Shoot-em-up enthusiasts hold an odd position in 2012. The best of the genre is behind us, immortalized in the coin-op perfection of Eighting, Toaplan, and Seibu Kaihatsu games, and CAVE is always there to supply us with one gem per 2-3 years. It’s easy to be spoiled. There are even those who downplay Pixel Junk SideScrollerand Sine Mora, calling them style over substance (true, but the substance is still in bulk.)
Ether Vapor is a nice reminder of just how far south the genre can go at times. It’s not the incompetent mess of Otomedius Excellent, but it's a stunning display of what not to do in the genre. One thing that can’t be said is that the game doesn’t have ambition. Few shoot-em-ups change perspective and style as often as Ether Vapor does, but perhaps there is a good reason for that.