Saturday, March 10, 2012

200 1CCed shmups!

Time for a brief celebration on 200 blog entries for shmups I 1CCed on video game consoles. From the last hundred 88 of them were brand new 1CCs, whereas in 12 I just went for a new high score in previously 1CCed games.

A few current blog stats on the milestone reached -

Shmup distribution by platform:

Shmup distribution by sub-genre:

Vertical shooters are closing in, there were far less compared to horis the last time I checked the numbers...

Top 5 hardest 1CCs, in no particular order:
Top 5 easiest 1CCs, in no particular order:
I don't have anything new to show you people, so I wrote something as a response to suggestions given by a few blog comments. These are just general, silly observations and thoughts based on my gaming routine at the moment. Feel free to comment on them and also to share yours. :)


Choosing the game
The amount of shmups available everywhere includes stuff for all tastes and skill levels. Sometimes a review or an honest opinion will tell if said game is more suited to one's liking, but I always thought it was best to try it out for myself regardless.

Establish goals
Whether it's a single level, a 1CC or a 1CC + a minimum acceptable score, goals should be defined prior to each campaign or gaming session. It helps to keep things under focus and tends to give a better sense of accomplishment. At times I play just to get better against a boss or to perfect that section that's giving me trouble.

How long to achieve the goals?
How long should someone expect to play before reaching the abovementioned goals? In my opinion the answer is closely related to time available, dedication and focus. Therefore it varies, so we should never feel under pressure to do it within a given time frame. Of course this doesn't apply to contests and such.

Gaming cycle
There are three steps/phases I always envision when I start to play a new shmup.

The first phase is game recognition: play a few credits with no other objective in mind than to grasp the basics about controls, gameplay and scoring. Some games take 5 minutes, the most complicated ones might take a couple of hours.

The second phase is the learning ladder: I play at my own pace to learn the game, how to beat bosses, how to preserve/gain lives and how to perform both safely and risky (if I'm going for a higher score). At this moment it's pretty common to establish how far I want to shoot scorewise because risk thresholds arise naturally. I believe these thresholds are different for each person, and pushing them is both the primary source of one's improvement as well as the main cause of frustration when shmupping. Beware of early burnouts.

The last phase is the final showdown. Every credit is aimed towards the definitive goal. As such, focus is the most important aspect of all. It's important to avoid distractions - I've already failed in mighty runs because I had to answer the phone, scratch my back, address someone or even take a dump. During this phase failure is a constant companion. However, even if I spend one hour in utter failure I'll consider the session successful if I manage to improve at least a bit in a certain positioning strategy, in one of the tightest bullet patterns or in a new way to amass a few more points. There's always room for improvement, and practice always leads to better performances. Nevertheless walls should be treated with respect. Beware of full throttle burnouts.

--- Common quirks ---
1. Practicing
Before emulation was born practicing and beating games used to take longer. These days you can always fire up MAME or an emulator in order to practice hard games by sections, thus saving some precious time in the whole process. There are people who are against this, but I think it's a perfectly fine resource. Credit feeding for practice is just as useful.

2. Walls
As much as I'd like to be able to crush every game I play, sometimes I just can't do it. In these cases you can search for help in superplays, exclusive hints, strategy threads in forums, etc. There's absolutely nothing wrong with that. I watched superplays to beat Radirgy, Prehistoric Isle in 1930, Layer Section and Gradius II. If it still doesn't cut it just step away for a while. Come back later with a cooler approach and better skills. This happened to me with Shienryu, Giga Wing and Air Buster. And I've yet to have second rounds with DoDonPachi and Judgement Silversword.

3. Burnouts
As you all know, it happens when walls are not respected and the player incurs in anger, (excessive) swearing and an irredeemable sense of failure, which leads to gaming feeling like work. A few times I came close to it, but I was smart enough to step back and let the game rest for a while (Robo Aleste and Strikers 1945 II).

4. Boredom
Is the game a little boring? It’s hard to tell if it’s temporary or if the game just hasn’t clicked yet, or if I’m just too tired to concentrate. So I choose two or more different games and try to play them all at once. Sometimes they even help each other in their appreciation. Besides, tough games followed by easy ones help me keep my spirits high (if I’m too tired I choose something not too taxing – any XBLIG shmup is often a perfect fit). If it’s still boring go do something else completely different. Maybe shmups aren’t for you in the end, who knows?

5. Available time
Play when you feel like, never the contrary. I usually like to spend two or three credits after lunch with the toughest game I’m playing, usually a bullet hell. It facilitates digestion and keeps me sharp for an afternoon’s work. If I have time during the evening I’ll play other games for a longer period – bullet hells will only occupy the slot if I’m in their final showdown phase.

6. Easy or hard games?
I love them all, and I have absolutely nothing against easy shmups. Do they make me a better player? Probably not, but I will always be fond of game design in whatever form it appears. Trouble Shooter and Thunder Force III are incredibly easy, but this doesn’t mean they aren’t fun. It’s the magic that drives people who love video games, is it not?
What isn’t exactly healthy, especially for those who want to get better, is sticking to easy games only. Challenging ourselves is the only way to improve, and 1CCing a shmup (or any game for that matter) we thought was impossible for our skill level gives us one of the best sensations a person can have in any video game experience.

For high level discussions on the subject you can always go to this great thread at the shmups forums. I recommend paying close attention to the links in the first post. :)


  1. Congratulations on the milestone!

    You're right. Most of these are things a player will naturally learn during his life.

    Now I'm playing Touhou 06 on Hard(Already 1CCed on Normal), and Touhou 11 on Normal.
    Also, Kamidori. Yeah, I like RPGs too.
    But most of my time is being spent writing my stories here:
    (They're all in portuguese, if you have any interest.)

