Castle of Shikigami is one of those games that we really wish we saw more of these days. It's a vertical "bullet hell" 2D shooter, which basically means there are more pink death blobs in the in-game sky than there are paparazzi hanging out at Britney Spears' neighborhood McDonald's. It's challenging, it's colorful, the controls are blessedly simple (no motion-waggling required), its dialogue is wonderfully campy and wacky.
It's deeper than you first imagine, with ten playable characters - not ships, characters, because these folks don't need machines; they just fly around on their own spitting fireballs and laser beams. Each has different shot patterns and special attacks, and you choose two at a time, swapping between them at will. Also, two players can play cooperatively, a cool feature every shooter should have. If this were a downloadable title on WiiWare, Xbox Live Arcade, or PlayStation Network, it's a safe bet that we'd be telling you to go fire up your console and start it downloading right now.
But that's actually the game's biggest problem. Never mind that the arcade original had a vertical screen, so your view will be marred by giant banners on either side of the action - if it's a real problem, you can rotate the view 90 degrees and play horizontally using the entire screen. No, the real rip here is that we couldn't help feeling the entire time we played it like this should have been a downloadable title instead of a $30 (at press time) full-package product. All three of the major consoles feature downloadable shooters both old and new, and they cost $10-$20 on average. At those prices, Castle of Shikigami would be a definite buy. As it is, only shooter die-hards will feel like they're getting their money's worth.
Jun 17, 2008