vulkanon.jpg ['Shmup Me Up, Buttercup' is a sporadically updated column by Jeremiah 'Nullsleep' Johnson, dealing with shoot-em-ups, or shmups, from Japan and the West, and covering the frantically cultish game genre that refuses to die, despite many bullets aimed in its direction over the years.]

Training Is Over

We've mentioned Takayama Fumihiko's excellent BulletGBA here before -- an absolutely indispensible bullet hell simulator for anyone wanting to hone their projectile dodging skills on the go.

Now he's followed up with another take on "Bullet Hell Shmups" for the GBA called Vulkanon. While BulletGBA was mostly a training aid for familiarizing oneself with different bullet patterns, Vulkanon builds upon the "Shooting" side challenges found there and delves further into mini-game territory.

Short, But Suicidally Sweet

bulletgba.jpg While the first release consists of what is basically just a single boss battle, it should provide enough of a challenge for all but the most hardcore danmaku dodging maniacs. It adopts an interesting approach in that all of the bullets fired by the boss are destroyable. However, upon being destroyed they spawn "suicide bullets" of 2 kinds -- so you'll have to consider when to dodge and when to shoot.

Your ship (once again represented here by the @ character with a miniscule hitbox) is equipped with 2 modes of fire. In addition to a normal forward shot you can use a screen-wiping laser which will clear all bullets, offering a momentary escape mechanism. Sweeping away large amounts of suicide bullets in this way will yield higher scores, so the timing is crucial since this weapon requires a recharge period.

Keep On Shooting

Unlike BulletGBA, Vulkanon is played in a more traditional horizontal orientation which makes the playfield seem a bit cramped, but also serves to heighten the manic feel of the gameplay. Nice to see Takayama moving forward with new ideas and continuing to pick up the slack for commercial developers by giving us more portable shooting love!

[Jeremiah Johnson is co-founder of chipmusic and computer-art collective, based out of New York City. Working with Game Boys and NES consoles to create music, he has been featured in various publications ranging from Wired to Vogue.]