This is just filler text, nothing to see here.
This isn't my first experience with Shikigami no Shiro (Castle of Shikigami). I have the Xbox version of Shiki Evolution lying around somewhere, but I could never comfortably get into it because I don't have an Xbox joystick. Let's get one thing straightened out right away: if you play shmups with an Xbox pad you will die. And your neighbors will mock you, and your girlfriend will ridicule your manhood. Get a joystick, live happy. That said, this game is very much like the first, as near as I can tell - you shoot things and avoid bullets, choose from a selection of player characters (In the old days they'd be ships not people) and you scratch bullets for maximum gains. Just like the first.
I want much to tell you about the rich and varied scoring system, and how scratching up close to (but not touching, duh) bullets increases your firepower and multiplier... or something. There's a multiplier in there, and it seems to max at eight. Umm... Scratching is good! I guess I could have left this paragraph out entirely, since it added basically fuckall to the review...
The graphics are very nice, if a little flat in places. There's gobs of levels and they may have stretched themselves thin a bit, some levels are definitely B-grade, where others are at least B+ or so. It's all very smooth, except where it's not. There's a fair amount of slowdown (* I've been told disabling 'wait mode' cures this), and I'm not talking about the Ikaruga slow boss-boom for effect either. Most every level slows down, especially when you die and all your coins spring out Sonic-style. This can sometimes make scratching an iffy proposition, as the lag will make you slam into things. This sounds worse than it actually is, and I don't think I've actually died from it yet, but beware.
The music is about par for a modern shooter. It's not as sedated as the recent Border Down, but it still fails to engage with its moderately uptempo beats. It could be said that the music in a shooter, like the backgrounds, should be flat and uninteresting to help you focus on the action at hand, but that would be a ludicrous lie. In Shiki 2's case the music is at least not offensive.
The characters are anime-inspired and largely typical for a modern Japanese game. The usual cast appears: sassy young chicks, historical throwbacks, effeminate or willowy young men, some carrying a guitar, but all looking very serious... I dunno, does this shit interest anyone anymore? All these characters in all these new games look the same. Again, they're not offensively unremarkable, and you can generally forget all about them after you've picked one and started the game. Each of the seven characters has a unique main weapon, and each has two subweapons, which you can only select before the game starts. The girl you see on the cover has a good-luck-cat shield as her alternate weapon (this cat is a free figure bonus in the GC version, see below). One mode has the cat charging when used, and then releasing a burst of directed bullets, the second has the cat absorbing bullets until released, when it unleashes as many bullets as it absorbed.
The game features two main modes, Regular + Extreme, and each can be played in Normal and Easy. There are two soundtracks, Shiki 2 Remix, and Original. My overall impressions of this game include phrases like technically competant and lacks soul which is how I've started describing most Japanese games lately. In Shiki 2's case what it boils down to is a game that's rock solid in both presentation and play but doesn't have anything amazingly remarkable to its credit. It doesn't suck, but it's nothing you'll find yourself changing your life over either. I like it, I'm having fun, and I think anyone who picks it up will greatly enjoy themselves, but when you're done with it you'll feel no guilt leaving it behind. Perhaps its greatest accomplishment is seeing release in these shooter-unfriendly days, and in that respect Shikigami no Shiro 2 really fills a niche, scratches an itch, and fills a gap.
My cliche-o-meter just pegged, I'm done.
Even the title page is pretty
Seven charas, each with two weapon options
Pretty, but lose focus and you die
One boss of many