Rantro Game Crunch – Shuten

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We’ve now made it to the end of the Retro Game Crunch collection with this final game Shuten, which is a samurai themed vertical scrolling shoot em up. You have to protect the village from a horde of encroaching demonic forces and all you have is your trusty samurai sword and the ability to steal an attack power from regular foes. Fortunately the demonic forces never seem to advance after they kill you. Which they do. A lot.

One of things I have come to realise while playing through this collection is how much I dislike having a single hitpoint. Dying the first time an enemy touches me is not fun, it is just punishing. It takes me back to the last checkpoint and then I am in a worse position than before because I don’t even have my stolen attack power. I don’t think I have really enjoyed any game in this collection where the hero only had a single hitpoint.

You can fix the hitpoint problem in Shuten, you earn gold and buy upgrades in the village, but those upgrades cost you a lot, the first permanent health upgrade costs 1200, with a temporary version that only costs 120. On the early levels I would be lucky to break even on that 120 gold item, and even the weapon upgrades start at 400 with, of course, all costs rapidly escalating as you increase upgrade tiers meaning that even as enemies drop more cash you end up behind the gold curve.

I blatantly cheated and hacked my way around the burdensome gold requirements and after doing that I could enjoy the game for what it was but my spirit was broken. Once you have to cheat your way around a basic problem it feels pretty pointless to keep going as after all I could cheat my way around any future challenge either.

Overall this collection contained more hits than misses for me, but it was interesting to see a small team tackle a number of genres in a pretty limited time scale. I will have to keep an eye on what they put out in the future.

3 comments

  1. You know, this is the kinda game up my alleyway, despite the issues with it.

    Now I’m wondering how best one could fix the early game issues though, since once you got a few health ups you seemed to be having a lot more fun. I get the point of barring them behind cash is to encourage grinding levels and thus expanding the playtime of an otherwise easy game but the combination of low move speed and a single hit point is pretty brutal for the early levels.

    Would starting out with at least one hit point work? Maybe a shield drop? Would increasing maneuverability so you can actually avoid those early game hits be better? I’m not really sure. Maybe even lowering the cost of the first health upgrade to what you can reasonably get in your first run of the first level would be enough?

    It’s probably something that could be figured with some play-testing, but that requires time and resources the dev might not have had.

    1. I wonder if starting with 2 HP and maybe having enemies occasionally drop healing items would work. It would make things easier sure but I definitely think I would enjoy it more.

      1. Yeah, dropping health/shield pickup and two hits does sound like the best way, at least right now. You’ve got room to make at least one mistake, and if you can avoid making mistakes after that for long enough you get your buffer back. That way it’s at least feasible that a fresh player can get through the stage on their first go, since there seem to be a lot of gotcha moments where enemies rapidly appear on some side of the screen.

        Which while I suppose traditional to the genre is not necessarily fun and can feel like the developer is basically punting you back to the start for not having played the level enough to memorize the enemy patterns.

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