New game pickup

Picked up a Batsugun PCB, as partial trade for my Ibara Kuro. Looking forward to trying this out. My cab is currently in horizontal mode, so will have to rotate it first though. Might play some more horisontal games for now first.


Goodbye Ibara Kuro

One of my goals for this year is to sell games for more money then I spend, which means getting rid of some of the pricier items I own. This includes my Ibara Kuro PCB that I bought last year. This has gotten so expensive now that it’s hard to motivate keeping it, and I’ve finally sold it and shipped it away to its new owner today.

Ibara Kuro in my cab.

Ibara Black Label (also known as Ibara Kuro) is a remake of Ibara that plays nothing like the original game. Instead of playing like a typical Yagawa shmup, you have a dynamic rank system which increases with medal pickups, and resets on bombs and big cancels. In addition, there’s a multiplier that increments when grazing enemy bullets, which is not a system you’d typically see in Cave games.

Since the PCB is very rare and there’s so far no ports of this game on any non-arcade platform, the price of a PCB has shot up by a lot. While it’s a cool and unique game, I don’t think I’ll play it too much more (I prefer regular Ibara), and I’d rather spend that money elsewhere.

Ibara Kuro PCB

1CC Video and basic strategy

Ibara Black Label 1CC

For character selection, I like Bond Type D for his speed and bomb. I’m not sure how much of a difference it makes in practice.

Stage 1: My execution of the initial scoring is pretty flawed, but start by setting up a Hadou Gun, and build a medal chain to increase your rank. Then later on, move to the top left corner and graze the big stream of bullets, to build a big counter for a cancel, to get some points towards an extend. There’s another nice stream of bullets you can setup later on as well (watch the video). No specific strats for the boss. Don’t be afraid to bomb. No missing this stage shouldn’t be a huge problem

Stage 2: I tend to use 5 Way for most sections with small enemies, and rockets for the larger ones. I don’t do any impressive scoring at all on this stage, but just focus on keeping the medal chain alive. The trickiest section to route is the part before the two flame towers. I recommend just replicating the video for that.
On the boss, start by staying above the first phase and taking it out that way, similar to regular Ibara. For phase two, follow a Hadou Gun up the right side of the screen to build rank from medals, and then park yourself in the safe spot right below the health bar. This will allow milking a lot of points towards an extend.

Stage 3: Rockets feel quite strong here. Try to keep medal chain going and start getting a lot of bombs. I’ll use a hadou gun or two towards the later trains, but like to reach the boss with full bomb meter. For the boss, I’ll hadou it once when it gets to unmanageable, and that should be enough.

Stage 4: For the extend ship, I start by damaging it’s right side with a hadou gun activation that I fire on the left side. Then I can sit and safe spot it above the right bullets while building multiplier for some free points towards extend. 5 Way is very strong in this stage, and should basically be used at all times until the big end ships which Napalm work better against. Try to be at max bombs for the boss.
The boss itself is pretty easy in phase 1, but will likely require a hadou gun for it’s second phase which has very dense patterns.

Stage 5: For the first section, small movements with rockets are kep. You can use the same trick with double hadou guns to get full bomb pickups from the tanks as in big Ibara. Just place them in a way so that they’ll destroy both sides of the tanks tracks, without hitting the tanks themselves. 5 Way is very strong at the later parts of the stage since there’s so many small enemies.
For the boss, I quick kill phase 1 by placing a hadou gun shot at the edge of it’s sprites. It then has some pretty silly safe spots for phase 2, which trivializes that part of the fight (see video). You can milk this quite a bit if you want. The last phase is total bullshit and will need two hadou gun shots.

Stage 6: 5 Way is once again very strong. I trigger a pretty late third extend here in my video. Ideally I’d have it earlier, but three extends is what I’d typically end up with on my route.
For the boss, I just rely on my hadou gun shots for anything that looks scary. In my clear, I get really really awkward hadou gun shots, since hitting the enemies that the boss spawns will do very little damage. This causes me to have to do some pretty silly dodges. If you can instead tag the boss in its last phase with two of them, it should be enough.


Pink Sweets 1CC and Infinite lives tutorial

Pink Sweets is easily one of Caves hardest games, but on PCB there’s an infinite lives glitch that can be triggered, which trivializes the rest of the game.

