M-KAI started its game development life on MSX with RPG Izumic Ballade, before moving on to the shoot-em-up arena with Kanzen Kouryaku Kyokugen and Happy heart. The distinctive design hallmarks of these early works – leaning towards lighthearted, unobtrusive fun – remain present throughout his commitment to the genre.
Qute Corporation released the Wonderwitch in 2000, a Japanese-only game development device by Bandai WonderSwan Hand. To encourage sales, a software coding contest was held with a cash prize of 500,000 yen and the promise of a commercially published game. By M-KAI Judgment Silversword – vertical scrolling shooter – won the crown, thus starting a long-term partnership with Qute to produce his future games.
Understand Eschatos‘legacy means examining Judgment Silversword and its sister title, Cardinal Sins. Standing tall as the bonus addition on the open selection screen of this Switch release (as they did in the Japan-only Xbox 360 release back in 2011), they are absolutely brilliant, to the point that, to the right parties, they could justifiably command all their own release. Moving at breakneck speed, they constantly evolve with music and movement, enemy formations and falling life; are held together by a series of simple weapons and dazzling explosions. Cardinal Sins introduces rapid-fire rounds based on the Seven Deadly Sins, implementing different rules and playstyles for each round. For example, Sloth continuously fires extra lives, but one shot is out of place and the symbol is easily destroyed; while Gluttony is geared towards hovering over shiny yellow dot symbols from transformed enemies.
Eschatos took the blueprints of these WonderSwan items and turned it into a taller device. It takes the same design principles, the same neat, uninterrupted set of ideas and brings them to fruition. A direct descendant of M-KAI’s WonderSwan projects – and for the interested historian of his MSX work – it retains the background of rampant, unfettered action, while running move the document into the 3D field.
Structurally, everything still works on the 2D plane, but Eschatos cleverly uses 3D to enhance its dynamic range. This is achieved by using the camera in ways not many shoot-em-ups ever have, moving around your ship to create unique perspectives, scanning routes into new terrain and Cinematic return imposes giant enemies that launch lasers at a miniature craft. Honestly, it’s risky to toy with the genre in such a way. It can – as seen in titles like Silpheed or Nanostray – impedes spatial accuracy and positioning at critical touch points; yet Eschatos pulled it out with extraordinary composure. Rather than being confusing or limiting, camera movements create a sense of increased depth in a moving game like a gust of wind. That said, it’s not an exact science: odd angles can be confusing at times, forcing you to quickly adjust to avoid being detected by lasers or landscape collisions – but overall , it works much better than usual.
M-KAI states that he doesn’t like the increasingly complex scoring systems that plague modern shmups. As a result, Eschatos focuses less on scoring and more on raw intensity. Despite this energy, it maintains the same ease of entry for newcomers as its WonderSwan predecessors. Short 30 minutes long, it positions itself as a roller coaster ride: a flurry of events that spiral, endlessly morphing into predetermined stages, but instead just a race. long, explosive upswing against the onslaught of minibosses and giant mothers. As it travels from land, through the clouds, and into space, it achieves an awe-inspiring journey feeling on par with Taito’s Layered Part.
The faster you maneuver the enemy squad, the higher your score will be and the easier it will be for the daredevils on the leaderboards to work towards it. Extra lives are regularly reduced to keep you motivated and your ship commands straight, wide fire and shields that can be deployed at will. Not Bullet Hell or traditional shooters, but instead landing somewhere in the middle, at the core of Eschatos is how simple it is to pick and play. You don’t have to worry about power-ups and moving between firing types to negotiate invasive enemies and missiles is all the strategy you need. When incoming bullets get too dense, your shield – which can absorb large amounts of fire before needing time to regenerate – allows you to comfortably push through; while frequent item drops can be tactically pinged to clear screen ammo and popcorn enemies.
Your alien enemies walking mid-1950s, B-movie-style flying saucers and typical Japanese tech weapons. It makes for an unusual aesthetic; colorful and cartoonish, but has a light feel that matches the action perfectly. You become so comfortable with colorful spheres, spheres, ovals and reckless use of purple, that its graphic features become quite mesmerizing.
Commit to the game long enough and it will continue to work smoothly, make sure you need to really play it and improve before you can see the whole thing. Once you’ve managed that, you’ll unlock optional screen bonuses that include tweaks to game parameters, backgrounds, and other small bonuses.
In particular, the exemplary scores of Yousuke Yasui, who also worked on Dreamcast’s Under failure. His upbeat, long soundtrack blends perfectly with the tempo and flow of the game; An inspiring, catch-up buzz captures the old-school feel with a desirable synthesis system and engaging arcade levels.
Eschatos is the culmination of everything M-KAI (and longtime collaborator Mach) strive to achieve with the medium of film. It offers purity in a genre that often mixes itself with complicated frills. At first, it seems relentless, demanding and almost out of control, attacking you with ever-changing enemy formations, lasers, and hail of bullets; cleverly disguises the fact that it’s an exercise in design harmony that doesn’t require an education to get it. It’s still basically an ’80s Famicom game, just revamped in such a way that you’ve never played anything quite like it. And, when you’re in the middle of its swoon and it seems like it’s never going to give up, when it’s finally over it seems all too soon.
For all the virtues of simplicity, shooting alongside such an exciting, action-packed spectacle, many consider it the best shooter of recent decades – but that’s not entirely fair. when distinguishing it. Great, sure, but there’s still a level of detail and depth in titles like G-Darius HD or Ketsui Deathtiny keep their own under completely different terms. While its unique, fat-free, thrilling game experience is like a few others, there are some who still enjoy chewing a little more.
That said, with three titles on equal footing and the all-new Eschatos ‘Advanced’ mode that blows things up a notch with buffs and speed drops, You can experience for yourself what is essentially a revival victory for a genre that has been perilously eliminated.