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PSA: Cave shooters on sale for iOS platforms this week


Aug 17
// Kyle MacGregor
[Update: Today, August 17th, is your last opportunity to take advantage of the Cave World Summer Sale.] Summer is here and just about everyone and their brother is having a seasonal sale to help part you from your hard earned...
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Cave's Bug Princess 2 Black Label flying to iOS platforms


Jun 09
// Kyle MacGregor
Oh would you look at that, Cave Interactive will be ferrying yet another shooter from the arcades to the pockets of shooter fans everywhere. After releasing Akai Katana on the Xbox 360 last month, the Japanese deve...

Review: Akai Katana

May 17 // Allistair Pinsof
[embed]227604:43696:0[/embed] Akai Katana (Xbox 360)Developer: CavePublisher: Rising Star GamesReleased: May 15, 2012MSRP: $39.99Unlike other gaming sites, I’m not going to spend three paragraphs explaining danmaku, CAVE’s history, or Akai Katana’s asinine plot which is confined to press releases and a brief intro/outro. So go visit Wikipedia and come back if you must. Okay, now let’s talk about what matters: mechanics and presentation.More than any CAVE game before it, playing Akai Katana for the first time versus playing it with full understanding of its systems are radically different experiences. On its surface, AK is deceptively simple and familiar to a CAVE fan. You dodge a ridiculous amount of colorful bullets, rapid fire for quick maneuverability and weapon spread, hold down fire for a more powerful direct attack, use bombs when necessary, and enter a spirit form that alters the battlefield. It’s very easy to reduce the game to being Deathsmiles meets Espgaluda, until you get neck deep in the scoring system. AK is a game all about scoring, but it’s so well designed that even players striving for a one credit playthrough will be using many of the same strategies for survival. There are two precious resources in AK’s arcade mode and Climax mode (a rebalanced, uprezzed 16:9 version for 360): energy and gold. Energy is acquired from defeating enemies or by hovering your option -- you know, the little gunner floating around your ship -- over an enemy. There are subtle ways to quickly and greatly acquire energy, which is vital because it fills your spirit meter. Gold, the key to getting a high score, is acquired by defeating enemies in your spirit form.As an aggressive shmup player, AK is a game designed for me. When you enter spirit form, you are invincible as long as you don’t fire your weapon. Enemy ammunition simply bounces around you until they pile into a sea of 200+ pink, blue, and red bullets. In order to clear the debris, you need to destroy nearby enemies that spawned them in spirit form. This creates an unbelievably tense feedback loop of racing into the heat of activity while being in the eye of a bullet whirlwind. It’s exhilarating. Text isn’t the ideal form to convey these concepts nor the nuances to mastering the game. I highly advise taking a look at Rising Star’s tutorial videos to get a better grasp of the game (also available in the game’s menus). Once you understand what’s going on under the hood of AK, you’ll enter spirit form without thinking about it and rack up high scores you didn’t think possible upon your first attempt. It’s an enormous amount of fun, but if you approach the game without an understanding of its systems you’ll be out in the cold. To make things even crazier, there is a drastic reinterpretation of the game within Slash mode. Along with some minor changes to balance, this mode overhauls your spirit form and greatly increases the amount of energy and gold available. Instead of bouncing bullets around your ship, you are always vulnerable in Slash. The trade-off is that you have new super powerful ways to attack. By defeating enemies with rapid fire shots, you gain steel orbs (exclusive to this mode). These fill up a meter around your ship. When you enter spirit form, you can send these orbs across the screen for a devastating attack. In addition to this, you can also gain giant katanas by defeating enemies in spirit form. When you cancel out of spirit form, these will go flying across the screen giving you giant gold medals you need to race to collect. It’s absolutely insane when you pull it off. This is the mode I spent the most time with because the constant tension-and-release of these abilities adds so much to the game.While AK is one of my favorite Cave games mechanically, it falters in its presentation. After suffering backlash from Deathsmiles II’s jump to polygonal graphics, Cave went back to their signature sprite work with this release (originally distributed to arcades in 2010). Even though there are similarities to the original Deathsmiles, AK has a rough, uninspired look to it. Beyond the colorful character art, everything in this game has a bland industrial look. Many Cave games covered the same ground, such as the similarly industrial world of Progear, but they did it with a sense of charm, style, and detail that AK lacks. That’s not to say the game is ugly. The real eye candy comes from the bullets and surreal swarm of gold pieces circling your ship. Perhaps the dullness of the backgrounds and models is out of necessity but it still makes the game feel a bit lacking in presentation. As for the music, it's a major step back for the developer. Feels like they unarchived some old mid-'90s butt rawk in place of something more interesting.Rising Star Games has done an admirable job in packaging the game. The menus are clean, visually pleasing, and easy to navigate -- something that can’t be said about most Cave home console releases. The game still has its rough spots, though. The tutorial videos are hidden (need to press “B” in menu), there is no boss training option (a serious blow for 1cc-seekers), and no way to quickly scrub through replay videos (the fast-forward option is pretty slow). The majority of people may look at Akai Katana from a distance, wondering if the slowdown is intentional (yes) or if a 1cc on Novice counts (no) or if this is a good starting point for a Cave newbie (maybe?) For fans of the genre and developer, Akai Katana is going to be one of the best times you’ll have with a game this year. For everyone else, you may just find yourself ascending to bullet hell heaven if you dedicate some time to learning the game’s obscure but absolutely thrilling mechanics.
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I spent $80 on a double-pack of Cave’s Muchi Muchi Pork and Pink Sweets when I visited Tokyo last fall. Some people might think I’m crazy for paying that much on what could easily be a $5 downloadable game. But i...

