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First Impressions: Aa Mujō Setsuna

Posted by Sean Aaron

Lots of flash; not much substance

Nintendo isn't exactly known for publishing shooters, much less shooters of the "bullet hell" variety, but that's exactly what we have here. Developed by Arika and recently shown at the Nintendo Media event in North America as Metal Torrent, Aa Mujō Setsuna is certainly one of the most graphically impressive DSiWare games we've seen, but the gameplay is less compelling.

Everything is 3D, from the backgrounds that make it look like you're ascending through a shaft in some alien complex, to the ships and screen-filling bosses which litter the screen with glowing yellow-orange bullets. The central mechanic is shooting enemies to collect cubes which contribute to your score and charge your special attack.

The game's problems become quickly apparent: there's not much variety in the enemies, and you have to make an effort to die. We're not sure if we're missing something, but despite filling the screen, enemy shots don't actually appear to hurt you - unless the game feels like it. There's no apparent shield or any other counters to suggest a shot absorption limit and we experimented many times with just sitting in one spot or moving directly into the path of fire taking over a dozen hits before our ship was destroyed; this is true regardless of whether you choose to play one of the two game modes with Easy or Manic difficulty.

If you choose Easy difficulty you can play through all 8 "Phases" in about 15-20 minutes, noting on the way how short and repetitive they are with the same boss appearing at the end of all the even-numbered ones and a gauntlet of other enemies on the odd. If you've ever played a shooter in your life, you won't bother with that difficulty, but instead choose Manic. Still you have the apparently random presence of a hit-box on your ship - in fact you'd almost think that as long as you hold down the fire button you're immune to anything bar a collision with an enemy ship.

If you want to reduce the monotony a bit you can play Random mode instead of Pattern, which changes the order of different enemy waves (though you'll still see the same four or five types in every phase), but unless you're a die-hard fan of the genre or a score attack junkie, you're probably better off buying a couple of 200 Point games instead.

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User Comments (30)

CorbsAdmin

#1

Corbs said:

Does the ship have a small hit box, as most of the bullet hell shooters do? Just curious? Perhaps it's too small.

Ren

#2

Ren said:

what a shame, this. It sure looks nice from that screen, but then whats the point if these impressions are as they say.

FonistofCruxis

#3

FonistofCruxis said:

Thats disapointing I was looking forward to this. I haven't played many shooters and have only just started getting into the genre so would this be good for a bullet hell beginner or would it make them seem easier than they are.

Namo

#4

Namo said:

Thats a shame, I love bullet hell shooters, but if Nintendo's applying the sugar-coating a little too much, I may have to pass and just stick to Cho Aniki.

WolfRamHeart

#5

WolfRamHeart said:

Darn, the gameplay video of this on the Nintendo Channel looked so good too. Ah well, I guess I'll just save my points for something else. Thanks for the impressions Sean.

rosebud

#6

rosebud said:

This is probably the first Nintendo-published DSiWare release this year that I am not interested in. I just can't justify paying $5 for less than an hour of gameplay.

gatsu25

#8

gatsu25 said:

It is apparent to me that the impressions are from a person who doesn't quite get the genre. I have been enjoying this game for months now and it is among the best on the DSi Ware service.

Shmups are all about scoring. If they were long, they would become broken/boring/unplayable. The scoring system is tough to master and quite enjoyable. By utilizing it, it creates a wonderful risk/reward system. My first play through, I thought the same thing, but now that I understand how to play it, I have started to dye more and more trying for a better score. This is what these games are about. If you have any interest in shooters, please purchase this game. It is most definitely worth the 500 points.
The gameplay is how long you put into it. The length of this game is perfect for a handheld. If it were much longer it wouldn't be enjoyable.

gatsu25

#10

gatsu25 said:

I would like to add that you were missing something. If you play to beat the game, you most certainly will. If you utilize the chaining system and play for score (how you are supposed to play) the the lifebar becomes low and generally one hit can kill you. This game is truly awesome!

DarkLloyd

#12

DarkLloyd said:

its all about the amount of levels it has for me really then i can probably put more then an hour into the game

CorbsAdmin

#13

Corbs said:

I was curoius about the chaining and racking up points. I can't pass on a bullet hell shooter ever anyway. :D

KeeperBvK

#14

KeeperBvK said:

@ 4: And when exactly did Cho Aniki become a bullet sprayer?

@ 12: What does the amount of levels have to do with anything? They can be short or long, who knows?

On the game: Reading gatsu's comments, it seems to me like Sean simply didn't get the game, so I'm relieved now again, as I wanted to get this since it was first announced and I even thought of picking up a Japanese DS, but now it seems I don't have to. Until it's gonna see a Western release, I guess I'll have to pass the time with my Japanese 360.

Meffaliss

#15

Meffaliss said:

I would have to agree with gatsu25 :3
That might be the ONLY Dsi ware i will ever buy now, 'cause personaly, none other interests me.

gatsu25

#16

gatsu25 said:

Thanks for taking my comments into consideration guys. I actually have read this site forever but signed up to comment on this. I really believe this game is among the best on the service.

Hopefully when this game is reviewed, the reviewer will put the effort into figuring out how to play well. You can watch the top 10 scores gameplay so that helps in understanding (and a nice feature as well).