This requires getting 4 extends without dieing, which is not much easier than a typical Cave 1CC. I got this a while ago, but finally took the time to record a quick commentary on how to trigger the glitch, if others are curious.

Extends spawn when you destroy 2500 enemies or destructible bullets, and then kill an enemy. This means you want to try to destroy as many destructible bullets as possible, especially on midbosses and bosses. This requires pretty careful planning.

Pink Sweets Infinite Lives Guide

On a good Stage 1 run, you should be able to get the zan counter to about 2000, triggering the first extend early on stage 2. If you trigger the first extend later in Stage 2, that’s not a huge problem since you can make up some on the Stage 2 boss, where I don’t care much about going for zan in this run.

S3 midboss is the make or break section of the run, since it’s very easy to mess it up, and it will sometimes give you random movements which makes it hard to trigger the deaths of side capsules when you want it.

For MAME practice, you can use the following lua script, to display the zan counter when playing, which simplifies routing. This will obviously not be helpful when playing for real on a PCB later as in the video above.

// Put this in pinkswts.lua
cpu = manager:machine().devices[":maincpu"]
mem = cpu.spaces["program"]
s = manager:machine().screens[":screen"]

function draw_hud()
 cnt = string.format("CNT : %d", mem:read_i16(0x0c4a3ab6));
 s:draw_text(225, 3, cnt);
emu.register_frame_done(draw_hud, "frame")

// And run game with mame64.exe pinkswts -autoboot_script pinkswts.lua

For completitions sake, here is my full 1CC using the glitch, but the rest of the run isn’t very exciting.

Pink Sweets 1CC (PCB)

The game itself is pretty interesting. It plays sortof like Yagawa’s earlier games, but is much less forgiving, and rank control isn’t as doable since you no longer get point extends.

Going for a non-infinite lives 1CC is very hard, and seems easiest by completely skipping item pickups and playing very carefully. It seems unlikely that I’ll get back to doing that, since this isn’t really one of my favorite games.

Stuff from the collection

Pink Sweets PCB
360 port. No infinite lives glitch on it, and not a great port. Arrange mode is fun though.

Messing around with Cave PCBs

Other than playing arcade games, I also enjoy messing around with the hardware, and I’ve finished up a few small CV1000 related projects recently.

U13 CPLD Replacement

Analyzing U13 behavior

I reverse engineered the behavior of the U13 CPLD, and wrote a compatible bitstream, that can be programmed to EPM7032 CPLDs. This allows repairing boards where the internal flash has gone bad. An indepth description of this is available at the project page:

Ideally, it would be better to use the original bitstream of the CPLD, but it’s read protected, and no public dumps are available, so this is the second best thing.

JTAG of CV1000 PCBs

I figured out how to use the JTAG port of the PCB’s to easily read/write the prog rom (U4) as well as the EEPROM. U2 reads/writes are also possible, but not recommended since they require some pretty sketchy bitbanging.

This allows for very simple dumping of U4, as well as upgrading to bugfix releases.

Upgrading a Mushihimesama PCB

I’m fairly certain that more than a few other people have also figured this out earlier, but the information was not public until now. More info is available at the project page:


Battle Garegga 1CC

After a few weeks of trying, I managed to get 1CC in Battle Garegga with Golden Bat on both the PS4 port and the original PCB this week.

Battle Garegga 1CC (Golden Bat) on PCB, October 2020
Battle Garegga 1CC (Golden Bat) on PS4, October 2020

Definitely a game that lives up to the hype. It’s also a game with a lot of stuff going on, so not going to try and write up any real strategies for it (just read about it on the shmups wiki). Rank management is extremely important for setting up the last few stages to be reasonably hard.

My Garegga PCB

Since I did write down my overall route, I’m pasting it below though, hoping that it might be useful. Otherwise I’d just watch the videos. I feel like this route is a pretty good approach to a survival 1CC.

My Golden Bat 1CC route for Golden Bat

Overall stuff:
While this is a survival run, it aims to hit the 7M extend (and can hit 8M). You want to do some scoring in Garegga to get more extends to lower your rank.
If you drop the medal chain before S4, reset the game.
I always mess up at least a few things in my runs, but this can be seen as the general goals I have.

