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Ibara
  PS2Shooter_VertJPN  
  opened by paleface at 05:00:57 03/07/06  
  last modified by paleface at 03:28:29 03/09/06  
  paleface [sys=PS2; cat=Shooter_Vert; loc=JPN]
           
Ibara feels like a bit of a departure from the big, puffy pink bullets in pulsingly tight patterns of previous Cave shooter releases, and supposedly that's because the head honcho behind it came over from the pretty much defunct Raizing, makers of such famed vert shooters as Battle Garegga, Battle Bakraid (see entry 774), Brave Blade (see entry 773), and Soukyugurentai (see entry 258). Souky is the only one of those I own, and I'm not too fond of it, and I found Brave Blade and Bakraid sort of overly complicated, but somehow I like Ibara quite a bit, even though it has medal comboing like Bakraid.
 
Maybe it's Cave shining through. The sort of super-WWI-ish airplane sprites are complex, if not beautiful, and each wave presents a distinct style and challenge. And then there are, of course, the mammoth bosses. Oh, and good music, too, if you can stand Japanese synth metal guitar (I don't normally, but it works for me here).
 
Bullet patterns aren't quite as intense here as in regular Cave shooter, but they have nasty long pointy bullets that look hard to dodge, and sometimes move pretty quick--faster than most Cave bullets, that's for sure--and they like to shoot them at you from several different vectors at once. Heck, the first part of the first stage feels ridiculously hard for quite a while, just because of all the small, fast bullets it throws out at you right off the bat, when you have only the weak default shot to counter with.
 
You'll also notice the debris. I guess Raizing was notorious for debris effects when blowing things up, and they kick it up a whole lotta notches here. In fact what with all the debris and the small, dark bullets, it will take you some time to get used to spotting dangerous stuff coming at you, and I still get hit occassionally by something I didn't even see. This is sort of frustrating, particularly at first, but the learning curve is pretty fast--it has to be, or you won't get very far.
 
Enemies drop weapon powerups; matter of fact, powerups are dropping all the time. Some are just generic shot power increases, in two sizes; some are medals, and you want to catch all of these, because they continue to go up in value as long as you catch them consecutively; and then some are weapon powerups. It's annoying, though, that while you can pack three weapons onto little "option" ships floating around you, weaker weapons, such as "Machine Gun," will replace stronger weapons, such as Napalm, without so much as a "by your leave." Grr.
 
When you die, your powerups, and sometimes more powerups than you had, will shoot upscreen and tumble back down, giving you a chance to reclaim most of your lost power on your new life. Pretty neat. Sometimes a bomb will even fire when you die, taking out the immediate dangers.
 
1P and 2P have ships with slightly different main weapons and movement speeds; and then, each of them has four different configurations, again differing movement speed, and also in the fire pattern of the options. It's sort of annoying because you have to change the ship type in the Options screen, then get out past the auto-save and go back in and start the game. Should have been in the game start area of the menus, really.
 
The fire patterns are weird; normally in a shooter you just want to fire straight ahead, and this game is no exception, but it doesn't quite let you do that. Options will shoot sideways, into or out of your movement direction, or just whatever way they want, depending on what ship type you took, and maybe what tracking type you have (to that in a sec). Each ship type also has a different bomb, some of which seem better than others to me, but what do I know. For instance, 1A shoots a big fat spread straight ahead, while 1D just makes a swirling vortex around your ship. One is better for offense, the other for defense.
 
As in the previous Cave port, Mushihimesama (see entry 851), the "Arrange" mode kicks ass. Arrange in Ibara is much more like a typical Cave shooter, with big, pink enemy bullets, holding fire for increased fire rate and slower movement speed, and scoring multipliers. You also get two more buttons to complement good ol' Shot and Bomb: one lets you select from any weapon you've picked up on that life so far, and the other lets you switch targetting modes for your options. Just pick "Search" and let them do the aiming for you. Arrange mode, as you might guess, is much easier than normal Arcade mode. Good thing, too, 'cause you can't continue at all in Arrange mode.
 
Arcade mode also has a "Harder" mode (more bullets, powerups drop faster, etc), and an "Extended" mode (I think it adds a few more bullet patterns, and a stage loop at the end). You can, I think, record replays, and there's a nice practice mode, featuring among other things the option of starting a stage from the beginning, or from the boss. Umm and there's a Gallery mode, showing off the cute but oh-so-evil flower-themed female bosses.
 
All the debris and mechanized mayhem fills the screen with nary a hint of slowdown, even in 2-player. What with Arrange mode and all, it's a very impressive game, although there's a weird load right after the start of stage 1, which seems pretty odd, and gets annoying, and, worse, as in the previous Cave shooter ported by Taito, Mushihimesama, the original low-res 2D graphics are filtery blurred at high resolution, probably in some wrong-headed fear of large pixels. It can make the game hard to look at after playing for a while, and of course things just aren't as sharp as they should be. I'd have thought publisher Taito would have figured out that was a dumb thing to do after Mushihimesama, but apparently they didn't get my memo. Playing the game in vertical screen mode (if you can turn your monitor on its side) helps somewhat with the blur, but it's still there, assing things up.
 
Well, Cave has kicked ass with a shooter yet again, even though it's fairly different than their usual style. I think I still prefer the previous game, Mushihimesama, but that's more of an individual stylistic preference than a knock on Ibara. In fact I think it's pretty cool that Cave is willing to change styles like this. Let's hope they can keep things fresh this way in future releases. And stop the bloody blur filtering, already! :p
 
Oh, I should say something about the roses. Ibara's flower theme carries over into pickup items: when bullets hit your bomb effect, they are converted into flowers. Same when you kill a bunch of dudes at once in Arrange mode, I think, or when you pick up a powerup, possibly of a certain type; though in that last case it's just bullets in your immediate vicinity that turn into flowers. Collect flowers for points, of course!
 
  paleface 05:12:16 03/07/06
           
Download added: trains.gif (137907 bytes)
  "Every game should have a train level, especially one with three gigantic trains at once."
 
Ooh, also Raizing style is how you get bomb power gradually from little powerups left on the ground by dead enemies. You can fire off a bomb even with less than a full bomb stock, but it's weaker.
 
And there's the odd "Rank" system, where the better you do (without dying) the harder the game gets--lots more bullets, and powerups drop offscreen way faster. In Ibara, in fact, it sometimes pays to die. I also like how the game encourages you to use bombs, unlike most shooters where you feel stupid for bombing.
    
downloads:
· arrange.gif
· arrange.mpg
· bomb.gif
· boss.gif
· debris.gif
· stage3_trains.mpg
· trains.gif
 
references:
· Ibara (PCB)
· Mushihimesama (PS2)

 
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