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Overview

Shoot the Bullet is the 9.5th game in the Touhou Project, released on the Windows OS during the 69th Comiket in the 30th of December, 2005. It is a unique entry to the series due to it being a vertical danmaku photography game.

Plot

Throughout Shoot the Bullet, players take control of Aya Shameimaru as she takes photographs of characters from various games in the series. However, the purpose of these photographs is never revealed, and it is even pointed out that "No one knows the purpose of the photos, except Aya," and the reason for her not attacking her opponents is "not to be nice, but because she doesn't want her bullets in the picture."

Gameplay

In Shoot the Bullet, rather than shooting projectiles at the enemy, the main goal is to take a certain number of photographs of each boss' bullet patterns, thus defeating them.

There is only one difficulty level present in Shoot the Bullet, equivalent to that of the Lunatic (highest) difficulty present in the other games in the series.

Working that Camera

In order to take a picture, Aya's camera must be charged to 100%, which the player will be notified of through means of a sound, as well as the text "100%" and "Enabled" which will appear around the crosshairs near her. At the beginning of each stage, the camera's charge will be at around 50-70%. The camera slowly charges up by itself, and the player can increase the speed of charge through holding down both the focus and shoot buttons, however, this causes Aya's speed to greatly decrease. Note that this prevents the player from taking any pictures whilst in focus mode.

Controlling the crosshairs to take a picture of a distant area

Snapping those Pictures

The on-screen crosshairs are used to dictate the center of the planned picture. These crosshairs will normally stay near Aya, pointing in the direction of the boss, although during focus mode, they will move slightly closer toward the boss and, if close enough, will stick on top of said boss.

The crosshairs may be moved when the camera is fully charged through holding down the shoot button and using the directional pad to control it, enabling the player to take pictures at further distances at the expense of picture size. Whilst doing so, time slows down dramatically and, after a certain period of time, Aya is forced to discard the shot as the picture frame becomes too small, draining the camera to 50%

If a picture includes the boss, it is regarded as a success and shown on the side of the screen. A picture which does not include the boss is deemed a failure and discarded.

Whenever a picture is taken, regardless of it being a success of failure, the camera is drained to 0%. However, bullets and other obstacles (such as mist) caught in the picture will disappear and restore a tiny amount of charge each. However, the camera can only regain a maximum of 30% charge from a successful shot and 60% from an unsuccessful one.

Stages

Shoot the Bullet features ten stages, as well as an extra (EX) stage. Each stage has a varied number of scenes, any of which can be selected once the stage has been unlocked, though the game will only recognise the existance of the stage above the player's current highest open stage (i.e: If the player has stage 3 unlocked, attempting to view stage 4 will only show its unlock requirements, whilst stages 5-10 will not appear at all).

Unlocking Stages

To unlock any non-EX stage, the player can either:
  • clear three scenes in the stage before, or
  • clear a certain number of total scenes

A stage is considered clear when the player takes a specified number of pictures of the enemy boss within a certain time limit, without being killed. A cleared scene can be identified through the character  "済" beside the scene label.

Aya may complain about the quality of the pictures taken if the player's highest score for a scene is not high enough. Cleared scenes with a sufficient high-score will have their text which gives Aya's opinion of the bullet patterns (present at the bottom of the screen) in light-red instead of blue.

The total photo count and best photo for each scene are updated regardless of whether or not the scene was cleared or failed, whilst the high-score is not, which can lead to single photo scores having a higher value than the highest total score for a scene.

Characters

Throughout Shoot the Bullet, the player can only take control of Aya Shameimaru, however, the game's bosses are characters present from The Embodiment of Scarlet Devil through Phantasmagoria of Flower View.

Stage 1

No preconditions required to unlock:

光る蟲の大群 (Swarm of Bright Bugs)
    Wriggle Nightbug

暗闇に潜む妖怪 (Youkai Hiding in the Darkness)
    Rumia

Stage 2

Unlocked after clearing 3 scenes in stage 1:
   
不自然な冷気 (Unnatural Chill)
    Cirno

局所的な大寒波 (Localized Cold Wave)
    Letty Whiterock

Stage 3

Unlocked after clearing 3 scenes in stage 2, or clearing 8 stages in total:
   
見た目だけ賑やかな妖怪 (Superficially Busy Youkai)
    Alice Margatroid

賢苦しい歴史家 (Bookish Historian)
    Keine Kamishirasawa

Stage 4

Unlocked after clearing 3 scenes in stage 3, or clearing 14 stages in total:
   