Stage 1:
– Get two options.
– Die to boss once to reduce rank..
– End stage at 0.3-0.4M, 1 Life, rank at around 1-2%

Stage 2:
– Should be at about 1.5M after birds.
– For the big thank, count seven waves of red planes and then follow it down along the screen to pointblank it.
– Try to avoid activating “search hidden formation” which increases frame rank. This might mean not shooting some of the last enemies.
– Die to boss and go on top of it to quick-kill with a bomb.
– End stage at about 2M, 2 Life, rank at around: 1-2%

Stage 3:
-Bomb the initial rails and silos for big medal points.
-Afterwards, try to not pickup any bomb fragments.
– Die once before 3M (you should be at one spare lives afterwards).
– Get the hidden extend (reset the game if you don’t).
– End stage at about 3M, 3 Life, rank at around: 2-3%

Stage 4:
– Avoid bomb fragments unless you need them for destroying stuff.
– Bomb the small pipes before the orange tank, and all tank silos at the start of the stage.
– On orange tanks, start from the right tank, then move left (bombing the silos) and finally take the second right tank.
– Intentionally die to the four green tanks to do damage to their threads. Try to pick up 2-3 big bomb fragments.
– Leave five bomb fragments before the boss to setup homing formation.
– Die down to 1 spare lives before the 4M extend.
– End stage at about 3.8M, 1L, about 3 Bombs, Homing formation, rank at around: 2%

Stage 5:
– Avoid hitting max bombs since it increases rank.
– Power up to 4 options, max power.
– On Mad Ball, if run is going well it might make sense to not die and just bomb it. If you feel like your rank is too high, die to it and bomb it similar to on Stage 2.
– Start slayer at about 5M, 2L, 4-5% rank (or 3L, 8-9% rank if not dieing to Mad Ball).
– Leave five bomb fragments at end of slayer to setup for Homing formation at start of S6.
– Start Blackheart at about 5.5M, 2-3L, 7-11% rank and try to not die 🙂

Stage 6:
– Power up to max if you aren’t already. Raise autofire to 15hz. Get homing formation.
– Ignore medals (chaining them here are hard).
– Use one bomb on turret wall.
– Reach boss at 6M+, 3L, max power, homing, 3-4 bombs, about 25% rank.
– Bomb both phase 1 and 2.
– End at: 6.5M, 3L, 27-30% rank.

Stage 7:
– Blackheart 2 at 6.5M, 3L, 30% rank, some bombs.
– Die once probably. End at around 7M. Only use bombs on the pattern where he goes downwards if you need more score to hit the 7M extend due to messing up earlier.
– Reach Glow Squid at 30-35% rank, 3L.


Guwange and Blue Label 1CC’s and differences

Went ahead and rom-swapped my Guwange PCB into Blue Label to get 1CC on that as well. Very easy swap, and that mode is a lot of fun!

Guwange (Regular) 1CC from June 2020
Guwange Blue Label 1CC from September 2020

What is Guwange Blue Label?

Blue Label is a modified version of the game Guwange, developed eight years after the original game. It has a large number of changes (detailed further below) to its gameplay, but overall has the same enemy placements with changed patterns, and a modified gameplay system.

Originally it was made for a Cave event (matsuri) in 2007, but it was released as part of the Xbox 360 Guwange release, and the Blue Label roms could be extracted from that.

Turning your Guwange PCB into Blue label

Turning your regular Guwange PCB into Blue Label is as easy as switching two program roms (27C040 EPROM works) on the PCB. I use a TOP3000 programmer for burning the EPROM’s, but any EPROM programmer should work.

Guwange with Blue Label roms installed.
Blue title screen!

