Mushihimesama Futari is the sequel to another popular CAVE bullet-hell shooter, Mushihimesama. Originally released in arcades in 2006, Futari is often recognized as one of the most difficult single-loop shooters in existence when played on its hardest difficulty setting.
While the Xbox 360 port of was only released in Japan, it was released without a region lock, allowing the game to be played on non-Japanese consoles: the first Japanese-exclusive Xbox 360 game to do so. CAVE's Makoto Asada cited heavy support from overseas fans as the reason for this decision, and also stated that how well non-Japanese sales performed would determine whether CAVE would make region free or seek licensing for future CAVE ports. (CAVE ultimately did release a few subsequent Xbox 360 shooters in region-free format, including Espgaluda II Black Label and Muchi Muchi Pork! & Pink Sweets.)
The port is generally well-received, being in general very accurate to the arcade version of the game, and also for including access to the Black Label version as DLC.
While not particularly common in a game of this type, Mushihimesama Futari and its predecessor do contain something of a bare-minimum plot line. It is essentially provided to give the merest sense of context for the game's setting and the actions of the characters.
Mushihimesama Futari is the sequel to Mushihimesama, and continues the story from the original game. The world of Mushihimesama is primarily inhabited by large arthropods (insects, crabs, etc.) called the "Koujuu" that give off a life-force known as "Levi-Sense" that is fatally poisonous to humans. In an agreement, small pockets of humanity are allowed to live in exchange for the sacrifice of a 15-year old girl every 200 years. In the original game, Princess Reco, who is 15, is sent to speak with the Koujuu king after her people begin to die from Levi-Sense poisoning. The reason for this pestilence as it is revealed at the end of the game is that a young boy she met in her youth bestowed upon her a bracelet that protects from the ill effects of Levi-Sense. Presumably it is this imbalance that has caused the people to die. However it is the boy, Aki, acting as the king of the Koujuu whom Reco must destroy at the end of the first game in order to save her people.
Picking up immediately afterwards, Mushihimesama Futari tells the story of Reco and Queen Larsa, the mother of Aki from the original game. Larsa, having heard of Aki's death, becomes enraged and obsessed with killing Reco. One of Larsa's other sons, Palm, sets off to find Reco, seeking the truth behind his brother Aki's demise. By the end of the game, Palm has come to learn that not only was Larsa manipulating Aki, but that Reco had been trying to save Aki rather than destroy him.
Gameplay consists of several different modes of play, although the general goal is the same: shoot the numerous enemies while dodging the large amount of enemy fire present on the screen. Points are scored through shooting enemies and by collecting large and small gems. If an enemy is killed in close proximity, these gems have a green aura, which awards twice as many points as the yellow gems without said aura.
There are 2 characters to choose from: Reco riding the giant beetle Kiniro, who has firing patterns which tend to have a wider spread, and Palm riding the dragon Hirow, who has a more focused, but generally more powerful shot. These shooting patterns, as well as movement speed of characters using various shots, changes depending on whether normal or abnormal type is chosen.
The speed and density of enemy fire, as well as the scoring mechanics change depending on the mode of play.
Original Mode is the easiest of the three standard game modes. In this mode, enemy fire is fairly slow, allowing more time to react, but is also fairly dense, which requires fairly technical movements. Boss patterns tend to be more simplistic than in other modes. In Original Mode, a large counter is located in the top left corner of the screen. When the hundreds digit is between 0 and 4 (during which time the counter is green in color), using the regular shot (tapping the A button or holding the C button) will award large gems from enemies, while using focus shot (holding the A button) will award small gems. The reverse is true if the hundreds digit is between 5 and 9 (the counter will be blue in color), where regular shot awards small gems and focus shot awards large gems. In essence, scoring in Original Mode comes down to using the regular shot when the counter is green, and the focus shot when the counter is blue; the counter changes color in increments of 500. As the counter's value increases, the speed of enemy bullets also increases, serving as a rudimentary rank system.
In Maniac, enemy fire is more hectic, and boss patterns are more challenging. The scoring system is also completely different from Original Mode: under the score multiplier, there is a chaining bar. The chaining bar increases with the regular shot, in addition to a multiplier (much like in original), which goes up as gems are collected. Large gems begin to be awarded when the chaining bar flashes red, and awards double gems if the player quickly switch to the focus shot at this point. While the focus shot is being used, the chaining bar quickly depletes, and when it is empty, any enemies killed with the focus shot (as well as cancelled enemy bullets) will award blue gems, which award large amounts of points (based on the value of the score multiplier), but simultaneously decrease the multiplier value in the process. As a result, the flow of scoring in Maniac Mode is to build up the score multiplier by picking up regular gems, "cashing in" the multiplier in exchange for points once it gets high enough, then repeating the process.
Ultra Mode is the most difficult mode of the game, and is one of the most difficult modes in any of CAVE's shooters (and, arguably, in any video game). Enemy fire is much more dense, and the game's difficulty is cranked to the maximum even from the very beginning of the game. Ultra Mode uses most of the same scoring mechanics of Original Mode, though the score counter changes color in increments of 2,000 rather than 500, and increasing the counter does not increase enemy bullet speed. If the player is successful in reaching the final boss without using a continue, two very difficult "True Last Boss" forms are added to the final boss fight.
