It’s a fair bet that not many people will know the term Dojin. Translated from the Japanese term, it essentially refers to an individual or group who create (amongst other things) video games for their own pleasure. These titles cater towards a niche market and, as such, the opportunity to see the fruits of their labours normally requires a degree of dedication in order to hunt them down. Maybe sensing that there’s a growing appetite for this type of game, LA-based distributor Rockin` Android has collected and released one such example, Gundemonium Collection, for the PlayStation Network.
The Gundemonium Collection consists of three titles; Gundemonium Recollection, GundeadliGne and Hitogata Happa. Each title can be purchased individually, so those who want to dip their toes in without committing fully are catered for, but there is a compelling case to buy all three titles since they share the same continuum with a story set in an alternate 18th century. This backdrop, while not terribly expansive, provides a fair platform for the studio, Platine Dispositif, to populate the world with characters that have a lovely hand drawn look, married to a distinctly old-school vibe.
Both Recollection and GundeadliGne are horizontal shooters with a straight forward approach which anyone can grasp from the start. Like many games of this ilk, the basic system comprises of chaining together enemy kills to continually fill up a counter and earn extra points. It sounds simple, but lurking just beneath all this is a complex and intricate system which contains many layers. For instance, getting to grips with the intricacies of phase shifting, which determines how long a weapon takes to cool down, etc.
This rich scoring system would appear to make it very niche, and that would be a fair assumption, but these titles can be also be picked up and played by anyone with even the vaguest knowledge of shooting games. This is due to how familiar it feels and on looks alone some will instantly attribute it with a fondness borne out of Konami’s Parodius series. While that’s no bad thing, it’s where that particular comparison ends since this is far from the gentle ride which Konami’s beloved series was renowned for. Bullet hell is strictly on the agenda with these three titles and, even on the supposed `novice` settings, there’s a great deal of challenge being meted out. The characterisation might be cute, but this one’s got teeth for sure.
Hitogata Happa is the odd one out in that, unlike the rest of the collection, it’s a vertical shooter. The mechanic is also more unique as the player’s on-screen avatar comes equipped with a Mana bar and, depending on which doll you select, this will unleash an attack or slow down the relentless flow of bullets. In turn these actions will usually fill the Flow Charge meter which you can use it to suicide into enemies, causing massive damage. Slightly confusing at first, once the system starts to click, it makes perfect sense and the player will feel a sense of empowerment as the potency and efficiency of their attacks increase.
It’s easy to imagine that these titles would have just been released in their original form with no extras, but this isn’t the case here. Of course it includes online leaderboards which any good shmup needs, but it also features the ability to capture screenshots and save them to the XMB. The real gem comes in the form of being able to record and upload video replays to YouTube, making for a superb addition to the overall package. Uploading favourite one credit runs (or equally just sharing how utterly rubbish you are at the game) instantly engages the wider community and allows people to see how the game plays, possibly encouraging friends to dip their toe in and give it a try.
Above all, the feeling that permeates throughout is one of this being a worthwhile experiment in digital distribution. The games in this release are a bona-fide independent release, with NO compromise and for that reason alone there’s a lot to admire about Gundemonium Collection. With a reasonably cheap point of entry and, if willing to put in the time and practice, players will be rewarded with a very unique slice of DIY gaming which might have otherwise passed them by.