Ketsui. The SHMUP that gives you just that little bit EXTRA!
Around 500 years ago, tobacco made it’s grand entrance on the European stage. Few partook in the habit, most actually found it rather amusing and, according to UK history books, crowds actually began gathering in London just to watch people smoke! The habit spread like a virus, an epidemic, a tidal wave of rowdy, nicotein-fulled action that transmogrified the world in an instant.
In 2010 5pb. brought Ketsui: Kizuna Jigoku Tachi to the XBOX 360. I think of Ketsui: Kizuna Jigoku Tachi Extra in the same way as I do tobacco. Apart from the whole bit about Europe as the game has officially never seen the world outside of Japan.
I didn’t partake in playing it. I actually found it to look rather inferior to other Cave 360 titles. I didn’t make an effort to pay attention to anyone playing it if I was present. I mostly ignored the game, it looked dull and boring. Then on Sunday I finally cracked open the copy that had been packed away in storage for the last 6 months and I started to play it… Apparently I still have a job, I’m still married and I’ve had regular meals and been to the toilet. I have no idea if any of the aforementioned is true, I’m in a Ketsui coma.
After some serious consideration I am on the verge of writing a letter to the World Health Organization demanding this game be shipped with a health warning, or at the very least be available only on prescription from authorized outlets. Ketsui: Kizuna Jigoku Tachi Extra is bowel-butteringly addictive.
From the moment you fire up your console you are immediately greeted by super loud slashy, shooty, rumbly sound effects and your retinas feel like they’ve been stabbed and plucked out of their sockets by salad forks as the big, red Ketsui logo triumphantly pounds and smashes it’s way on to your screen. You just know you are in for something special when a simple opening title makes you go a bit quivery.
Anticipation levels drop though, just for a moment, when you are greeted by (what I think is) the rather ugly looking menu design with the odd looking font and drab colour scheme. Menus for Cave titles have been better. Ketsui’s are more of a turgid looking toffee apple that you found under your bed. It’s been there since the Summer before last and even outlived the goldfish you won at the village carnival that balmy July evening. It just looks a bit dowdy and grey after collecting a thick layer of that fluff you find under your bed but have no idea how it got there.
Did you know?
“In 2003, Cave released mobile phone version of the game as 2 separate titles, available for imode (for 504/505/506 series, FOMA90*i series) and Yahoo platforms. A DX version for FOMA 900 and 901 was released in 2004.
Menu design aside (as drab as they are), they are very easy to navigate and a wealth of options is presented to you to tweak, nip, tuck and generally fiddle about with until you can put it off no longer and succumb to the brutal shooting game punishment that awaits. Staying with the options for just a moment though, you’ll be somewhat miffed in that replays are not automatically recorded in the main game modes. You will need to enter the Record Replay mode each time time to make a recorded run. I find that somewhat irritating as it should have been added as an option to record at the Game Over screen or after the end credits of the main game. This was successfully employed in Mushihimesama Futari and Deathsmiles for example. No need for it to have a separate mode here, it’s just overcomplicating it for my liking. The rest of the options are standard fare; Yoko/Tate, button configurations, screen sizing and so on.
Now, the meat and potatoes. The main game modes. Ketsui: Kizuna Jigoku Tachi Extra comes in two cheeky flavours. Firstly the Arcade Mode, which according to the good folk at Cave is an incredibly accurate port of the arcade PCB. It’s the Ketsui experience right there in your home. It’s all there. Nothing more, nothing less.
For dessert, 5pb. have served up a delicious aperitif in X-Mode. A mode a lot of people like to declare is easier than Arcade, but crank up the difficulty and try and get all the acheivements and you’ll soon be eating your hat. X-Mode is exclusive to this edition of Ketsui: Kizuna Jigoku Tachi. I like to think it plays and feels like a mix of DoDonpachi Dai Ou Jou in terms of it’s scoring, seasoned with a sort of easy-ish smattering of screen-filling bullet patterns. Like a poor-man’s Black Label mode is how I would describe it.
I actually prefer X-Mode to Arcade. I find it easier to immerse yourself in. With the Arcade mode it’s just so tough that you feel like your constantly being punished for wanting to do well. X-Mode opens the door wide to it’s humble abode and ask’s if you’d like to stay a while before offering you a comfortable chair, switching on the sports channels and shufffling off to the kitchen to make you a nice cup of tea.
Enemy waves appear to be virtually identical in both modes, the difference being the aforementioned change in bullet patterns and scoring mechanics. Controls are silky smooth in both modes and the playability is through the roof no matter which mode you choose. Visually, Ketsui, in my opinion, falters a little. It’s beautiful, it truly is. The hand-drawn art is to die for and everything whizzes, crashes and explodes as it should and in really satisying ways. However I feel it looks a bit like a bland version of Dai Ou Jou when you stack Ketsui’s visuals up against other titles. Maybe that’s a little harsh because it genuinely is stunning, but if I was choosing a winner a Cave video game beauty pagent, Ketsui wouldn’t make the top three, that’s all I’m saying before you bite my head off!
Where Ketsui truly excels is in the gameplay and replay areas. This is what many shooting games aspire to. Once you get a taste of it’s brilliance, the game just sucks you in and demands more of you. It’s truly relentless but in such a satisying way as to make you feel almost guilty of walking away from it after your 8 hour marathon Ketsui session. And it’s here where Ketsui easily eclipses many other Cave titles, and that I can see how many gamers rate this as Cave’s finest hour.
I disagree, I think DoDonpachi Dai Ou Jou is Cave’s finest moment, but Ketsui is very, very close. You would be an absolute bell end to pass this game up. Get it played before it’s only available on prescription!