|Take a block-breaking ball-and-paddle game, such as Arkanoid (see entry 748), give it a lush art style and characters in the style of Psikyo's Gunbird 2 (see entry 110) and Dragon Blaze (see entry 793), replace the paddle with two pinball flippers mounted on the front of some sort of flying steed ridden by an anime character, throw pinball bumpers, ball teleporters, block switches, lots of powerups, and boss battles across a good number of stages, and you've come close to the basics covered by Psikyo's Gunbarich.|
Powerups, such as a x3 point value powerup, make high scores rely on a good deal of luck, but there's certainly some skill involved in being able to take out all the blocks with a good time bonus, and not losing the main ball when confronted by a profusion of multiballs, cascading powerups, and enemy balls that create paralyzing electrical fields. You can put a surprising amount of "English" on balls you hit upscreen--too much, sometimes, as certain powerups will give you so much curve control on the ball that if you aren't careful, you can curve it right off the bottom of the screen. Oh, and twitch reflexes are useful here, too.
The first stages arrive, I think, in semi-random order, and escalating difficulty, as is often the case in Psikyo's vertical shooters, including the two named above. Each consists, as far as I've seen, of two block-breaking puzzle levels followed by a boss level in which you pummel a large, highly animated pre-rendered boss sprite with balls, while he (or she) showers paralyzing explosive balls down at you.
That may sound weird--and it is--but the game is really a 2D carnival of the senses, with gorgeous color depth in the candyland backgrounds, and an incredible amount of slowdown-free sprite animation cavorting across the screen. It takes practice to get used to so much going on at once, and in the early going most of my deaths (loss of the ball off the bottom of the screen) come from losing track of what's going on amid all the mayhem, particularly when a darn teleporter swallows the ball, then spits it back out somewhere else. Dang!
Anyway, it's a pretty rad game. I like block-breaking games, pinball games, rich 2D graphics, and silly bright anime sprites, and this game has them all in spades. There's even (I hear) a weapon powerup making it briefly (OMG) like a non-scrolling vertical shooter. Suh-weet.