Shinorubi is a vertically-scrolling shoot ’em up from Parisian studio Last Boss 88 and it’s in the modern ‘Danmaku’ style which means it’s a bullet-hell affair so expect barrages of bullets to weave through and just a lot of stuff going on on-screen when you fire this one up.
Now we were pretty excited about this game mainly because one of our favourite games of the year was the stunning, and slightly similar, Danmaku Unlimited 3. So getting more modern bullet-hell action is never going to be a bad thing but, initially, we just weren’t sure about Shinorubi. It makes an odd first impression.
Once you get past the forgettable opening plot (we’ll never mark a good shoot ’em up down for a thin plot) and get past the slightly awkward menu interface (hiding important options such as actual game modes behind left and right arrow icons is always a boneheaded move), you might not be fully onboard wiht the game. But then that gets worse when you get past the character selection screen and into the game itself.
That’s because Shinorubi makes some odd design choices when it comes to gameplay, the oddest being putting a bullet-hell shoot ’em up into a landscape format. Sure, it’s been done before and if you love games like Mars Matrix or Radiant Silvergun, then you might feel at home but when you combine this aspect ratio with what feels a lot like a zoomed in perspective and your initial forays into the game’s five levels will be full of ‘what hit me?’ moments and general visual confusion.
So, for a while there we weren’t really feeling Shinorubi at all. It’s colourful, exciting and gloriously smooth (thanks to a 120hz frame rate) but it just didn’t seem to consider the fact that you’re playing the game with human eyes. However, after a few playthroughs of the game, which is enjoyably short but then bolstered with plenty of extra modes and playable characters to improve longevity, we really started to appreciate what the game was doing.
Most of the time your ship is a hulking behemoth but that’s all just a red herring. All you need to think about is your glowing pink hitbox. If you can thread that through the various enemy bullets, you’ll survive and if you can train your reflexes and memory (although this isn’t too much of a memory test), you can start to do well. And between the big colours and huge scores you can rack up, Shinorubi does a good job of getting your dopamine going.
It’s all slightly let down by an annoying final boss who stays shielded for long periods, making it a pain in the arse to beat, but for the most part this is a game you can learn to get good at. That said, there are times where the enemy bullet patterns are insane and, on higher difficulties, borderline unfair. You’ll need to know when to hold and when to use your bombs unless you’re one of those elite shoot ’em up players. But, as a benefit of being in the sub-genre, you don’t need to worry about being reduced down to a pellet gun when you die. You play the whole game powered up like a mechanical angel of death.
When it comes to the gameplay, there’s not a whole lot of complexity at all. The scoring system uses a multiplier system that relies on you collecting medals that occasionally appear falling down the middle of the screen but there’s no other complicating factors. And actually that’s generally the game’s biggest issue. It all feels quite simplistic and samey. The levels don’t have much of an identity from each other and the enemies and bosses don’t really stand out.
What we really liked are all the additional modes. From the clever Shield mode that removes your bombs but gives you a reusable shield to work your way through the worst bullet patterns or the collection-focused ‘Pink Pig’ one. And, of course, you get time-based ‘Caravan’ modes and a boss rush. There’s plenty of reasons to keep coming back to Shinorubi, especially when you start experimenting with the playable characters who, as you’d expect, have various mixes of speed, firepower and weapon spreads to experiment with.
So, overall we’re pretty happy with Shinorubi. Even if it took a while to get to this point. The aspect and camera zoom are the most divisive issues the game has but the devs made a choice and you’ve got to respect it. We had more problems with certain bullet patterns than we ever had with the camera, but yeah it most likely would have been better if this came was in a TATE viewpoint. And it probably should be a bit cheaper too. But this is a quality game that’s well put together and well-presented. It might not be for you, especially right away, but we had fun with it.
+ Good controls
+ Frantic action
+ Lots of extra modes
+ Refreshingly short
- Bullet patterns can sometimes seem a bit unfair