Review – Guwange
Shoot ’em up.
Bullets. Lots of bullets.
I may as well get this off my chest right now. Guwange happens to be one of my favourite shoot-em-ups made by Cave, my absolute favourite being DoDonPachi. For those who might not know, Cave is a Japanese arcade game developer who for the most part make some of the best shoot-em ups to ever grace the arcades. While most of them are super crazy with a ton of bullets and projectiles flying everywhere, they know how to design a decent shooter that not only is a challenge with decent gameplay and scoring mechanics but is also fair and not cheap hence the reason why they are so highly regarded in the â€œshmupâ€ (yeugghhh! – Ed) community.
Most of the time Cave don’t tend to publish their shooters outside of Japan, but as of late they have seemed to be more interested in porting more and more of their arcade games over to the Xbox 360 and more notably release said games in to the western marketplace and Guwange happens to be their first offering for the Xbox Live Arcade marketplace at 800 Microsoft Points (about £6.80 if you’re silly enough to buy directly from the dashboard – Ed).
Guwange‘s storyline (and yes it does have one) is set in the Muromachi period of Japan and thus the game’s presentation is entirely based around that concept, from artwork to soundtrack, and it’s wonderful. Each of the three characters have their own back story which is beautifully animated briefly at the beginning of each game but apart from that and perhaps the ending you won’t find much story in the game itself because it’s not that kind of game. The artwork is fantastic though, not your typical ‘Anime’ stylised stuff that you get these days. Guwange oozes class and style and everything seem to fit the time period perfectly.
As with most shooters, the main objective of the game is to kill the boss at the end of each stage. But what is different about this game compared to a lot of other games of this ilk is that Guwange has a unique coin collection scoring mechanic. To get the best score the player must work out a way to be always collecting coins from either killing enemies manually with regular shots or using your demon companion (by holding down the fire button) to kill the enemy while they are firing lots of bullets so that the enemies explosion upon death turns the bullets in to coins. Memorisation is key to getting a perfect score in this game and like I said before because this game is made by Cave the levels and enemies are very well designed and nothing feels cheap, everything is avoidable with some natural reflexes or practice given time.
The controls are pretty tight and responsive even on the Xbox 360 controller. While the ‘Arrange 360’ mode uses a different control set up the other modes use a simple control method. There are two buttons, one for shooting and one for a special attack that makes you temporally invincible so using it at the right time could mean the difference between life and death. Like I mentioned before if you hold down the button you can control the demon that resides in your character but movement of your character will be much slower as you move the demon about so it’s important not to hold down the fire button all the time and not just for scoring but for survival as well.
Cave have seemed to gone out of their way to make this an attractive proposition to a potential purchaser, well without having to redraw all the graphics and stuff which are still the sprites used in the original arcade game from 1998. They added a ton of options and gameplay modes but one can’t help but wonder why after putting so much effort in to the options that they forced the game to run in 16:9 mode leaving 4:3 monitor/TV users to have massive black boarders at the top and bottom of the screen. This is slightly disappointing but not game ruining like some people on some certain message boards would have you believe but otherwise this game has all the options you could want.
As something of a late-comer to Cave’s shoot ’em up catalog, I represent the man in the street’s view here. Cave enthusiasts already know if they like this game – it’s a port of a game that is over ten years old – but what about you, Mr. Not-Bionic-Thumbs over there. Is it playable for you?
Good news: yes. Cave may fling out more bullets than a Cumbrian cabbie but their games are usually quite fair and still retain a sense of fun. Guwange is one of the trickier ones though (it goes batshit mental on later levels) and most mortals won’t be 1CCing it any time soon.
Arcade Mode is great (Blue’s more of the same really) and worth the entrance fee but the Xbox 360 Mode, which eschews the regular controls for a nifty twin-stick scheme, is excellent for normal folks like us. It’s not a complete cakewalk but the game does become a lot more playable, giving you the luxury of trying to think about scoring potential.
Graphics and sound are, quite naturally, a bit dated and there’s not a huge amount of replay value here (for non-obsessives anyway) but overall this is worth the 800 moon dollars. Let’s hope we finally see the Pachi games and Deathsmiles eventually.
Secondary Score: 8/10
There are three different gameplay modes each with its own leaderboard along with the ability to upload replays of your best run. There is also an online mode which allows you to play with friends over Live. ‘Arcade’ mode is the standard Arcade version of the game while ‘Blue’ mode is a more modern and much more difficult version of the original arcade version that has rearranged bullet and enemy patterns and was released a few years ago. The ‘Arrange 360’ mode acts more like a twin stick shooter and is much easier than the other two modes but is really well done. In my opinion this mode is the most likely to be enjoyed by the average Joe, so if you are new to these sorts of games definitely check out this mode because it is awesome.
With some minor gripes aside with the forced aspect ratio and a slightly dodgy high score table, Guwange is a great deal for the price that Cave are asking. Normally they would charge £40 for the privilege to play a game of this calibre on a console but thanks to Microsoft’s Arcade service it’s available for £6.80 but more importantly it introduces potential new customers to the wonders that is ‘the Cave Shoot-em-up’ and a really good one at that. My hope is that the rumours are true that Dangun Feveron and Progear are in fact being ported to Microsoft’s arcade marketplace as well because if this release is anything to go by, shooter fans are in for some great times ahead.