This time let’s take a look at the innovative Danmaku game, Murasaki, developed by Katatema and published by AGM Playism.
Danmakus, or shoot ’em up games, are no stranger to the Doujin scene. These types of games are perhaps the most popular type of Doujin game you’ll find, in addition to platformers and visual novels. Murasaki, however, is a unique type of shooter, in that it’s a single screen experience. One can imagine the game as a combination of Break Out and Touhou, with a bit of light puzzle gameplay mixed in. Interestingly enough, the very first Touhou game, Highly Responsive to Prayers, is a Break Out type game.
The game consists of five stages, each with a single screen which rapidly fills with enemies and bullets. The bullets can be dodged, but eventually must be destroyed before they overtake the entire screen, which happens rather quickly if you let it. The enemies spawn across the map and release unique bullet patterns. Some will even travel around the screen and leave a trail of bullets behind them. In a matter of a few seconds, the screen can become utter chaos, however, there are several tactics given to the player to help mitigate some of the danger.
The players can shoot their own bullets at the oncoming barrage, however, they can only shoot one bullet at a time. This restriction causes the player to be more strategic with their shots. Seasoned bullet hell players may be used to holding down the fire button, and watching an endless stream of bullets destroy everything on the screen. Murasaki takes this convention and twists it a bit. The shot fired will also come back toward the player after it bounces off the top of the screen. This feature creates a dynamic situation, where you can put yourself at the very top of the screen and try to bounce a shot off the wall, striking something behind you.
Blue spheres and red blocks will spawn on screen. If you knock two objects of the same color into each other, it will create a large explosion, taking out bullets with it. Creating explosions is the key to success in Murasaki. The bullets, which can only be fired one at a time, are not effective enough to combat the torrent of projectiles that are constantly drifting toward you from multiple angles. There’s a competent physics engine at play, and the projectiles will move according to which angle you strike it. This makes the game even more strategic, as you maneuver through a curtain of bullets, trying to hit a red block at the right angle to cause a chain reaction of explosions.
Causing these explosions are also the best way to defeat the bosses. The bosses, and the stages mid level bosses, all unleash unique bullet hell patterns. In order to defeat them, their bullets must be caught in the explosions, which causes them to turn into small projectiles that damage the boss. You can also shoot the bosses directly with your bullets, but the damage doesn’t make this an effective strategy. By limiting the number of bullets the player can shoot, and by creating an indirect way of attacking enemies, Murasaki becomes a very methodical and strategic shooter not very often experienced. There are two different characters to choose from as well.
Kairi and Satsuki are the playable characters and both require different strategies to utilize effectively. Kairi is recommended by the selection screen for beginners. Kairi’s shot travels across the whole screen, giving you the chances to ricochet the bullet even when you’re sitting at the very bottom. His movement is slow, but his range more than makes up for it. Satsuki is a much harder character to master. She’s fast, but her bullet is very short ranged. Both characters have special attacks that must be charged for a short time before being used. Accurate to their skill sets, Kairi’s special is devastating and fills the whole screen. Satsuki’s special requires careful timing as it’s prone to miss if uses at the wrong time or area of the screen.
Playing as Satsuki is almost a whole new experience, despite that her skill set is only slightly tweaked. Even though the game is made up of only five levels, the entire game is engineered for multiple play throughs. The story is actually kept in the background for this specific reason.
Story nodes are unlocked in the collection menu As you progress through the game. After unlocking a node, you can select it to read a section of the story. Some of the notes deepen the lore of the world, while others give character and boss specific information. Aside from the main gameplay, Murasaki is mostly about collectibles. Playing the stages over and over again will unlock more of the story. Each boss also has two special, harder attack patterns. These can only be experienced after collecting a special orb that appears at certain times during the fight. Beating this pattern will unlock another node on the collection screen.
Usually, players play shoot ’em ups over and over again to try to clear it without using any credits. Murasaki takes this mentality and integrates it into the core of the game. Some of the boss fights and quick dialogues are very interesting. The fights make you want to find out more of the world’s story. Overall, Murasaki is a unique shoot ’em up experience. It takes all the usual bullet hell conventions and twists them just enough to create something original. You can grab it here for $4.99, or find it on Steam.