive sim” in a game criticism context actually means “stealth game that’s hella putting on airs”