  2. This is a fantastic post, thanks! It was especially insightful to read about how you select which games to play.

    Could I possibly ask you to mention a few games with a good learning curve? There are a couple of shmups I've put a bit of time into, but I've noticed that it seems fairly common (especially among Cave games) to just crank up the difficulty dramatically, which can lead to frustration. For instance, stage 5 in Dodonpachi is a huge step up from stage 4 and the first few times you play it, you don't even know what hits you... (It's still a fantastic game, though.)

  3. Congratulations mate! I follow your every entry to discover obscure and awesome STGs. Keep up the hard work and hope you make it to 300!

  4. Very nice post to which I can harly add anything more informative.

    But as you mentioned improving your skills I will take this opportunity to ask you a question... You are a little older than me and I'd just like to know if still feel like improving your (general) shmupping skills or maybe at least certain aspects... Or maybe your reactions get a little slower on the other hand. Don't worry, absolutely no offense intended. ;)
    Between 2007 and now I simply made improvements I would never have dreamed about at the beginning. But meanwhile I feel like my skill level is stagnating or even decreasing a little bit. Either I'm getting old or it's just caused by less time / more work. Don't know what's better.

  5. @ Kinni Thanks! I've never played any Touhou! I'll take a look at your blog later. O assunto não é muito minha praia, mas prometo que lerei. :)

    @ NIck Tks, man! From all Cave games I think the most steady learning curves are in both Mushis and DDP Daifukkatsu. If you're into Psikyo you could also try Sengoku Ace and Strikers 1945.

    @ harlequ1n Obscure + awesome? I promise I'll break the streak of "meh" shmups of the last couple of months HEHEHE

    @ Battletoad I totally understand where you're coming from.
    Anyway, I believe the plateau you mention might be slightly related to how the games that used to challenge us aren't as challenging anymore, so we shift our focus to the toughest ones out there. I guess it feels natural to move on to harder stuff, but that comes with even more effort and dedication, and that's when available time + real life duties take their toll. On the other hand, games that used to give us trouble in the past are in the middle ground now and we certainly don't struggle that much to play/clear them.

    1. @Edward: Eu tenho vários tipos de histórias diferentes, então talvez você ache algo que goste. Ah, and about Touhou, I'm sure you like it when you try it someday.

  6. Wow! Thats some accomplishment!

    And thanks for the helpful hints to aspiring 1cc'ers :)

  7. I didn't realized this post! Congratulations for your 200 1CCed shmups, although I think you reached 205 in this time, I guess. So, in any mode, my late congratulations.

  8. Guess this is the perfect place to ask;

    Edward. I fear you may be moving ahead to fast with this shmup genre and thus run out of shmups to play? So I'm wondering if going for some of the extra help methods you mentioned are really worth it if they help lead to this issue faster? But then again, maybe this is a pace that keeps you going? Or what not. In which case, fine. Whatever works for is of course fine with me. I sure don't mind you having more articles for me to read through at a faster rate. :D

    But just putting this out as a possible warning in case you haven't thought of it? I know I watched some vids, and regreting some of the things that have been revealed to me. Especially if it's a fave game of mine that I want replay to last. So because I this I try to avoid vids. As least so far until I re-evaluate things again (nopt sure of the rules I'll settle with as I get better?). Well, cheers, and keep up the good work!


  9. Running out of shmups to play is something that's definitely not happening any time soon. I guess the pace at which I beat these games is a bit clouded by the games themselves, since most of them aren't that hard to beat - bear in mind I'm very fond of old school console games and regard them to be as valuable as the arcade novelty of the week.

    In the end you're right though, but to that I can add the fact that in the near future my wife and I plan to start having kids, so the 1CCing pace will DEFINITELY slow down. Heavily, I'm sure.

    As for vids, I think they're great as an aid to achieve a goal, so I agree with you partially. When I'm learning the game I try not to watch anything because I like the thrill of reaching new stages and seeing them firsthand for my own merit. However, if a particular section is giving me too much trouble I will surely try to overcome it by getting tips from strategy boards, fellow shmuppers and - why not - gameplay videos.

    Thanks for the comment!

  10. Thanks for the heads-up Ed. This blog post will do until you eventually get to your eagerly awaited Ultimate Manifesto. I've also 1 lifed Gradius 1 and 2. You were right, very easy. Gradius 3(SNES) is next but damn is Gradius Gaiden amazing. My bro and I played through the first 3 levels and it's definitely the best so far, feels so polished. As always looking forward to whatever else you write man.

  11. Thanks for the reply, Edward, as I thihk that answered everything and more. ie. wife? Kids?!! Never crossed my mind? Guess I better get on that track soon too. Ain't getting any younger. Hmm. Strange...

    Yeah, while I prefer Arcade gaming (even though I just started the genre & it still being very hard, lol), I really have to like an AC game for it to be easier to get into. But with console games not so much. I'm also one who seems able to enjoy both? Luckily, as on Shmups forum it doesn't seem to be this way? Hope it's not just because I'm not that good yet? You're good enough, so hopefully this is false? Cause I really enjoy my Genesis & now PCE shmups too + their unique one of a kind ports too, unlike nowadays of Arcade prefect ports only.

    Yeah, I too hate having things spoiled by game pics & vids before I get there too (any genre). On top of me also liking to figure things out on my own. Though I'd too probably crack at points where extra help is needed, as long as I've tried enough on my own to start, that is. Cause finally overcoming something on your own or really figuring out a neat trick is lots of fun. :)

    @Justin McKinley; hey, Gradius Gaiden is my fave console Gradius... right after the AC games. >_> Part III is my fave, followed by part IV & II tied in second place... not sure about 1 yet, still need to put some serious time into it? But! Gaiden was the one that finally broke the ice and turned me from a mad Gradius hater, and into my fave shmup series ever.