The Game Paradise: CruisinMix Special Review – A Retro Shoot ‘Em Up Gem

    Title: The Game Paradise: CruisinMix Special
    Developer: City Connection
    Release Date: November 30, 2018
    Reviewed On: PC
    Publisher: Degica
    Genre: Shoot 'Em Up

The shoot ’em up genre has evolved in many different ways over the years, but I’m in the camp that appreciates the gems that pop up every now and then because, let’s face it, the western market didn’t receive as many releases of this genre as Japan. Thankfully over the years, the digital storefronts of various platforms have allowed publishers a new chance to get these games in western hands, even if they are over 20 years old.

Jaleco’s Game Tengoku falls into this camp of titles that drifted under my radar and only received an arcade release in the west. Now, developers City Connection and Chara-ani have teamed up with publisher Degica to deliver the game to the west as The Game Paradise: CruisinMix SpecialThis version would act as an enhanced port of Game Tengoku, but I was mostly interested to see if this old niche arcade shmup still holds up in this new generation.

The Game Paradise: CruisinMix Special has a few different modes that are available to the player from the very beginning. In Arcade+ players will be able to play through an updated HD version of the arcade game. The characters and their ships are all unique and have a range of different attacks, each with their own strengths and weaknesses, which I found to be fairly balanced. It was easy for me to find my favorite ships, and it wasn’t just me looking for the cutest character, but it did happen to be the cutest characters. With that said, after spending time with all the characters, I think it would be easy for any fan of the genre to find their favorite based on their playstyle.

During the game, players will be able to power up their ships by collecting power-up points until a certain level. However, I wished that there was a more noticeable difference in the character’s attack as I picked up power-ups. The special attacks, which are known as Bombs in the game, are a huge help when going up against some of the tougher bosses and also certain sections of the mission. Each bomb is unique to a character and varies, but the best part is that they momentarily clear the board of bullets.

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The other mode is Classic Mode which includes two different modes: Arcade and Arranged. The graphics of this mode doesn’t have the same 3Dish graphics found in Arcade+, instead, players will find an accurate port of the arcade version of the game with some minor port fixes and upscaling. If it sounds like I’m knocking the mode for just being a port, I’m not, and I’ll say that this is one of the best retro arcade ports that I’ve played due to how the developer knew what to fix and what to leave alone.

Classic Mode is where I spent most of my time thanks to the Arranged Mode, which features 8 stages and a storyline that has two different story chapters to unlock after every stage. The story of The Game Paradise: CruisinMix Special is almost as insane as the gameplay itself. At an arcade in Tokyo, a mad scientist person named Yamada wants to take over the gaming world and rolls out his plan. However, arcade owner Yui is afraid that she’ll get fired if she lets this happen so she connects the arcade cabinets together to form a team of fighters to stop Yamada.

The story sections are extremely self-aware and the jokes still work even after so many years. For example, when I felt like stage 2’s boss was not that hard and then the villain characters talked about how they should have made that boss a little more difficult. Even though the story scenes can be long, I couldn’t help but watch the characters interact and come up with some insane conclusions about what they are going to do next. I was also impressed with the pixel character design and backgrounds, which brought these scenes to life in a way that made them more fun to watch.

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Modes aside, the best part of The Game Paradise: CruisinMix Special is the gameplay itself. This is probably the most insane shoot ’em up I have played to date. It borders on the line of a cute ’em up, but still keeps a pretty serious structure so I don’t see it falling into that category. Over the 8 maps in the Arranged mode, which features the same stages as the other modes with 2 added, I experienced some of the craziest stages I have ever played. Stages will take you through claw machines, other shoot ’em up games, karaoke bars, and circuit boards. I was always surprised when beginning a new board because I didn’t know what to expect, the same can be said for the enemies in the game.

The Game Paradise: CruisinMix Special has a huge variety of enemies, to the point that it’s rare to find the same enemies in more than one stage, and now that I think about it, I don’t think I saw any enemies repeat. Because of the large list of enemy types, it’s not easy to guess their attack pattern or where they are going to come from so expect to die a lot in your first couple of playthroughs. Thankfully, the Arcade+ mode lets you choose to only play one stage at a time to train.

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The Game Paradise: CruisinMix Special features a handful of options for the player to customize their game, including, adding extra continues, auto bombs, and a vertical or horizontal screen. Also included is a difficulty setting, now, I consider myself to be decent at shoot ’em ups, but The Game Paradise: CruisinMix Special can get tough because of the insane patterns and unpredictable stages. However, I really enjoyed this because it kept me on my toes and motivated me to continue practicing the levels to get better at them.

Additionally, the game has an awesome HD Data Mode that features manual scans and screenshots from the original games of character’s featured in the game. What is even more interesting is that you can play a voiceover scene that has all the characters hilariously commentate about the titles and give you even more insight into the game’s development.

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The Game Paradise: CruisinMix Special is a game that is targeted for those who love niche arcade shoot ’em ups. It has so many unique features that all fans of the genre will find something new to discover while playing. However, the high price of the game, including the DLC characters might hold back newer fans of the genre from jumping headfirst into this insane shooter.

The Game Paradise: CrusinMix Special is pure fun. The game is entertaining throughout all modes and the variety of characters will have players discover new paths through the stages for hours. I simply felt happy while playing through The Game Paradise: CruisinMix Specialeven when I kept dying because the game has a charm about it that makes it tough to not smile a bit at the idea that this crazy shoot ’em up even exists, but I’m so glad that it does.

A review copy of the title was provided by the publisher for review purposes

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