I'm glad that I took the chance on getting this, because it is seriously an addicting game. I thought I would hate it, given that it's a bullet hell shoot 'em up. Which means that the screen is often literally filled with bullets. The more I play, the easier it gets to keep track of where my hit box is and how to weave in and out of all the incoming bullets. Every time that you die, you're allowed to continue right there where you died. Which I was not expecting, but it makes the difficulty of it not frustrating at all. Most of my experience with the game is level 1 stuff by the way.
I've yet to master level 1 without using a continue, [best I did was no continues up until the second to last boss in the game] but I've tried out levels 2, 3 and 999 and it gets insane on those levels. In 999 I would die very frequently. Basically just spammed bombs the entire time to get through.
You have a health bar of 3. Which can be increased by earning 20 million points... yeah. I managed to do it once. You can restore your health with items, which seem really rare. When you lose all your health, you get the option to continue. Which resets your score.
There's also magic items which either give another bomb or fill the screen with one. Bullets take one full bar, hitting an enemy/running into it or getting hit with a physical attack take half a bar. Each time that you lose a bar, your bombs are restored [there are 3, so each life you have at least 9]. The bombs are insanely useful, they clear the screen of all bullets and kill all small enemies and usually with your continual firing kill the large ones as well.
You can power up your attacks when you collect enough tokens/skulls. There's a counter in the corner which goes up to 1,000. Which you activate and it powers up your attacks.
The game includes quite a few versions. There's Arcade, Ver 1.1, Xbox 360, MBL Ver 1.1, MBL Arcade, MBL Xbox 360.
Arcade: Basically the 'bare bones' version of the game.
Xbox 360: Nearly the same as Arcade. Has improved graphics and the first 6 stages have selectable difficulties of 1 and 2, [Arcade default difficulty is 3] and can be selected multiple times on the map.
Ver 1.1: You can move around your familiar manually with the right analog stick. Other changes [from wikipedia]
* Item counter is powered when it reaches 100.
* Item score limit is increased to 99999 points.
* In boss battle, counter bullets are fired during power up mode.
* When stage difficulty is set to 2 or above, counter bullets are fired during power up mode.
* When stage difficulty is set to 3, death mode is automatically triggered.
* When attacking a boss with auto lock shot, item counter increases.
* Extra lives are granted at 30 million and 1 billion points.
Mega Black Label Versions: Each MBL version adds; Level 999 difficulty, the witch Sakura as a playable character and the Crystal Shrine stage to the above three variants.
Each character has 2 endings. The achievements, for those who care, differ in difficulty. They run from easy, to in my opinion impossible.
There are some slowdowns, typically during boss battles when they use one of their various attacks that cover the screen with bullets. Though, it actually kind of helps to get through it. So it's not really that big of a problem for me and shouldn't be for you either. Graphics are okay in my book. It doesn't fill the entire screen of your tv, it has borders like a lot of these games do. Doesn't bother me though. The story is well, it's a shmup... so it's about as good as it'll get in the genre. Though, some of the endings are really touching to my surprise.
I've yet to be able to find a match online, which is a shame because the game would be really fun to play with people. The music is pretty good, and I'm all for soundtracks coming with games. The faceplate is AWESOME and it fits well on my black 360.