Thursday, 12 January 2017

_____ (PC)

Okay, so obviously, this game's title isn't five underscores, it's the string of characters you see in the title screen above. But all the text in this game, including the numbers, is in an untranslated (possibly untranslatable) alien language. The name entry on the high score screen will let you know that there's twenty-eight letters, and I haven't gone out of my way to count them, but I think there might actually be more than ten numerical digits, too. The game's .exe is called "_____.exe", though, and I think some people online refer to it as "Platine Dispositif's Comiket 87 STG", too. (It does have the typical PD graphical style too, with cute female characters and soft-looking colourful bullets).

Anyway, other than that bizarre presentational choice (I wonder if it was done as a kind of accessibility thing? Like, instead of having multiple language options to make the game accessible to everyone, use an alien language to make it equally inaccessible to everyone?), it's a fairly traditional vertically-scrolling shooter, with the Star Soldier games being a clear design influence: there's a time-limited caravan mode, and the stages are full of passive collections of destructible blocks to get points. There's also stages, bosses and enemies that feel like they might be homages to other classic shooting games, like Xevious, Sylvalion, and so on.

There's a few interesting mechanics and systems in play in the game, though. The first one you'll notice is the weapons system: as you collect power ups, you get an increasing amount of options attached to your ship. You have a button on the controller for changing the formation of these options, with multiple possibilities available, depending on which direction you press on the d-pad when pressing the change button. There's also secret items hidden around the stages (revealed by shooting them, another clear Star Soldier influence) that give you more formations to choose from. The problem is, 90% of the game will only have you ever using "all the options pointed stright forward" and "all the options pointed straight back", making the rest of them a bit useless. Though I guess the alternative would have been to have the player constantly switching between different formations, making the game a fiddly annoying mess to play.

The other big mechanic is also the main way to score big points, and it's a lot more fun than I can probably make it sound. When power ups are on screen, and you fly near them, they'll get magnetised and home into your ship, and if you let go of the fire button, the distance from which this happens is greatly increased. This is a pretty common idea, really. The difference here is that your ship can move slightly faster than the power ups, and they often appear more than one at a time. Furthermore, every frame you have a power up following your ship, you get points, and obviously, the more power ups following, the more points you rack up. So with a bit of skill, you can have sizable clusters of power ups hovering around your ship, generating tons of points for you.

There is a tactical advantage to doing this too, however: when your weapon's at max power, collecting another power up gives you a few seconds of even more powerful shots. So, if you're maxed out, and there's a boss coming up, you "save" any power ups floating around so you can unleash your full might on the boss, instead of wasting it on the empty few seconds before it appears. I've said "power ups" far too many times in this review so far, but there's still a few more mentions to go, as there's also a upgrade shop in the main menu, that uses the power ups you've collected during play as currency. You'll be glad to know, though, that you can't make entries into the high score table if you're using upgrades, they can be turned off once bought, and they never affect the caravan mode.

In summary, this is a really great game, with an incredibly unique presentation, and it's highly recommended. Don't worry about navigating menus in an alien language, either, as there's nice friendly pictograms showing what things do too. Also, this is the first physical release of a doujin PC game I've ever bought, and it came in a really nice custom package made of think, sturdy card, with the art on the disc fitting perfectly with the art on the surrounding parts of the packaging. In an age where billion-dollar publishers only do the bare minimum in presenting their £60 physical releases, seeing a tiny company making such a high-quality item for their 1500JPY game is really nice.


  1. Where can you buy it from?

    1. i got it here: