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Castle Shikigami 2

2006 is slowly drifting toward its inevitable end. What have we to show for it? We’ve got sky-high gasoline prices, conflicts in the Middle East, a new generation of video game consoles, Snakes on a Plane, and a relatively successful season for the Detroit Tigers. Wow, this year has been a pureed blend of pure awesome and utter lameness. Where are the highly developed AI and the molecular transporters? Isn’t there a cure for the common cold yet? And where is my flying car? What happened to the future we envisioned? Nothing’s changed. Our TVs, cell phones, computers, and other stuff is upgraded time and again, but there hasn’t been any truly revolutionary advancements in our way of living. We’re simply plodding around in our daily existence, armed with only the hope of better things to come.

But in Castle Shikigami 2, 2006 is going even worse. A giant floating castle has appeared over the skies of Tokyo, its demonic owners poised and ready to crush the city and send mankind into a new age of darkness. However, all is not lost. For some completely nonsensical reason, a handful of people have magical laser beam powers and the ability to fly, apparently giving them the right to cruise up to the evil castle and demolish it for the sake of humanity…At least, that’s what it says on the back of the box. Though game provides you with numerous dialogues among the seven selectable characters, the horrendous translation (and we’re talking about a Zero Wing level of awful) from the Japanese version will leave wondering what the hell is going on.

Once you’ve finished laughing at the utterly emotionless voice acting and butchered dialogue, you’ll find that Castle Shikigami 2 offers plenty of variety when it comes to its several heroes. As Kuga flies through Tokyo’s skyline, he can launch an entire row of energy spikes into his hapless foes. Should you give Hyuga or Kim De John a try, you’ll find that their double helix and crisscrossing triple-beam attacks can overwhelm even the toughest of foes. That’s not even mentioning the absurd amount of throwing stars, tarot cards, electrical charges, icy spears, watery ovals, and other absurd stuff that can be used to blow up the legions of robotic flunkies that get in your way. You’ll find that each character’s skills and overall power drastically differ from one another, allowing you to choose from a decent variety of combat styles.

But if all of that sounds a little too generic, the characters’ Shikigami attacks, which can be executed by holding down on the fire button for a few seconds before releasing. You’ll be treated to a strange (albeit incredibly deadly) array of moves, such as Niigi using her beloved kitty as a deflecting shield, Hyuga tossing out a giant three-pronged taser, Kuga’s heat-seeking dolphin, Kim dual-wielding a pair of huge energy sabers, Sayo’s spinning laser blade, and Roger’s Bubbles of Doom. On top of all that, each character can perform a ‘Bomb Attack’, which usually involves crazy stuff like using a scarf as makeshift spinning top, mini stinger missiles, and a gigantic electrical pinball. These nifty moves are just for show, either; they render your character invincible for a short amount of time, allowing you to get through areas where the entire screen is literally covered with enemy bullets. Considering that your character only gets a three-sectioned bar of health and the game’s hit detection is less than stellar, you’ll have plenty a reason to abuse all these special attacks accordingly.

The flashy attacks aren’t the only rewarding aspect, though. Once you’ve chosen a character and played through a few levels, you’ll unlock their corresponding features in the game’s gallery. You’ll get to see anime-eqsue renditions of all the characters, including spiky hair, disturbingly large eyes, and oversized breasts. The in-game characters aren’t quite so fancy, though; they’ll appear as tiny shapes surrounded by neon auras. If you pay close enough attention, you’ll notice little things like Hyuga holding onto his hat every time he floats around the screen, Niigi’s cat yowling just before it takes a missile for its owner, and the characters swearing in Japanese whenever they get hit. They’ll sail through vertical-scrolling levels filled with realistic skyscrapers, billboards, street signs, waterfalls, and plenty of other strange locales. But the best parts will always be the horrible dialogue, where the characters will spurt words of wisdom like “Crooked…castle? ” and “Still a little green. I’m only 17!” or “I’m a human being. I live, then I die.”

Ooh, scintillating.

As games like R-Type Final and Gradius V bask in the limelight of popularity, Castle Shikigami 2 is left out in the cold, an obscure shooting game with just enough personality to set it apart from the rest. You’ve got a botched story that tries to take itself seriously, a bunch of ragtag anime superheroes, a wide variety of attacks, special moves, and strategy, and plenty of challenging enemies to annihilate. Though the game lacks the kind of epic presentation that Ikaruga fans enjoy, the levels are still something worth looking at while you’re dodging unfriendly fire. Besides, there’s something about badly translated dialogue that makes the game all the more entertaining. In the immortal words of the first boss, “It’s Idiot Power!”

7 out of 10

The author of this fine article

is a Senior Staff Writer at Thunderbolt, having joined in February 2005.

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