視界を揺さぶる妖怪兎 (Sight-Shaking Youkai Rabbit)
    Reisen Udongein Inaba

体に優しくない人形 (Poison Doll)
    Medicine Melancholy

飛び跳ねる兎の大群 (Herd of Leaping Rabbits)
    Tewi Inaba

Stage 5

Unlocked after clearing 3 scenes in stage 4, or clearing 20 stages in total:

色鮮やかに虹色な門番 (Colorful Rainbow Gatekeeper)
    Hong Meirin

得体の知れない魔法の元 (Enigmatic Source of Magic)
    Patchouli Knowledge

Stage 6

Unlocked after clearing 3 scenes in stage 5, or clearing 25 stages in total:

 目にも留まらない化猫 (Hyperactive Monster Cat)
    Chen

斬り捨て御免 (Kirisute Gomen)
    Youmu Konpaku

Stage 7

Unlocked after clearing 3 scenes in stage 6, or clearing 30 stages in total:

 危険な手品師 (Dangerous Illusionist)
    Sakuya Izayoi

紅色の世界 (World of Crimson)
    Remilia Scarlet

Stage 8

Unlocked after clearing 3 scenes in stage 7, or clearing 35 stages in total:

珍しい動物 (Unusual Animal)
    Ran Yakumo

幽雅な心霊写真 (Elegant Ghost Photography)
    Yuyuko Saigyouji

Stage 9

Unlocked after clearing 3 scenes in stage 8, or clearing 40 stages in total:

街の薬屋さん (Town Pharmacist)
    Eirin Yagokoro

人間らしくないお姫様 (Inhuman Princess)
    Kaguya Houraisan

Stage 10

Unlocked after clearing 3 scenes in stage 9, or clearing 45 stages in total:

江戸っ子気質な死神 (Edokko God of Death)
    Komachi Onozuka

口うるさい有難いお話 (Nagging Helpful Lecture)
    Sikieiki Yamaxanadu

Stage EX

Unlocked after clearing 66 stages in total:

恐ろしい波動 (Diabolic Wave)
    Flandre Scarlet

気味の悪い微笑み (Uncanny Smile)
    Yukari Yakumo

焼死しない人間 (Human Immune to Death by Fire)
    Fujiwara no Mokou

太古の時代 (The Dawn of Time)
    Suika Ibuki

Scoring

Scoring in Shoot the Bullet depends on a number of factors:

Bullet Factors

The base score is awarded depending on the number of bullets and other objects in each picture. Other objects are things such as Alice's dolls and Letty's mist.

The larger a bullet is, the more points that will be awarded for it. The same applies to a bullet's velocity: the faster it is, the more points that are awarded. However, a bullet can also be worth zero points whenever the player is up against Reisen, as it is possible to take a picture whilst she is "phasing" them around.

Boss Shot

  • Multiplier: 1.2x - 2.0x

Awarded whenever the boss is in the picture. The multiplier increases as the crosshairs approach the boss, with the 2.0x awarded when the boss becomes the centre of them.

Self Shot

  • Multiplier: 1.2x

Awarded when Aya herself appears in the picture.

Two Shot

  • Multiplier: 1.5x

Awarded when both Aya and the boss are present in the picture.

The spell circle surrounding Fujiwara no Mokou
Nice Shot

  • Multiplier: 1.2 - 1.5x

Awarded when the spell circle of a boss is in the picture. The spell circle is a red hexagram that is surrounded by two circles, which appears at set times during a boss' attack pattern. It starts off large and is centred on the boss, however, it quickly shrinks and disappears. The larger the spell circle in the picture, the larger the multiplier bonus.

Risk Shot

  • Adds 300 - 2,000 points
  • Small bullets: x100 points
  • Middle bullets: x400 points
  • Big bullets: x1,000 points
  • Laser: x200 points

Rewarded when Aya is close to a bullet when the picture is taken. The number of points given varies with the number of bullets/strength of lasers and the kind of bullets. If the total is less than 300, the bonus is revoked, and if greater than 2,000, it is rounded back down to 2,000.

(colour) Shot

  • Adds 300 points

Awarded when there is a large number of a specific bullet colour. It is possible to gain two or more of these bonuses at a time.

An example of a Colourful Shot
Colourful Shot

  • Adds 900 points

Awarded when there is a large variation of bullet colours.

Rainbow Shot

  • Adds 2,100 points

Awarded when there is a very large variation of bullet colours.

Solo Shot

  • Adds 100 points

Awarded when only the boss or Aya appears in the picture.

Empty Shot

  • No bonus points

Awarded when the picture is empty. Appears as just a message, awarding no bonus points.