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Things aren't looking so good for Cave Interactive


May 17
// Kyle MacGregor
Sorry all you bored PlayStation Vita owners! While Cave Interactive announced its support for Sony's new portable at TGS last year that's not happening anymore. The latest issue of Famitsu magazine listed both titles amidst a...
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Cave shooter Akai Katana descending onto the Xbox 360


May 05
// Kyle MacGregor
Good news fellow STG enthusiasts! Cave's side-scrolling bullet-hell adventure Akai Katana is making its way to the Xbox 360, courtesy of Rising Star Games. Publishers of everything awesomely Japanese on the other side o...
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Cave teases strategy game set during Japanese civil war


Apr 14
// Kyle MacGregor
Cave has just revealed a teaser site for a browser-based strategy game, Gun Blood Days. The forthcoming project from the popular shmup publisher is set during a Japanese civil war in the near future. Also involved with t...
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Cave announces Bug Princess 2 for iOS


Mar 30
// Chris Carter
Cave just loves churning out iOS ports like ice cream. As a follow-up to the recent Bug Princess, the shoot 'em up expert is releasing the sequel very soon -- as in, next week on April 5th. If you recall, Bug Princess is the ...

Review: DoDonPachi Blissful Death

Feb 17 // Allistair Pinsof
[embed]221755:42685[/embed] DoDonPachi Blissful Death (iOS)Developer: CAVEPublisher: CAVEReleased: February 9, 2012MSRP: $4.99 Despite the awkward (but understandable) name change, this is DoDonPachi Dai Ou Jou. Originally released to arcades and PlayStation 2 in the early '00s, it is thought of by CAVE fans as being one of the developer's best efforts. If nothing else, it certainly set the tone and pace for what was to come from the then still-young Japanese developer. So, just because you are taking a chronological step back from recent iOS CAVE releases, including DoDonPachi Resurrection and Bug Princess, don't fear that you will be shorthanded. For those who have never played a DoDonPachi game, you are in for a treat as well as a steep learning curve. That learning curve doesn't come from understanding the mechanics -- which are very basic -- but from adjusting to the series' signature speed and imaginative enemy bullet patterns. More than any other CAVE title, there is an art to the way the enemies attack in this game. You'll remember stages not from their backdrops but because of their memorable enemies and boss fights. Rarely are stages and enemy formations as thoughtfully composed in a shmup as in this one. You may be getting only half the resolution of the arcade experience, but the frame rate is solid, unlike the rather shoddy PS2 port. The frame rate comes with a serious price, however: the game will not run on iPad 1, iPod Touch 3rd gen, or iPhone 3GS. Also, and here's a bit of irony, several CAVE fans noticed that some intentional slowdown from the original isn't present in this port (even though the Japan-only Xbox 360 port had it). Like past CAVE iOS releases, you can change button placement, screen size, and other options. There is a five-stage campaign, a practice mode, and four difficulty levels -- the hardest (Hell) is pretty close to the arcade original. DoDonPachi's futuristic sci-fi setting isn't inspired in itself, but everything from the portraits of the cyber-dolls (uh?) that control your ship to the the elaborate bosses look fantastic. No one does sprite work like CAVE which makes it a shame you aren't getting the full resolution. I can't comment on how it scales to iPad, but please leave a comment below if you have experience with it. Despite the drop in video quality, the bullets and backgrounds are as bright as ever which is essential for a game this fast and populated with enemies. You control your ship by guiding it with a finger and hitting side buttons to switch from laser to machine gun or to drop a bomb. More than any previous iOS shmups, I found that these controls became increasingly problematic the longer my session lasted. When played in brief bursts (one stage), the controls are adequate. However, playing from beginning to end is a difficult task, mostly because sliding your finger wildly across the screen isn't easy. CAVE's first iOS release, Espgaluda II, remains their best work on the platform because of two factors: the narrower playing range and the ship's high sensitivity. In contrast, Blissful Death features a wide playing field and two ships that are very slow by comparison. I understand the reasoning behind this -- I mean, which do you sacrifice? Precision to dodge bullets in boss fights or the ability to fly around the screen with ease? As a CAVE fanatic who strives for 1CC playthroughs at arcades, I think precision is more important. However, on iOS I want speed because that makes the game more fun and approachable. As a result of the game's low sensitivity, my finger grew increasingly uncomfortable until I decided to stop playing. It speaks volumes of the game's quality that I return to it at all. It'd be nice if future CAVE releases would include sensitivity options. As CAVE continues to port its games to iOS, it should be more cautious about how it adapts certain titles and whether some should be adapted at all. On one side is Espgaluda II, and on the other is the nightmare of porting the complex Guwange (available on Xbox Live Arcade and totally worth the money). Blissful Death falls somewhere between the two. Between the wide playing field, constant use of buttons (you need to switch to laser for large ships and bosses), and need to move across the screen frequently in later stages, iOS isn't the ideal platform for Blissful Death. It works and is even fun at times, but only until the frustration sets in. But I'm preaching to the choir here. Either you are on board with having a gimped, portable version of CAVE's classics or you have no interest emulating an inferior experience. So, yes, the game can be fun in short bursts, but CAVE's failure to re-tune the game for the platform keeps it from reaching the early heights of its Espgaluda II port, which, let's be honest, was only so good because the original game was a better fit for the platform. I don't think you'd regret purchasing DoDonPachi Blissful Death, but I doubt it will feed your hunger for a proper arcade experience. If nothing else, CAVE has given Westerners a legitimate way to buy the game so they don't feel so bad about emulating it on MAME, where this classic shines with a joystick and full resolution.
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Touch controls will never be able to replace the accuracy and fluidity that can be achieved with a joystick, but of course, any CAVE fan knows this by now. The actual concern when approaching an iOS CAVE game is if the contro...