Differences Between Xbox 360 Version and Arcade
The Xbox 360 port of Mushihimesama Futari adds a significant amount of content: Both visual and game play related. Besides the convenience of having access to multiple different versions of the game (in the arcade, v1.0, v1.5, and Black Label were all separate games), the game also adds 2 entirely new game play modes:
Novice Mode is intended for newcomers to the genre, and offers a very lenient and well-tuned learning curve for those looking to work their way up to the normal modes of play. Novice contains the same three difficulty settings from 1.5: Original, Maniac and Ultra, but all modes feature an extreme reduction in enemy bullet count and include an auto-bomb feature, allowing even the most inexperienced players to have fun with the game. Aside from those changes, each Novice mode is the same as its respective "normal" game mode.
Arrange Mode is a wholly-remixed version of the main game, offering a new gameplay experience. In Arrange Mode, players control both Reco and Palm and are able to switch between them at will. Arrange Mode also adds bullet-slowing and bullet-reflecting mechanics, which form the basis of its gameplay.
Each character has a counter which goes up depending on who is in reserve and who is the active player. The active player's counter goes up by maintaining fire on enemies and collecting gems, whereas the reserve character builds up their meter by being in close proximity to (but not touching with their hit box) enemy fire. The larger the counter, the stronger the bullet slowing property of the reserve character by using regular shot. If the reserve character has any value greater than 0 in their counter, they can ricochet enemy fire by having the active player use focus shot. If both characters obtain a max counter of 9999, focus shot activates "fever mode," which quickly depletes both meters but offers virtually complete invincibility by destroying all bullets currently on screen and replacing them with large gems, in addition to the usual ricochet properties.
In addition to the gameplay additions, all versions of the game allow the player to choose between "Arcade" and "Xbox 360" modes; Xbox 360 mode features higher-resolution graphics compared to the original arcade game, whereas Arcade mode eschews the graphical enhancements and exists for arcade purists. There are no gameplay differences between the two modes.
The game also includes a huge array of visual customizations, including graphics filters (even including one setting that displays the game in anaglyph 3D for use with 3D glasses), the ability to add and customize extra windows to the game display (for example, the counter can be zoomed in and placed somewhere easier to see), and also the ability to rotate the screen to support play on a vertical ("tate") monitor orientation.
The Xbox 360 version also includes leaderboards for high-score tracking, and the ability to save, upload, and download replays.
The soundtrack for Mushihimesama Futari was largely composed by Manabu Nimiki in-house for CAVE.
- The Prince, Age 9 (Select)
- Setting Off Together (Stage 1)
- Bestial Beat (Boss)
- We Did It! (Stage Clear)
- Sea of Frozen Crystals (Stage 2)
- Shinju Forest's Rebel Army? (Stage 3)
- The Beast King, Clad in Black Armor (Stage 4)
- On the Verge of Madness (Stage 5)
- Cry! Scream!! (Last Boss)
- Sky of Fragrant Souls (True Last Boss [Black Label])
- Cast Aside (Game Over)
- I Want to Protect You (Name Entry)
- Invisible Warmth (Ending)
- The Golden Star Falling During a Short Night (Image Song)
- Princess Reco (Voice SFX)
- Prince Palm (Voice SFX)
- Queen Larsa (Voice SFX)
Xbox 360 Limited Edition and Bonuses
First-print copies of the Xbox 360 Standard Edition of the game included a DLC code to download the "version 1.01" of the game, which is a bug-fixed version of the original 1.0 arcade release of the game (see "Downloadable Content").
Xbox 360 Limited Edition copies of the game came packaged with a two-disc arranged soundtrack for both Mushihimesama and Mushihimesama Futari, and also includes a version 1.01 download code. The Limited Edition also features different box art from the standard edition.
The exclusive Collector's Edition from the CAVE store contains everything in the normal Collector's Edition, but also contains Xbox 360 Faceplate stickers and a phone card with a Palm or Reco theme.
An action figure modeled after Reco was created, and may be purchased separately from the game itself. Hori also produced a Mushihimesama Futari-branded Real Arcade Pro EX arcade stick.
There are 2 DLC packages available.
All first-print copies of the game, as well as all Limited Edition copies of the game, included a DLC code to download Version 1.01 mode. Version 1.01 is a bug-fixed version of the original 1.0 arcade release of the game. Version 1.01 is generally harder and less well-balanced than version 1.5; certain patterns are supposedly impossible to dodge in version 1.01 without using a bomb. It should be noted that achievements cannot be unlocked in this mode.
Mushihime-sama Futari Black Label (released as a standalone game in the arcades, but available as a separate game mode in the Xbox 360 version) is available as purchasable DLC for 1200 Microsoft Points. There are numerous changes between Version 1.5 and Black Label; these changes are detailed in the Black Label article.
It should be noted that even though the game is technically a Japanese-region game, the Black Label DLC is also purchasable and playable in other regions (the United States marketplace for certain, and quite possibly other regions as well).