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What are your favourite shmups and what have you been playing recently?
I've just completed Astebreed which was ported to the Switch towards the end of last year, and once it clicked I really had fun with it. It's a 2.5D thing, kind of reminiscent of the shmup sections in Nier: Automata (a topical reference, forum folk from the future) and it's got a very Dreamcasty polygon aesthetic, reminiscent of Zero Gunner 2 mixed with Rez, but with more mechs and a shitload more bullets. For an indie title, it's absolutely spectacular. I bounced off it a few times initially because it's quite complex and mechanically challenging to simply press all the buttons. Once you get into its rhythms, though, it's tremendously satisfying and it's almost like playing a rhythm game. It actually reminded me of when I used to play the sax and clarinet, all my fingers involved and functioning independently.
To give you an idea of the control scheme, R2 fires your bullets. R1 is a melee slashing attack which you can also use to protect yourself from certain bullets. L1 is a dash which you can also use as a weapon if you pass through enemies. L2 is a kind of bomb/super melee attack which you charge up. Left stick moves you around and the right stick is used to aim your missile lock on. Track an enemy or group of enemies and your cone-shaped locking mechanism will start to tick upwards in a circle around them. When it turns red, you know you will destroy them. Release the right stick (yep) and you will launch your homing missiles. For an easier lock on, click the right stick and hold and you will lock onto anything in a large circle around your ship. The disadvantage is that it locks on a little slower. Release the stick click to fire. The face buttons do nothing because you don't have enough fingers left!
Now, while that sounds absolutely absurd and a recipe for arthritic claws, once it becomes natural, it gives you an amazing array of options to take down and frankly overwhelm the avalanche of enemies. Outside of Cave games, I've played very little that's made me feel so powerful and so capable of turning the tables on what appear to be comically insurmountable odds. Give it half a chance and you'll be dashing, slashing, locking and blasting through the waves like the proverbial hot knife. The challenge is definitely still there, though, and you'll need to be very thorough and efficient to dispatch a high percentage of enemies to rack up the scores. As ever, once you start playing for score, the game shows its true depths. And despite the challenge of all the buttons, it's also a very beginner friendly game with generous checkpoints and health bars so there's no pressure to play perfectly.
It's outside my usual preference (for verts) but after a couple of brief and confusing attempts, I finally gave it time to seep into my consciousness and muscle memory and I've had a blast with it. I think it's currently on sale on the eShop and it's probably bugger all on other formats these days. Heartily recommended for both beginners and shmup veterans.