Left, right, center, left, shoot, left. Memorization is paramount in bullet hell shooters, but that will only get you so far in Aa Mujou Setsuna. Arika’s tiny, but brilliant DSiWare game has a random wave mode that dishes out unpredictable patterns of squids, tadpoles, and barracudas.
While enemy ships are named after marine life, none of them resemble sea creatures. You just blast through generic looking 3D mecha. Arika didn’t put a lot of effort into Aa Mujou Setsuna’s presentation, but it’s something I can overlook since random mode is fantastic. I like how Aa Mujou Setsuna forced me to react to an onslaught of bullets rather than remember where they come from.
Aa Mujou Setsuna also has an interesting risk/reward relationship. See the red bar? It acts as your bomb and shield meter. When you get hit you automatically fire an explosion that changes all of the bombs into point cubes. Each blast depletes the meter a third. If you’re in the red and get hit, you’re toast. The meter recharges over time, but it refills faster if you collect cubes.
Alternatively, you can manually launch a bomb by pressing Y or A. Why would you want to do that? Time it right you can turn a ton of bullets into precious point cubes. However, if you keep triggering bombs your ship will be in the dangerous red zone, which means one hit and it’s over. Expert players can evade shots and avoid destroying enemies to fill the screen bullets, while novice players can shoot everything in sight (essentially minimizing on screen shots) and rely on the ship’s shield. It’s a well balanced system.
Aa Mujou Setsuna even makes the bullet hell genre a bit more approachable since death isn’t as common. Your ship can sort of “fly” through bullets. At first I thought it was a glitch, but it’s not. Your ship just has a really, really small hitbox. You can actually graze those dotted line bullets without taking damage. You’re pretty much fine unless you get hit dead on by a large shot or an enemy ship crashes into you.
Since Aa Mujou Setsuna is short and it isn’t as difficult as other bullet hell games you can “blow through” it in ten minutes. However, Aa Mujou Setsuna, like all shooters, are about improving your score. Arika and Nintendo set up online leaderbords so you can see where you stand. Skilled players also have the honor of uploading replay movies, which, in a way, teach players how to beat their score. Aa Mujou Setsuna automatically records your runs too for review purposes or just in case you make it in the top ten.
Nintendo hasn’t announced any plans to bring Aa Mujou Setsuna outside of Japan, but all of the game’s menus are in English. All they have to do is change a little bit of text that explains what “game” and “key config” do and Aa Mujou Setsuna will be ready for the West. It’s an easy conversion so keep your fingers crossed shooter fans…