Doujin On Steam: Battle Crust

Let’s take a look at Battle Crust, a Doujin game available on Steam developed by Picorinne Soft.

Battle Crust’s trailer premiered last year at Comiket 89. Comiket is a twice yearly convention dedicated to Doujin creators. Aside from Doujin soft, one can find indie manga, anime, music and all types of merchandise at these conventions. It takes place once in August and once in December. The convention usually lasts between two or three days, and is held at the Tokyo International Exhibition Center. However, the venue usually refereed to by it’s unofficial nick name: Tokyo Big Site. Before each convention, a compilation trailer is released showing all the new games that will be available at the convention. The majority of Doujin games are premiered at these events. Doujin circle Edelweiss, makers of Astebreed, upload these trailers on their Youtube account for the rest of the world to see.

This is the preferred way of distributing Doujin games. The creators like to focus on face to face interaction to sell their products. This plays into the hobbyist mentality of the genre. It’s games made for other gamers out of love, rather than trying to turn it into a career or make a profit. For someone who doesn’t live in Japan, or have the disposable income to go there twice a year, it’s hard to play these games. Even if said gamers get a hold of these games, the language barrier is also a problem. Luckily for us foreigners, some of these games make it to Steam fully translated, and give us a small sample of what the Doujin scene has to offer.

picorinne soft logo battle crust

This brings us to Picorinne Soft, the circle behind Battle Crust, a retro arcade shooter. This is the circle’s latest effort, their previous game being Infinos, a Gradius type scrolling shooter in the same vein. For the curious, Infinos is available for free on Playism website. Both games feature highly polished graphics mimicking old school arcade shooters. Picorinne Soft has stated, in regards to Infinos, “The game is meant to bring about a sense of nostalgia, and if anyone who frequented arcades in the 80s is reminded of those games by playing this one, that’d really make my day.” The developer has met that expectation perfectly with Battle Crust, in my opinion. The game is also compatible with arcade controllers such as the PlayStation 4’s Mad Catz Fightstick Alpha. I highly suggest playing the game with an arcade stick for an authentic feel.

If you’re familiar with most Doujin shoot ’em up games, it wouldn’t be too crazy to assume that Battle Crust is a bullet hell similar to Touhou. Bullet hells are a staple of Doujin games. They encourage dodging intricate patterns of bullets, rather than being a powerhouse mowing down everything in your way. However, Battle Crust, as we mentioned before, is old school and not a bullet hell in a strict sense. It’s a shoot ’em up in its purest form. The screen scrolls up, and it’s your responsibility to destroy any threats before they take you down. The first level can be managed by dodging the bullets, but as the game progresses, it won’t be a viable option. The corridors in the later levels become too narrow, and the enemy population too dense, making dodging alone very difficult. There are some unique powers the game gives you to make the chaos more manageable.

The game’s ship’s main weapons are it’s guns, which can be upgraded by destroying certain enemies. Essentially, there are two upgrades. The first item will give the ship it’s charge gun, and the second upgrade is color coded and each color functions differently. An orange upgrade, for example, will give the ship more powerful blasters, and a green one will give the ship’s bullets homing capabilities. The charged gun in the main power up and it drives the gameplay.

Battle Crust Screen1

Battle Crust uses a ‘charge system.’ Before you start, the game asks you to choose one of three charge systems: Normal, Blast and Mega. Normal shoots a large fireball when used, Blast charges hits the enemy several times in a row, and damages any other ships in the radius, and Mega’s fireball is the most powerful and shoots two other smaller bullets to the side of the ship as well. The drawback of the Mega charge system is that it’s recoil sends the ship back a few pixels. This could be risky if there’s enemies coming up behind you, which happens a lot. Additionally, the charged shot can be held in front of the ship for as long as you hold the button down. The ball of energy can adsorb enemy fire and deal damage to said enemies. Being able to master this technique is essential to playing the game. In tight corridors, it’s possible to bottleneck the bullets and adsorb them while damage the enemies at the same time. This gives you a few more options to manage its difficulty, aside from just spamming bullets. Aside from the well laid out levels, there are the bosses, the highlight of many old school shooters.

The bosses range from giant robots to machines with many different components to destroy before they fall. The bosses also display battle damage, changing appearance based on how much damage it takes. A pretty impressive amount of effort went into designing the ascetics of the game. Not only are the graphics appealing to the eye, they are faithful to the 80s arcade graphics they are trying to recreate.

Battle Crust screen4

Battle Crust’s music is composed by Hyakutaro Tsukumo, a video game music composer who worked at Tecno Soft. Tecno Soft is known for the shooter series, Thunder Force. Tsukumo has also worked on arranged versions of Touhou songs, giving him an impressive retro game and Doujin pedigree. The music, needless to say, fits the rest of the game as a frantic, high energy burst of retro arcade goodness. The music keeps you pumped and focused as you navigate the levels, trying not to get blown up.

A player can learn a lot about Doujin games by playing Battle Crust. It evokes a retro era of video games and is pretty difficult. It’s attention to detail also speaks of a love and a knowledge of shooter games. Battle Crust belongs in an 1980s arcade cabinet, and I mean that in the best way possible. I feel it is also a prefect introduction to the shooter genre itself, if you’ve never really played any. There will always be Gradius, Ikaruga, R-Type, and Raiden, but Battle Crust is a worthy tribute to those games, and a wonderful game on its own.

Battle Crust is available on Steam for $7.99, and is worth it. If you play Battle Crust and love it, you will be happy to know there’s a whole world of like games – doujin and mainstream – out there.

As an interesting side note, Picorinne Soft is also working on a Pokemon tribute game called, Disc Creatures:

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