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DoDonPachi Blissful Death coming to iOS


Feb 03
// Chris Carter
The fourth game in Cave's classic shoot 'em up series DoDonPachi will be ready to download on an iOS device near you on February 9th for $4.99. In the West, the original title "Dai Ou Jou" will be known as its rough translati...
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Cave shifts resources to social games


Jan 12
// Maurice Tan
Cave has announced reduced earnings forecasts for the first half of its fiscal year (June 1 - November 30) and the year as a whole, andriasang reports. The shmup publisher now expects sales of 1,303 million yen for the first ...

Review: Bug Princess

Dec 19 // Wesley Ruscher
Bug Princess (iOS)Developer: CAVEPublisher: CAVE Co. Ltd.Released: December 15, 2011MSRP: $4.99 Bug Princess -- known as Mushihimesama in the East -- is the latest CAVE shooter to the grace the presence of iOS-enabled devices, and the predecessor to my favorite Xbox 360 shmup. It originally debuted seven years ago in Japanese arcades and then landed on PS2 a year later. Its transition to iOS appears as smooth as CAVE's past endeavors. Granted, I don't own the original import, so I can't offer an exact comparison, but I've played a fair amount of CAVE shooters and I know this one has their classic feel down.So what is the classic CAVE shooter feel? In terms of Bug Princess, it's offering blissful vertical shooting action wrapped in a sleek and majestic package. What originally captivated me with the game's sequel was its charming and well-designed fantasy world. Seeing where it all came from is just as much of an ocular treat. From giant bugs to magical forests, the art design is fantastic and holds up quite well considering its age. It's always a pleasure to play a shoot-em-up that doesn't contain an airplane or is set in the confines of space. There is a story behind Bug Princess for those wanting to understand the world CAVE created -- one that can be accessed in the game's handy history section -- but really, it only serves to justify why a cute girl is riding a giant beetle that can shoot magic bullets out of its mouth. The core experience of Bug Princess consists of blasting giant, hostile insects out the air while dodging everything that is sent your way. There is only one character to take to the lush forest skies, but she at least come equipped with three variable shot types: M-Power (all-around type), W-Power (wide shot), and S-Power (a concentrated head-on strike). Each weapon offers its own strengths, but honestly there isn't really much difference in their variety at full power. When starting out, any of the three types can be selected, but when a power-up makes its way onto the screen, during the action, waiting long enough will change its type and thus change a player's shot type. [embed]218122:42151[/embed] The greatest amount of strategy comes into play with the support beetle attachments that are collected throughout. With a simple tap in the left corner, the proximity of up to four beetles can switched from an "open" to "close" arrangement. Also, depending on how long one waits to collect a beetle attachment, its tendencies will change from a trace type (following your every movement) to a formation type (imagine the Blue Angels in all their glory). I found the formation style the most useful, and depending on the situation, would switch between proximities. The open style is best used for quickly taking out large groups of enemies, while close packs a much more needed and concentrated punch for bosses. Over time, one develops a sweet rhythm from switching back and forth.There are three modes to work through in Bug Princess, which unlock once the previous one has been completed: Original, Maniac, and Ultra. Each offers its own progressively more difficult challenges and scoring schemes, along with five difficulty settings. Original mode serves as the game's starting point and is a great place to learn the ropes, but even on the Hell difficulty -- the arcade version's default bullet pattern layout -- veterans of the genre will make short work of the five stages. For me, Maniac Mode features the perfect balance of bullet-dodging nirvana. In Maniac Mode, the game ups the challenge considerably and also presents a fun scoring system that brings an extra layer of