Version differences

A lot is similar between the versions. Characters play the same, enemy placement is the same and the chaining system is very similar. Blue Label has some significant changes to core gameplay though:

  • Grazing bullets (walking near them) when shikigami is active increases your chain.
  • Quick taps of A while holding autofire and having about 1000 gold will no longer cause additional gold to spawn.
  • Bullets touched by Shikigami will slow down for their full duration, while they speed up in regular Guwange afterwards. Killing anything with Shikigami will cancel all slowed down bullets.
  • You get a lot more gold in blue label
  • Some enemies have additional “revenge bullets” added to their deaths (especially noticeable on S6 boss).
  • Bombing will not stop your chain. Skulle meter stops being reduced at two skulls.
  • Some patterns are harder on Blue label. Especially the first pattern of the S6 boss.
  • The safespot on S4 boss (see 12:10 in regular 1CC above) does not work on Blue Label
  • S5 boss will grow during the boss fight until he covers half the screen!
S4 boss on Guwange Blue Label
S4 boss on Regular Guwange

1CC survival tips

Playing for survival is pretty similar in both games. In general, this game is heavy on dodging and not so heavy on routing, so most of it just comes down to practice of dodging the harder patterns.

I recommend not playing Kosame, since she does very poor damage compared to the other characters. Gensuke does the most damage, but the difference between him and Shishin isn’t that significant, so either of those are good.

There’s a full life refill on S6 if you kill enough of the early spiders, so beating the game can basically be broken down into two parts.

  1. Survive until S6 life refill
  2. Finish the rest of the game from there

The first two stages have very little in terms of threats, except the S2 boss. Using a bomb there is fine.
Ideally you want to not have lost a full life until S3, because there is a small life pickup from one of the statues at the end of the horizontally scrolling section (shoot the biggest statue first).

Stage 4 has a one-bar life pickup from the midboss. If you have more than two bars of life here and want more bombs, consider dropping down to the second bar to get two bombs back. Section before boss often needs a bomb. Boss is not too bad.

On Stage 5, you want to practice a route for the spinning vampires. After you shoot them, you need to step on them in order for them not to respawn. The section before the boss can be tricky, so consider bombing there. Boss is generally not that hard. Patterns are easy to memorize, with the exception of the very fast ones towards end of phase 1, which may need a bomb.

Stage 6 until the spiders is not too bad, but after that things get real tricky, and I don’t have a lot of specifics tips here other than to just practice this section a LOT. You want to have about 2 full life bars reaching the boss, so you can fill up to around full health with the health pickup of the boss.

The last pattern of the boss is real rough, and you want to preserve as much life as possible for it, so you can tank some hits. It seems generally better to be hit by the yellow orbs than the blue bullets. The last pattern is highly random, so hope for good random numbers!



Mahou Daisakusen 1CC

The stuff I’ve posted on this blog earlier has been 1CC’s I’ve gotten a while ago, so thought I’d post something I just managed instead.
Here’s my 1CC of the first loop of Mahou Daisakusen (Japanese version).

It took me about a week of practice to get this. The game is very heavy on routing, and there’s really not too much bullet dodging required with some planning. Overall, this game is not really a favorite of mine, but it has a lot of charm.

1CC (1-ALL) of Mahou Daisakusen by me, September 2020

I bought this PCB broken, since I suspected I could fix it. Initially, it had some weird graphics issues, see pic below.

Weird graphics data from the font ROM. Looks bad!

Dumping the relevant ROMs showed them as good dumps, so started logic probing around surrounding IC’s until I found a 74LS669 that behaved strangely. Ordered another one of those and swapped it, and suddenly everything worked great!
This means I got this PCB pretty cheaply compared to buying a working PCB which is nice.

With the 74LS699 removed
Fixed! Fonts look good now.

Survival strategies

In general, the most imporant part of Mahou is storing up bombs for the later bosses.
With the right routing, the first loop is not too hard until the S5 boss.

Some good stuff to know is:

  • There are three Weapon types. Homing, Forward and Wide. Picking up two of the same in a row powers up all weapons once. Powering up twice puts you at max weapon level.
  • Don’t die before S5 boss. If you do, just reset the game. Recovery is pretty pointless in this game.
  • Use autofire at around 15hz (basically a requirement).

I played Miyamoto for my run, but Bornham also seems real strong. Strategy below is for Miyamoto though.
I have routed this game pretty well, so I’d recommend just looking at the video, but I’ll write some concrete tips here too, with some additional video tips.

Stage 1

Weapon guide:

  • Grab Homing, and keep that until the next Homing to power up.
  • Grab Forward at least twice in a row to get to max level.
  • Grab Wide before boss.

