Gaming History 101

Know Your Roots

Bullet Hell Shmups

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This is going to be a really short blog post with some videos, so those of you who like flashing lights and hate these word things will be in heaven.  “Bullet Hell” shmups (also referred to as “danmaku” by the Japanese and fans of the genre) usually refers to vertical perspective (based on vertical raster effects from arcade monitors of the 70s, 80s and 90s) where a single ship is more concerned with dodging bullets rather than enemies.  Sure, enemies still play their part, but they prefer to do it from a distance.  It’s pretty hard to bump into an enemy in early bullet hell titles, but thanks to developers like Treasure and Cave, those rules are quickly broken.

Bullet Hell, get it?

My favorite part about bullet hell shmups is that you always feel like a badass.  Seriously, your ship gets powered up super easy and you can take out swarms of enemies as if they are made of paper.  In addition, your enemies will usually be machines both in the air and on the ground, although it’s all a flat surface to most bullet hell titles.  Once a large enemy approaches – and in bullet hell you will freuqently go through a few sub-bosses before the big daddy at the end of the level – it will be more about finding the safe spot that its bullet fire cannot touch because you will be bombarded with gunfire.  I love watching pros at these games weave in and out of the bullets like a fine symphony, some of the older titles like Raiden even having special spots you can camp out at that the bullets can’t seem to get to.  There are horizontal shmups as well, like Last Hope (indie developed title for the Neo Geo and Dreamcast), but they don’t allow for the humongous explosions or absolutely frantic bullet dodging because they have a lot less height to work with.

Bullet hell plays just as it sounds, and with out further ado here are some example videos:

The game above is a free download! Go to!

Any of our readers out there fans?  Got a specific bullet hell title you find yourself particularly good at?  Let us know.

Written by Fred Rojas

March 7, 2012 at 9:47 am

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