Shinorubi – Preview (Early Access)

Bullets, bright colours, flashing lights and death. If that sounds like a good time to you, then Shinorubi should probably be on your radar.

Releasing in Early Access 20th January, it follows in the footsteps of genre titans like Do-Don-Pachi and, well, everything else Cave ever made. Fast-paced vertically-scrolling shooting with a high skill ceiling, where your reaction speed, pattern memorisation and strategic placement all need constant improvement if you’re looking to hit the highest scores and achieve the elusive ‘1cc’, clearing the game on a single ‘credit’.

Once adorning the walls of every arcade up and down the world, the scrolling shooter (or ‘shmup’, or even ‘danmaku’ if you really know what you’re on about) has become more of a niche pursuit these days. As a result, long-term fans of the genre expect a certain level of in-depth complexity if they’re going to commit the time and practice it requires to master, and what’s presented here is clearly made by people who understand that.

The debut release of French indie studio Last Boss 88 lowers the entry-level for what can often be a daunting and visually off-putting experience for newcomers. If you’ve never played one before, you can jump straight into Super Easy mode and immediately feel like you’re actually good at these things (spoilers: I promise, you’re not). This lets you get a feel for the controls, the firing mechanics and the level layouts, which are all things you’ll need to improve your knowledge of if you want to step it up a gear.

It’s nice to see a developer taking this beginner-friendly approach in the hopes of pulling more people into the genre, and Shinorubi’s Super Easy mode takes the spot as my first (and only) 1cc achievement in a shmup to date.

Sadly, I don’t have the skills or capacity to improve much past that, but I still enjoyed my time with it and the game doesn’t seem to care. You can, if you want, just keep continuing as if you were feeding coins into an arcade cabinet, which puts the sometimes excessive flashy colours within achievable reach of basically everyone.

I don’t know nearly enough about the subtle nuances of the genre to tell you if it’s particularly deep or suitably complex, but there are two different firing modes (auto-fire and a laser), one of which gradually builds to a very disco-esque time-limited ‘Fever’ state, and various shiny collectables which, when picked up, add to a combo meter and boost your score to some degree or other. I don’t know, I wasn’t paying attention – I was trying to not die.

There are five stages in the main Original mode, each with their own bosses, and you’ll need to complete a full run in a single sitting for your scores and performance to save and matter. Once you’re into the loop, if you fancy a break from chasing the 1cc on every difficulty setting, you can head to the ‘Arrange’ mode and play some clever and novel variations on the standard gameplay. ‘Super Rank’, for example, dynamically alters the difficulty based on how you kill enemies, which can get incredibly hard, incredibly fast.

By far my favourite of these is Pink Pig mode, which desaturates every colour other than pink, and spawns little bouncing pigs every time you kill something. Let them hit the bottom of the screen, and they’ll turn bright pink and be worth more points. I don’t care about the points – I just like filling the screen with little inflatable pigs. I like that I can do that.

If you’re a shmup aficionado, I assume you’ll have to play Shinorubi to find out if it has all the depth and complexity you expect. If you’re not though, but you’ve always been curious and you like ‘things exploding everywhere’, it’s worth a look. There are enough tools and considerations here that you can get a lot out of it, even if you’re not mentally inclined to be all that good.

There are also multiple characters, some kind of ‘plot’ (including terms like TRADDESS and ZOOGT, so it doesn’t seem all that important), and the promise of a lot more modes and features to be implemented through the Early Access process, so there’s certainly some longevity and ‘legs’ to this if it’s something that appeals to you.

At the time of writing, pricing information wasn’t readily available, so be sure to check the Steam page for up-to-date pricing when Shinorubi launches into Steam Early Access, on January 20th.

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