Co-Op International: Bullet Soul
A Japanese shmup with lots of soul (and bullets)
Welcome to the second edition of Co-Op International. Here I discuss co-op games that have not been released in the US. This will include current gen games as well as classics. We hope you’ll enjoy learning more about Japanese games – please let us know in the comments section!
Shoot-em-ups lend themselves well to co-op play. Why take on a huge armada of alien ships all by your lonesome when you can bring a friend along? Bullet Soul is a Japanese shoot-em up for Xbox 360 that supports 2 player local co-op. Unlike last month’s featured import game Onechanbara Z: Kagura, this one is region free and even available cheaply through Games on Demand, making it a prime target for import fans.
Most modern shmups come from CAVE, makers of the Dodonpachi series as well as Akai Katana. This one, however, was developed by a scrappy little team at Tachyon Inc. and published by 5pb. That said, unless you’re a huge genre fanatic, you’d be hard-pressed to find a difference in quality between Bullet Soul and CAVE games. Actually, the fully-polygonal graphics most closely resemble Treasure’s Ikaruga – not exactly pushing the hardware, but still pleasing to the eye. But there are still kajillions of bullets to dodge, so bullet hell fans will be right at home.
Every shooter needs a gimmick of some sort. Bullet Soul’s claim to fame is that when an enemy dies, any shots it fired beforehand turn into harmless grey puffs. Thus by killing bad guys quickly, you can clear the screen of incoming fire. It’s a simple system that makes Bullet Soul less frustratingly hard than most games of this type. Of course, bosses pack the screen with hundreds of bullets, and those only disappear whenever you knock a piece of the boss out. It’s still tough, but not ludicrously so - high praise for a modern shoot-em-up.
Bullet Soul also has a fairly-well developed ranking system. Whenever you beat one of its five stages, you’re awarded a bronze, gold, or platinum medal based on your performance. To get those platinums (and their accompanying Achievements), you’ll need to discover a high number of the stage’s hidden bonuses. These come from destroying certain objects and defeating enemies and bosses in specific ways. As a non-expert shmup player, I didn’t expect to ever see a single platinum. But I managed to score two on my own and another by following a guide, which surprised and pleased me to no end.