First Impressions: Shikigami no Shiro II

June 11, 2002 11:30 PM PST

I didnít really get to play much of the game, which I regret. But after getting reprimanded for videoing at the adjacent console, I didnít feel too comfortable there.

Shikigami II is actually an interesting parallel to the aforelinked Ketsui. Ketsui is an all right start as a base game, but lacks the originality to leave a memorable mark. Shikigami is a good example of how to make a sequel appealing within the confines of a genre-based sequel. Thereís only so much freedom you have to make a shooter thatís intended to be part of a line of titles. You canít change much about the system Ė the traditional route is simply different ships, enemies, bullet patterns. But Shikigami II does something more. Ketsuiís error is that it doesnít differ enough from another series by its creatorís company from which it is supposed to be wholly separate.

Damn. This isnít supposed to be about Ketsui, but I canít seem to leave it behind me.

The advancements made in Shikigami II are not enormous, to be sure. The graphics got a bit of a tweak, which helped smooth things out. The characters seem much more a part of their environment than they did in the previous game. They are either high-count polygons, or much higher quality CG that was used in the precursor, I canít quite discern it. Thatís merely a refinement. What theyíve done to go beyond the usual walls of the sequel trap is to enable an extra bit of choice on the playerís part.

Weíve got the new characters of course, Niigi and Roger, but theyíre part of the same gaming paradigm as their compatriots. Itís all about whether their attack patterns gel with your playing style. To Alfa Systemís credit, they removed characters that were generic and largely unpopular, in favor of these two additions (each of whom have attacks that are different from all other characters in the roster).

The element of choice I spoke of is in the form of the difficulty and the music. After Insertion of Credit, pressing Start while holding A and B gives you an arranged soundtrack mode. ThatísÖpretty cool. Once the start screen pops up, hit "Up A Down Down Left Right Down B B A" to enter Extreme Mode. (As an aside, someone needs to inform the good people of Japan and Korea that the word Ďextremeí is not associated with good things in the US games industry)

Now Ė I didnít get to experience Extreme Mode, but I like the idea. Itís nothing more than a high difficulty level, which always comes with more enemies and more bullets in a shooter. Itís not the types of options that are extraordinary.

These simple kinds of choices are very common in console ports, but certainly not in the arcades. This is why Iím so pleased that Alpha System has done it. It shows an acknowledgement that shooters are meant to be played in the arcades. It shows thought beyond the traditional boundaries, and an effort to bring people back to the place that made shooters profitable to begin with. Itís the same game, it plays right, itís just as reasonably challenging, it still makes you encourage yourself to dance with danger in the same way. But the difference is the respect with which the game and its players have been treated. A title to watch once the console version is inevitably released.

Brandon Sheffield


Alfa System


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