Cambria Sword: Your shmupper’s catch of the day

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The first step to becoming a true hipster is to lay claim to something obscure and bizarre long before it’s cool. Unfortunately, I’ve already called dibs on Cambria Sword – a recent Japanese shmup about prehistoric arthropods dragged into an intergalactic war – so you’ll have to find your own… but it’s worth a recommendation anyway.

Heavily inspired by Genesis/Megadrive game Bio Hazard Battle, CS is a slower-paced, more technical shmup, with a focus on long, involved boss fights and careful use of a vast, complex arsenal. While visually retro, the soundtrack is live garage prog-metal befitting the high-concept stoner sci-fi setting.

Cambria Sword is also enormous by genre standards. While your average arcade shmup is 20-30 minutes long, a complete playthrough of this clocks in at 3+ hours. A gruelling, marathon feat made possible for mere mortal bullet-dodgers via the option to begin repeat playthroughs from later in the game.

There’s a lengthy demo so you can sample the seafood before buying the platter, or buy the full game (¥1620/£11.30/$14.75) via DLSite English, a reputable English-language storefront for Japanese indies. The game itself is translated, and comes bundled with the full soundtrack plus (untranslated) strategy and making-of guides.

RPS was out of office. We asked our friends to write short posts like the one above on subjects of their choosing. This was one of them but the CMS failed to push it live when scheduled. Read them all here.

15 Comments

  1. Dominic Tarason says:

    Just a heads-up that I linked to the DLSite All-Ages English site, which is as family-friendly as any anime-laden site is likely to be.

    Anyone familiar with the Japanese indie scene will know that outside of that particular protective circle, Thar Be Dragons. And they’re probably nekkid, too.

    The demo is on the store page, by the by.

  2. kalirion says:

    Well, I’m staying away from this one since it will give me nightmares. I’d prefer cthulhu-esque horrors…

  3. Dominic Tarason says:

    Oh yeah, didn’t have space in the article itself, but the game is bizarrely educational. Every single enemy and creature in the game (outside of a handful of purely mechanical ones) is based on a real-life fossil record, with a listed name in the guide.

    I’m sure that they probably weren’t able to transform, mutate and fire lasers from their innumerable eyes, but they were pretty weird looking critters. Especially the one you play as – a little rectangular bug thing that swam upside down with little flappy plate-like legs.

    • KDR_11k says:

      Huh, I thought the player character was just a stylized horseshoe crab (which swim upside down like that too)…

      • Dominic Tarason says:

        Sarotrocercus Oblita, apparently. Only a centimetre or two in length in real life. Also, not capable of spaceflight.

        The game plays is really fast and loose with scale.

  4. Daymare says:

    Subtitles game “Life of Wonder”

    Proceeds to murder every single lifeform it encounters

    Anyway, I was hoping for some Anomalocaris and Opabinia. Spotted the first one around 0:30 I think, but sadly couldn’t find the second one.

    • Dominic Tarason says:

      Anomalocaris is the main villain of the game, in fact! According to the strategy guide… Opabinia Regalis is a mid-boss in the True Final Level, which is a hell of a job to get to, but your reward is the game going full Prog Rock for nearly half an hour solid.

  5. KDR_11k says:

    That looks far too comprehensible. Try some Hellsinker!

    • Dominic Tarason says:

      Been there, done that, played it before the translation and then got the ultra rare official one-time-only English release off Groupees a few years back.

      The bullet sealing mechanic is pretty neat, I’ll admit.

  6. Dominic Tarason says:

    So, a few pointers on the game itself:

    Expect to die. It’s less fair than most shmups and it knows it. Some of the tougher bosses spit out up to three extra lives on death. It’s a bit more freewheeling than many shmups.

    Weapons are VERY situational. Some may seem rubbish until you find just the right time and place for it. Your secondary weapon also changes what kind of smartbomb you have.

    Sometimes you’re just going to be poorly equipped for a boss fight. Stall, focus on dodging and learning its patterns. Many mid-bosses will eventually time out and leave, and major bosses will give you regular weapon drops in case you need to switch up.

    Don’t feel bad about using the option to start on a later level. Checkpoints start unlocking after stage 3, I believe. Only downside is a reduced chance to reach the True Final Level.

    It’s a weird game that doesn’t quite play like anything else. For a bit more info (including a level select, and how to get to the two secret levels (6+ and 10), the dev has a handy english page with more info:
    link to www2.tba.t-com.ne.jp

  7. oyog says:

    I barely got through Gradius III with constant save state cheating so I doubt I’ll get anywhere with this game but I don’t care. This is so fuckin’ inspired I’ll have to buy it some time soon.

    • Dominic Tarason says:

      No shame in cheating your way through a shmup if you’re just learning it. I admit that to see Stage 10 the first time, I used Cheat Engine to give myself unlimited lives and bombs. Still felt good when I managed to take down a major boss without a net negative in lives.

      Also, there’s a level select that lets you warp to any previously completed stage. See the dev’s english tips page linked just above.

    • KDR_11k says:

      Gradius 3 arcade? That game’s a notorious POS in terms of difficulty balance.

  8. racccoon says:

    Are we going backwards lol