Easy stage, not much to say here. You can sit on top of the water tower before destroying it to get all coins (see the video).

Stage 2

Weapon guide:

  • Grab Homing when it shows up, keep that until the boss
  • Try to grab Wide at boss (not a big deal if you miss it)

Stay atthe top of the screen when grabbing the four bomb items.

The main problem point in this level are the double turrets. Don’t waste a bomb here, instead:

  • Shoot right turret, when it shoots, go to far right which is safe.
  • Wait until two bursts are fired from both turrets, then move left.
  • Move right after two bursts, and park yourself in bottom right.
  • If right turret is dead, this is completely safe from left turrets attacks.
S2 turret strategy

Boss is a bit tricky. Green bullets can be dodged by just going in the middle. The blue skull pattern is a bit problematic since the boss sometimes can come down and punch you when you dodge them. Safety bombing those once is fine.

Stage 3

Weapon guide:

  • Grab Homing early. Keep that until the moving wall section
  • Grab Wide at moving wall section, and keep that for rest of stage

You should not bomb in this stage.

The first section that’s good to know are the two bomb gargoyles. I just move up to the right to focus down one first, and it’s pretty easy.
The midboss has patterns that should be memorized.

Practicing S3 midboss patterns

After midboss, you can just sit at the bottom left of the screen until the boss. Some enemies will suck you in and move you around, so on the big heads from the walls, just keep holding joystick down and left.

On boss, just try to not get stuck right under him when he’s spraying out bullets at midscreen or lower. Otherwise pretty safe to just autofire.

Stage 4

Weapon guide:

  • Use Wide for full stage until boss.
  • Pickup Forward before boss

The sections with fast moving planes shooting targeted bullets at the start and end of the stage are the hardest sections of this stage. Try to stay towards the middle of the screen and shoot them early. Otherwise just try to dodge. Safety bombing here on something can be fine.

On the green dragons, shoot down their wings ASAP since that makes their patterns easy. You can delay the second kill a bit to get a slightly easier section afterwards, but don’t do it too late or you risk missing the bomb item. This video compares delaying vs not delaying them.

Delaying vs not delaying the second dragon bomb carrier.

On the boss (after the initial form), stay in the middle shooting at him. Watch out for the green lasers and dodge to the right.
When he does the pattern that shoots out small enemies that fire bullets, just bomb.
Should take at most 3 bombs to take down the boss, usually less.

If you are feeling risky, you can do this strat for the lasers instead which speedkills quickly.

Point blank strat for S4 boss.

Stage 5

Weapon guide:

  • Grab Homing when you can. If you miss the first one, there’s another one not much later.
  • Keep Homing until end of stage.

This stage is very routing heavy, so just watch the video since there’s too many spots to describe here really. The route in the video is mostly safe.
Safety bombing a few of the castles can be fine.

The boss is real hard, so just try to keep 6+ bombs in stock here to bomb it down.

Bomb six times and win!

Stage 6

Weapon guide:

  • Use homing entire stage

Twin-head Dragon:
Get close at the beginning with Homing to target the engines, then finish those out. Then watch for gaps in the fire shots, to cross over.
Bomb at most once, since you won’t get any Bomb pickup otherwise.

Easiest Stage 6 boss. Practice dodging the mace attack as in the video.
Rush attack is typically safe at bottom of the screen.
Stay slightly to the left or right of the center of the boss when it’s firing the spread attack and it’s safe.

Expect to die to this at least once.
Practice all patterns, but use all bombs you have on each life, since this is a real difficulty spike… not much else to say here really. It’s just hard and takes practice.

Double mages:
Just go to the top-left corner, it’s safe.

Red robot:
There’s a pretty safe timeout strategy where you destroy one arm, and then stay at the top of that corner. Only very few of the green shots will have to be dodged then.
In my run, I do not do this and just go for destroying it though.
Stay to the left of the center of the boss when it does it’s spray attack.
If you have homing, you can target the head from behind, but it does very little damage.

Goblin king:
This boss is very easy with the proper routing up to the last few patterns.
Make sure to use your bombs, and try to stay far up on the screen until the green eyes are destroyed.
The green eye lasers can be dodged above their hitbox. Stop doing this and move to bottom of the screen once one is destroyed.