Development

After recognising that all of the past games in the Touhou Project were inspired by arcade games, ZUN, the sole member of Team Shanghai Alice, decided to make an experimental game which would remove any and all arcade conventions.

The cover of Bohemian Archive in Japanese Red
The concept of a danmaku photography game first struck ZUN during the production of The Embodiment of Scarlet Devil whilst he was in the midst of creating Spell Cards, realising that taking snapshots of danmaku patterns was rather fun, and that it would make for an entertaining game. After completing The Embodiment of Scarlet Devil, he attempted to create a new weapon for Reimu Hakurei which would incorporate this idea, allowing for her to take pictures in order to seal away bullets, however, he felt that this was an unnatural addition to the series at the time as none of the characters had any reason to take pictures, causing him to abandon the idea for two years until after Imperishable Night was released.

ZUN decided that he must create a character who had a reason to take pictures in order to implement this idea naturally, which lead to the creation of Aya Shameimaru, who was to be introduced in Phantasmagoria of Flower View so that her appearance as a main character in the planned photography game would not be too abrupt. At the same time, Ichijinsha, a mange publisher, was planning on creating a manga anthology of the Touhou Project, however, ZUN saw this as an opportunity to introduce Aya, and thus he negotiated with Ichijinsha in order to turn the anthology into a fanbook which would contain interviews and samples from Aya's newspaper. The final result of these negotiations was Touhou Bunkachou ~ Bohemian Archive in Japanese Red, which was released three days before Phantasmagoria of Flower View. At first, ZUN had planned on releasing Shoot the Bullet alongside the fanbook, however, he lacked the time in order to do so, yet he continued to use the name "Touhou Bunkachou" without Ichijinsha's per The development of Shoot the Bullet took a month and a half to complete, with it finally being released on the 30th of December, 2005.

Post-Release

With the arrival of the version 1.01a patch on the 9th of January, 2006, ZUN added in an empty stage entitled "Gogai," after stage EX, promising that he would add in playable scenes at a later time. However, on the 16th of October, 2006, ZUN announced that he would not produce the "Gogai" scenes as he did not have the time and that he would rather begin work on new projects, leaving Shoot the Bullet with an empty and useless stage.

Shoot the Bullet was also used a type of game engine on which two of ZUN's future games, Mountain of Faith and Drinking Party, were based on.

Music

The translated name of each theme is provided below the original version:

- Title and Menu theme
    天狗の手帖 ~ Mysterious Note
    Tengu's Notebook ~ Mysterious Note

ZUN note:
    The same old piece.
    However, this time I tried to give it a bit more of a
    dark and retro feel, as well as a bit of youkai.
    That raining noise is a youkai mystery. No, there's
    nothing wrong with your monitor or speakers, so relax.

- Photo theme 1
    風の循環 ~ Wind Tour
    Wind Circulation ~ Wind Tour

ZUN note:
    For this game, instead of the usual boss battle music,
    I wanted it to be more casual, so I wrote this.
    It has a very relaxed feel, because Aya is enjoying
    herself - as if she were teasing her target.

- Photo theme 2
    天狗が見ている ~ Black Eyes
    Tengu is Watching ~ Black Eyes

ZUN note:
    It's easygoing enough to seem scary and cute.
    Though kidnapping and eating people is a youkai thing
    to do, this cheerfulness that must have come from
    somewhere is also part of the fabled tengu image.
    I think this piece mixes that scariness, cuteness,
    cheerfulness, and carelessness together.

- Photo theme 3
    東の国の眠らない夜
    Sleepless Night of the Eastern Country

ZUN note:
    Photo theme 3. Written for the middle levels.
    While it feels like both the boss and Aya are having fun,
    it is hard to convey the feeling of the boss being coerced.
    This tune is aware of that, so while being light and bright,
    it was written to also bring out the strength of the boss.
    Especially the piano.

- Photo theme 4
    レトロスペクティブ京都
    Retrospective Kyoto

ZUN note:
    Written for the later half of the game.
    I feel, deep inside, that this hints at retro Japan.
    Snow, falling in the capital. A deserted night road.
    But, this retro is my idea of retro...
    Listening to this might make you reminisce.

- Photo theme 5
    風神少女
    Wind God Girl

ZUN note:
    This is Bohemian Archive in Japanese Red's main
    theme, so I couldn't leave it out.
    Though this edit is hardly used :-)

Secrets and Bugs

Shoot the Bullet features significantly less of these than other games in the series:

Secret Message

Most of the main menu choices have red letters when they are selected. If these letters are put together, there are enough to spell "SHOOT" twice.

Retry Freeze

There are times that when the player attempts to retry a scene, the game freezes.

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