strategy to the game. A shot counter is added; it boosts a player's score for consecutive enemy hits, which really tests one's skill in both bullet dodging and enemy pattern memorization. Ultra mode is doable on the easiest setting, but only the most skilled or masochistic types will find enjoyment in playing Bug Princess' most challenging mode at its hardest difficulty. Regardless of the mode or difficulty, I'm still amazed at how well Bug Princess controls on a touch screen. I played the game using my iPhone 3GS and it handled the task flawlessly. The fidelity in moving swiftly from one side of the screen to tediously crawling though some of the most hellish bullet patterns later on is a testament to touch design. My only complaint comes from my thumb occasionally obscuring upward enemy spray from view -- something I imagine is less of an issue on an iPad. To compensate for this, CAVE has implemented a few different screen sizes to chose from, with the smallest offering more finger space. At its default settings, everything in Bug Princess is set to auto when it comes to delivering the action. Auto-fire is enabled, and bombs -- which serve as a screen-clearing last line of defense -- act more like a shield when a bullet connects by, detonating instantly. Strangely, taking these two actions out of a player's hands doesn't at all affect the skill needed to enjoy the genre. CAVE does allow players to enable a more traditional play style. But between dealing with the insane bullet patterns and organizing the tactics of the attachment beetles, there is more than enough going on to satisfy the most hardcore shoot-em-up enthusiast.Bug Princess is another beautiful and fun CAVE shoot-em-up on the iOS platform. The music is charming, the controls are responsive, and there is enough care in this port -- from translation to bonus menus -- to really showcase CAVE's love for the genre. Bug Princess is a great shoot-em-up and a great iOS game that truly captures the power of touch gaming. I'd gladly pay a ludicrous amount to import this game on my Xbox 360, but the fact that it's roughly five bucks and goes anywhere on my phone goes is ultimately priceless.
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I've been a big fan of shoot-em-ups ever since my mother bought me Silpheed for the Sega CD on my 13th birthday. It wasn't my first experience with the genre -- that honor goes to playing Galaga with my father at the local...

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New Cave teaser site: I've got nothin'


Nov 07
// Dale North
Teaser site time! Any guesses on this new Cave teaser site? The URL is 6meikan.jp, and we have a mysterious date of 11.11.11, or November 11. This is probably something new, as the page states that this stands for "A new proposal from Cave." Like I said, I've got nothing. I have this feeling that it's not a shoot-em-up, though.  Check back in a few days.
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Espgaluda II looks all sexy and HD on iPad2


Sep 30
// Dale North
Cave's first iPad 2 title is the high-definition version of classic shooter Espgaluda II. Notice I said iPad 2 -- Apple's second tablet is literally twice as good as the original iPad. That old, bubble-backed thing woul...
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Cave's Deathsmiles on App Store July 7th, special price


Jun 29
// Dale North
Deathsmiles will be on the App Store, ready for play on your iPhone or iPod Touch on July 7th. To celebrate, Cave is setting an introductory price of $4.99 for the anticipated title. This price is good from July 7-10 only!...
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Cave's new website, merchandise sale


May 20
// Dale North
Cave has a new website that they'd like to show off. They made this for you, English speaker. There you can see all the delicious shooter action they make as well as catch up on what they're working on. In other Cave news, th...
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Cave's Nin2-Jump debuts on XBLA this week


Apr 25
// Jordan Devore
Nin2-Jump came a bit out of left field (just wait until you play it), but I don't mean that as a negative. Interesting, different -- these aren't attributes I'd personally complain about. Cave has outed the game as hitting Xb...

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