Stage 7

I have no idea how to do this boss nicely, but it dies to three bombs, so if you have a spare life in stock, you are fine.

First loop done!

CV1K T-shirts

Picked up some of these Cave CV1000-B T-shirts from their online store. Buy them here! Very nice design!


Blazing Star 1CC

Blazing Star is by far my favorite Neo Geo shmup. I’ve been into Neo Geo stuff for a long time and have a pretty nice MVS collection, but in terms of shmups, Blazing Star stands out to me as the peak of what’s available for the system.

Blazing Star 1CC by me from October 2019.

There’s something about the general presentation that just makes me love this game. The combination of setting, spritework, music and the silly announcer makes for a great game that’s a joy to play. There’s also some great foreshadowing like the huge ship in the background of the first stage showing up as a later boss.

It’s a game that both works well to play both for score or survival. Since I tend to just focus on clearing the game I’ve been playing Windina which is considered the strongest ship for survival, since the auto-fire mode of it is very strong.

This is a game where memorization is the most important part, and “bullet dodging” isn’t that much of a thing. Blazing Star forces you to learn how the stages work, and what to do when. The Stage 6 boss, which goes on for about four minutes(!) is the most obvious example of this.

This makes it hard to give much tips in terms of strategy, other than to just work out a route that works. There’s no bombs or extends, so you’ll need to rely on knowledge of how stages or patterns work. If there’s one specific survival strat I would give, it would be that at the last boss when transitioning into the last pattern (at around 26:45 in the video above), make sure to set up to aggresively attack the boss before going around it. This allows for a quick kill that avoids the last pattern.

Clearing this game took me a few weeks, where most of the time was spent routing the last few stages. Somehow this was always fun though!

Stuff from the collection

I have a full kit of this for MVS that I bought ages ago. This is actually a somewhat common game, but it has climbed up in price in more recent years like most shmups.


How I approach 1CC for new shmups

I tend to only play shmups to clear them with one credit, and not really play for score. As I’ve cleared more games (currently at around 30 shmup 1CC’s), I’ve improved my methods for learning how to clear games, so I thought I’d write some of this down as a short guide of sorts.

This is not really meant as a beginners guide to shmups, but rather a guide for how to improve quicky once you’ve figured out the basic fundamentals.

Disclaimer: This purely focuses on survival, and is probably not applicable for playing for score.

Starting a new game

If you want to clear a game for the first time, i suggest that you start off by playing a few credits, and then get some basic info about how to approach it from someone familiar with the game. This can be the shmups forum or one of the shmup discords. Some stuff that’s good to know:

  • What is the best ship-type/weapon option? (use that)
  • Are there any fixed hidden extends?
  • Any important safe spots to avoid hard patterns?
  • Do I need external autofire (or autofire button).
  • Are there any special mechanics of the game that you need to know about. Some examples would be rank management in Ibara and Supershot in Mushihimesama.
  • Anything else that you become curious about when you’ve tried out the game.
Asking for help is easy. Do it.

Once you have that basic info, just credit feed through the game a few (maybe three or so) times to at least see all the levels. Don’t worry about how you perform at this point, this is just to see how long the game is and what stuff is to be encountered.

At this point, I recommend just playing the game for a few more hours to get a general feel for the game. This means getting familiar with how the ship moves, how big the hitbox is, how the weapons work and so on.

Don’t spend too much time on this, but a few hours is probably good before more focused practice.

Starting practice

Practicing shmups can basically be broken down into three methods. Full Runs, Stage Practice and Save State Practice. You want to do all of these to some extent, but for different reasons.

Starting Full Runs

Since the end goal is to clear the game on one credit, you will want to do some full runs. Just don’t have the expectations to get very far in the beginning. Once you have a basic feel for the game, I recommend just sticking to one credit at the time. This will mean that you will have to play the first few stages a lot of times, but this is actually good in the beginning. You want to get to a point where the first stages feel easy, and you can save resources for later stages without challenge.

If you realize that you keep dieing on the same spot several times (maybe the first boss), you should jump over to Save State Practice, until you’ve figured out how to survive that spot, then go back to doing runs.