I realize that shmups are not for everyone. But to say these games are basic or too short just means you aren't quite understanding how to play. If you love shmups, or just have an interest in them, this game is a steal at 500 points. Not to mention it isn't everyday they are published in the west.

onix

#17

onix said:

Yeah, Corbie has to be the one to review this one. I've played the hell out of the Japanese release and it's a lot of fun. Great chaining combos and plenty of ways to run up big points!

DamoAdmin

#18

Damo said:

Sean doesn't understand the genre? Gulp. I don't wanna be in this thread when he reads that...

Sean_Aaron

#20

Sean_Aaron said:

Look I've sat still and been covered in bullets with no effect - it's not that the hitbox is too small it's that it doesn't seem to exist half the time.

I considered the possibility the power metre might impact that, and in fact if you drain your special power metre you will die more easily, but the only reason I could see to use the special attack was to kill the bosses faster. If in fact it's the case that not using the special attack gives you a "magic shield" then that just doesn't seem right.

If I have to try to get myself killed then I'd say there's too little challenge and frankly the game is broken to me. I do enjoy shooters, but I like them to have some degree of challenge beyond making the biggest chains/combos (I managed over 1000 without trying too hard in this one).

I'd much rather play one of the G.G. Series shooters frankly (actually two since for the same price I could have bought two more of those games).

If other people enjoy this by all means knock yourself out, but as far as I'm concerned it's a very pretty waste of points.

KeeperBvK

#21

KeeperBvK said:

"If I have to try to get myself killed then I'd say there's too little challenge and frankly the game is broken to me."

THAT...is highly subjective. Just because you only weigh in one aspect, a game automatically is not just bad but broken?
That's like saying "oh, I couldn't count all the flowers in Super Mario 64". If that's a concern to somebody: Fine. But if it's not what the game necessarily is about, then please don't make it seem as the most important aspect.

"(I managed over 1000 without trying too hard in this one)."
Have you checked if that really is good or do you just assume it by seeing a big number?

Obviously you like your shooters rather classic and the game doesn't deliver that...

Sean_Aaron

#22

Sean_Aaron said:

Pretty much.

If it's mostly about chains, then why have the enemies shoot at all? I really don't get the point of this game, but this is just a preview so no need to worry about me scoring it low. I do enjoy bullet hell shooters (to a degree), but this is the first one I've come up against that I didn't see the point of.

I tried to check my score against the leaderboard, but I kept getting a timeout so I have no clue if that's a lot, but it was just boring me so I wasn't that curious. Nice to have room on the DSi for something else!

JasonCirillo

#23

JasonCirillo said:

When I see how developers keep missing the opportunity to make a nice vertical shooter using both screens, I tear a little bit of my face off each time. All Atlus would have to do is port something like Guwange over to DSiWare and use both screens, and it'd be a winnah!

CorbsAdmin

#24

Corbs said:

Thanks Sean. I was afraid of the hit box thing. Seems I had read that somewhere else as well.

Sean_Aaron

#25

Sean_Aaron said:

@Jason: Agreed, I don't get why the other screen isn't used for anything in this one either, I don't think I need to see the chain level in giant letters, I'd rather have all the real estate, you know? Pinball Attack does it and it looks great with those giant bosses filling the screen!

Crystalking18

#27

Crystalking18 said:

Well is this just a demo of the game, or the actual game cut and pasted from Japan to North America? If it's just a demo, then that could be a reason why. But still, it has to be compared to Ikaruga, undeniably one of THE best bullet hell shooters on any console. But still, demo or actual game?

tovare

#29

tovare said:

The easy mode is a bit kind to the player. You are getting hit, but as long as you have energy left it will automaticly drop a bomb saving your ass. The energy bar is the special-weapons energy, not the ships energy. The hit box on bullets is fairly nice in both modes and you can be graced by bullets without incident. Both modes are nice, I prefer the Manic mode since it's a challenge to beat and you get serious pay-off when you use the right strategies (I'm halfway through the game). The production value is a bit on the bland side I think cartridge offerings like Nanostray 2, Bangai-O, Geometry Wars, Space Invaders Extreme etc are much better. I am happy with buying this one though :)

IanUniacke

#30

IanUniacke said:

I have been playing this game all weekend (in aus known as Metal Torrent). I think you are definitely missing the point.

Spoilers follow.

Try to think of the bullets not so much as damage, but as potential power for your special weapon. The point of the game is to expose yourself to being killed in order to absorb as much of the enemy bullets as possible. Also the more power you absorb the more points you are scoring. However, as you use your special weapon to absorb the points/power you are exposing yourself to be killed. Also if you are after a challenging bullet dodging game then you need to play the blue mode. In the red mode whenever you are hit your special weapon kicks in (if there's enough power) and saves you. Therefore if you are not going for a high score and not using your special weapon, then you "are" invulnerable. On blue mode this is not so. You will not be able to complete blue mode without a thorough understanding of the game mechanics. As of last time I looked on the leader board it seems that as yet (at least in the region covered by my leader board) no one has completed the game on blue mode, so it's definitely a challenge.

Well any way I'll let other people make up their mind.

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