I hadn't intended on reviewing Yotsubane's very first release, Crimzon Clover. My experience with shmups has been hindered by living in a PAL territory and lacking the means to hit the import scene hard enough to be worthwhile. I'm an absolute genre fanatic and I've always snatched up the few titles available but I'll always be envious of the lists reeled off by true diehards containing titles I can't even pronounce let alone experience for myself. Worried that my opinion might lack merit, I decided to play CCWI recreationally instead.
However, something unexpected occured that made me reconsider; Crimzon Clover ended up being one of my favourite shmups in a very, very long time.
Don't get me wrong when I say I've not played as many titles as the wisest of genre gurus, it doesn't mean I've little experience to draw from. Since my very first contact with Gates of Zendocon on the Atari Lynx, the scrolling shooter has resonated with me. I've played through some of the most revered names; Ikaruga, Radiant Silvergun, R-Type, Gradius, DoDonPachi, Mushihimesama, and Espgaluda to name a few. When lucky enough, I've even devoured lesser known titles like Guwange, Trouble Witches, Akai Katana and Blood Money. I might have been hindered by my home country's region standard but I'd like to think I know my Twinbees from my Winbees despite that.
Crimzon Clover World Ignition, as you may have gathered, is a vertical-scrolling bullet hell shmup. It fits comfortably into all the traditions you've come to expect, with your main task being to down an inordinate number of foes while dodging an over-whelming flurry of pink and blue projectiles. If you know the genre tropes and conventions, then chances are you won't find many surprises but for once, I mean this in the most positive sense. What Crimzon Clover does that you've seen done a dozen times over, it does it well enough to make seem fresh. The areas in which it falters are concerns you can address to the genre as a whole. Yotsubane doesn't try to revolutionise things, but simply embody the best of what you expect and it largely accomplishes that goal.
I was genuinely surprised to learn that Crimzon Clover isn't even five years old; it's so convincingly arcadey that I immediately placed it in my mind as one of the cabinet classics. The movement is tight and as pixel perfect as it utterly needs to be. Even on keyboard controls which aren't my preferred choice, I found myself able to maneuver more expertly than I do on many others. The Break Meter is a fantastic and unique mechanic that inspires a really intense action as well. A bar fills as you tally kills that can be drained incrementally for bombs or filled entirely to trigger a Break state where your shots become screen-encompassing salvos of death. It's a welcome break from the traditional pick-up method for bombs and keeps your eye flitting across the screen, watching intently for the right moment.
There's a nice selection of modes and crafts that offer various ways to modify the game. Unlike some shmups, I found that the extra ship types actually provided enough of a contrast to enjoy the multiple playthroughs as their own experiences. The same is true of the modes, with Boost being a personal highlight. It's great to play a shmup where the reason to keep coming back isn't simply to try and finally "one credit clear" it.
The pixelated style of the sprites is attractive, with the models being surprisingly detailed. I would occasionally lose my ship to the commotion but that could be down to my colour-blindness and I obviously can't fault a game for my own defect. The music is a typical pumping techno that really suits the mood and while the sound effects lack a little creativity, it's hard to deny that the endless explosions aren't weirdly satisfying. For me, at least, the sound design rarely needs to be much more than adequate and, like the plot, blurs into the background once I'm fully immersed in the action. If you find yourself worrying about your characters motivations in the middle of a boss fight then the developer has done something very wrong!
Overall, I've actually found it a little difficult to write this review. It would be so quick and clean-cut to say nothing more than if you love the genre then this is an absolute must-buy but that would do a disservice to the hard work and love invested. Possibly the most convincing statement I can make in its favour, and something I think only a genre lover will truly relate to, is that I spent ten minutes upon finishing my first playthrough reclined in my chair, exhausted from the ordeal. My hands were cramped into a hook-like shape and my throat hoarse from cheering and *ahem* making my own sound effects. Crimzon Clover is everything I adore about the genre and with this style of game, that's as good as calling it perfect.