CAVE has a long history of creating top-notch shmups and their 2004 bug-themed classic is finally out on Switch so get ready to shoot.
Mushihimesama is quite a striking shoot 'em up. For starters, it boasts a unique visual theme based on forests and insects and everything looks absolutely stunning with loads of detail and slick animations. You can rotate the screen 90° for tate mode and the rest will be filled with the wallpaper of your choice from a selection of 12 or you can have them change automatically which I found a little distracting. Anyway, on top of the beautiful art and flashy visuals, you'll be treated to an excellent upbeat soundtrack that makes the quirky world of Mushihimesama come to life. It all comes together to form a pitch-perfect arcade shooting experience that'll have you hooked.
Playing Mushihimesama will be rather intuitive if you've ever played a shmup before as all you essentially do is control a girl named Reco on a beetle known as Kiniro while weaving through projectiles and blasting a powerful array of weaponry as well as deploying the odd bomb whenever you're in a pinch. If you'd like to move with precision, you can hold a button down which slows Reco and Kiniro as well as materializes their hitbox which is very helpful. For some added complexity, you can select from 3 shot types when starting a new game and there are in-game power-ups that can alter your firepower even further. Throw in a bunch of satellite options that can have a couple of different formations and you're looking at a well-rounded arsenal. Thankfully, everything controls super-tight which makes working through the handful of stages a treat, especially if you have what it takes to get the true last boss to emerge.
Like many classic shmups, Mushihimesama features some unique scoring mechanics such as punishing you by decreasing your multiplier for using bombs or getting hit. There are also loads of gems that spawn from defeated enemies that can increase your score substantially, especially if you can survive an entire stage without biting the dust. Plus, if you're skilled enough to challenge the tougher difficulties, there's an additional layer to scoring where you're rewarded by juggling enemies and timing your shots; it gets complicated. All of this culminates in the online leaderboards which is awesome but as of writing this, they're unfortunately still not online yet.
Mushihimesama is not a mere arcade port because it contains some pretty cool extra content. First, there are some nifty options like button mapping, additional windows that can show your inputs and such, and various display settings. The coolest feature is that you can play 4 versions of the game: Novice, Normal, Arrange which alters a few aspects to make a slightly unique experience such as the ability to change your shot type on the fly, and Ver 1.5 which feels like a much-improved iteration of the original. Specifically, that version has a kickass soundtrack that's very energetic, a max power mode, many arranged in-game scenarios, and it features a proximity scoring system which can make the gameplay far more intense if you want to score big. Throw in score attack mode, training which comes with oodles of options, and the ability to watch and download replays and you're left with a comprehensive collection of ways to play.
With all of that being said, I wish that Mushihimesama included more modes such as a list of challenges and a gallery, especially because the art is so distinct and lovely. Also, Switch lacks a trophy / achievement system so having some artificial form of that would have been great. On a more technical note, there is occasional slowdown when things start to get hectic and although it isn't jarring, it was enough to make me fly into enemy bullets from time to time whenever the speed picked up again. Finally, it's not a huge deal but all of the enemy shots in Mushihimesama are pink and they come in different shapes to give you a visual clue as to how they'll fly. However, I wish they had different colours because staring at nothing but clouds of pink projectiles gets a bit stale after a while.
I'm stoked that Mushihimesama is at long last available on console in the west as it's one hell of a great shoot 'em up. Here's hoping this means that the superior sequel Mushihimesama Futari will be on its way to Switch in the near future!
- + Tight shoot 'em up gameplay with a satisfying level of challenge
- + Lots of options and variations to pick from
- + Fantastic music and unique visuals
- - Could use more content like a challenge list and a museum-style menu
- - Occasional slowdown can be disorienting
- - Enemy projectiles could use more colours