Mushihimesama Switch Review – A Shmup Classic Restored

    Title: Mushihimesama
    Developer: CAVE
    Release Date: June 15, 2021
    Reviewed On: Switch
    Publisher: Live Wire
    Genre: Bullet-Hell

Mushihimesama is a shmup classic and one of the best games by developer Cave. The developer’s catalog has been preserved on platforms like Steam, but seeing it on Switch opens a new door for console owners. Not to be confused with its sequel Mushimesama Futari, the original arcade game, first found its way on PlayStation 2 before seeing an enhanced port on Xbox 360 and a more accessible port for PC via Steam.

Although largely similar to the PC version, Mushihimesama has been beautifully ported and optimized for Switch, along with all of the features, game variations, and other content fully intact. Even for longtime fans who may already own the game on other platforms, the new and complete Switch edition is worth dipping into again, even if it’s just for the flawless handheld experience alone.

Mushihimesama on Switch contains all known variations of the game: the normal base game, the arrange mode, the updated version 1.5, and even a special novice variation. Each comes with various difficulty settings. While the original difficulty is challenging enough in its own right, there is also a maniac mode that ups the ante. For those brave enough to foray into madness, there’s even an ultra difficulty mode. The final boss battle in ultra mode has long become a legendary meme of sorts in gaming, and if you manage to even make it to that point, prepare to be maddened by inhumane bullet patterns.

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As a bullet hell shmup, Mushihimesama is no doubt as challenging as they come. Still, there are so many ways to approach this iconic shmup on the Switch, as even complete newcomers can get enjoyment thanks to features like the novice mode. Furthermore, there is a training mode that allows players to practice the various stages at their own pace and comfort.

In the end, the ultimate elusive goal in any shmup is to clear the game with just 1 credit. While ultra mode makes this feat virtually impossible, the other modes and variations make this achievable and rewarding. Still, even in ultra mode, there is nothing quite as exnihilating as barely scraping by an inconceivably maddening pattern of pink dots.

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The core shooting action is crisp and precise, where players can choose between different shot styles which vary in their strength, speed and spread. Then, of course, there is a screen-clearing bomb attack, as well as a temporary shield to provide some relief during the chaotic action. The play mechanics and scoring conventions are intricate, further complimenting some novel approaches to the stage design. For example, there is one stage where almost all of it involves chopping down a behemoth creature.

As far as CAVE’s catalog goes, Mushihimesama is absolutely among their best titles and is a great way to introduce a global audience on Switch to the developer’s style of bullet hell shmup. More than that, it’s the ideal starting point for anyone curious about CAVE or the genre in general.

Under the intended difficulty modes and settings, Mushihimesama is a beautifully designed and paced shooter, and although a lot of these shooters can feel quite similar to genre veterans, very few nail the pacing and design in such an organic way. As a result, it’s a satisfying game to experience and replay over and over. Everything from the enemy layouts to the boss encounters and the satisfaction of chasing that high score with 1CC ambitions makes Mushihimesama a title worth returning to time and time again.

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What also shines about the experience is its vibrantly stylistic presentation, everything from the sprites to the music and even the key artwork. With a theme centered on bugs and bug princesses, Mushihimesama has a surrealist visual style that is immediately apparent in the enemy designs, especially in detailed backgrounds. The various side banners also show off the best of the game’s key artwork, and finally, the excellent upbeat and enchanting soundtrack complement the gameplay momentum.

As a release, Mushihimesama on Switch comes with all the settings and modes to make this the complete one-stop edition. Whether it is the variations of the game, training modes, and of course the various display settings, this is a great shmup to have on Switch, one that will certainly pave the way for other CAVE titles to reach a wider audience. Above all, the game looks and performs great, especially in a handheld mode where it plays like a dream.

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 Mushihimesama is a long overdue and welcome release on Nintendo Switch, serving as an exemplar of its developer’s signature shmup style. The Switch version comes with all modes and features intact, and so whether you are a returning veteran or a complete newcomer, players can approach the experience however they like. However, regardless of who you are, Mushihimesama is the quintessential bullet-hell shooter that is especially a blast to play in handheld mode.

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

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Jahanzeb Khan

Old SEGA games will go up in value... you'll see!