Shmups have never enjoyed the same success in the West as over in Japan. I suppose the need to be efficient, deadly and flawless just doesn't sit well with western gamers. Astebreed does it's best to rectify that with a few key changes to the shmup format that make it a lot more accesible.
Don't take accessibility as meaning the game is easy. If you cannot learn to adapt, the last boss will destroy you (FINALLY! A game where the last boss is the hardest thing in the game). Instead of just throwing endless enemies at you and expecting you to figure it out, the game features a rather in-depth tutorial mode.
Astebreed also has regenerating health. While that may seem pointless, it works wonders for getting out of tough situations. There are also specific enemy shots that one can only dodge with good, old fashion reflexes. Astebreed gives the player some different projectiles and a sword; this sword can dodge any attack that is yellow.
When you encounter a red shot, you have to dodge. There is more than one way to accomplish said dodge, but you still need to get out of the way. You cannot simply spam your way through this game (I tried in a few spots, so I know!). For as much as can happen at one moment on screen, the game still feels entirely in your control.
There is also a pretty interesting story, even if it's a bit short. The game can be finished within a few hours, but the cool anime style and constant dialogue make the journey worth it. Once the campaign is over, you get harder difficulties, different ships and the ability to check out a gallery full of artwork and 3D models.
For the casual gamer, just skip this. Astebreed could be a jumping off point into Shmups for you, but it doesn't possess a huge amount of content. For anyone else interested, buy the game. It's well worth the price.