Save state practice

Unless you have access to one of the very few ports that have save state support (just the M2 Shottrigger ports I think?), you want to practice a lot in Mame. Save state practive will always be more effective since you can drill hard sections over and over.

Let’s say that you started doing runs, but in almost every run you die once to the first boss. Load the game in mame, set a save state at the start of the boss and keep practicing until you have a strategy for it. If a specific pattern is giving you issues, set up a save state at that pattern and do it over and over. Eventually you will know how to handle it, and can go back to doing runs.

Dodonpachi Save States. Naming them can help a bit, but sometimes I just use letters.

At this point learning should just follow keep following the format:

  • Do some full runs
  • Figure out where you die
  • Practice those spots with save states until they feel easy
  • Repeat


At this point, you should have a pretty good understanding how the game works, and what is hard. Even for really old games though, there’s often very little good information to find, and you’ll have to discover stuff for yourself. If you find a problematic section, experiment with different potentially unusual ways to approach it, and you might find new routes that works well for you. Make sure to share these with the shmups community.

S2 Turrets in Mahou Daisakusen. Most people say to bomb these, but this is easy.
Tank safe spot practice in Esp Ra.De. I have never seen this in online videos, but found it when playing around.

Resource management or… what about spots that never become easy?

Even with practice, there will always be sections that are just hard. Maybe there’s a boss pattern that even with practice only you have a 50% success rate on. These are spots where you will want to plan your bombs or similar resources. Make plans for stages so you know how many bombs you can expect to have at a specific point, and plan how you use them. It’s probably good to leave some headroom for “panic bombs”.

Example of safety bombing Grubby in Batrider.

Take note of when bomb refills show up. You want to setup planned bombs before the refills to maximize your resource usage.

Example of planning bombs against S3 boss in Donpachi, before bomb refill.

Some games will have non bomb resources to manage. One example of this is Espgaluda 1 and 2 where you will both have a Bomb (energy) meter and a Kakusei meter where both can be used for survival purposes. Plan for this!

Survival strats for Espgaluda 2 which requires Gem and Bomb management.

The rest of the high-level plan

Once you’ve identified problem spots and figured out how to use your resources I recommend writing down a brief high-level plan for how to go through the game under ideal circumstances. This plan should not have a lot of detail and should have some headroom for eventual mistakes, since you are unlikely to play perfectly.

Keep this extremely short, since you’ll want to have this memorized anyways. This should not be a full plan for routing. One example can look like this (for Dangun Feveron).

Stage 1: Don't bomb. Easy
Stage 2: Target central part of boss. Bomb phase 2.
Stage 3:
- Bomb section before boss if scary. 
- Bomb boss phase 1 up to two times.
- Dodge boss phase 2.
- Bomb boss phase 3.
- Should end stage with no death, and about  2 bombs in stock.
Stage 4: 
- Bomb after turrets.
- Delay next Item Carrier.
- Bomb part afterwards.
- Maybe bomb Boss phase 1. Bomb phase 2 and charge.
- Will probably die once.
- Should be at one death, some bombs in stock at end.
Stage 5:
- Bomb anything scary.
- Delay item carriers.
- Reach boss with 1 spare life for timeout strat.
- Setup timeout strat.

Note that this doesn’t cover anything about routing how to deal with enemy waves. It’s just a high level summary. That said… you should still do some routing.

Routing the game (with Stage Practice)

When you have a high level plan, you will want to route the individual stages. This is where I typically start doing full stage practices. Set up a save state at the start of each stage where you have the ideal setup in terms of bombs/lives from your high-level plan. Then try to figure out a route through the stage that allows you to stick to the plan.

This often means memorizing enemy spawns, where and how to move and just overall how to survive. Use Save State practice to figure out smaller parts, and then fit it together until you can do the full stages with some success. You do not need to be able to consistently do this with the later stages. As an example, I have “No Miss No Bombed” Stage 4 in Ketsui exactly once in practice mode, and never in any runs, but still got the 1CC just fine.

I’m happy to have NMNB’d that stage even once…

Once you have an overall strategy for the individual stages, go back to doing full runs.

Just keep doing runs…

Now you should know how to beat the individual parts of the game… so it’s time to string it together. Do full runs and hope to hit a run where everything just fits together. It can be beneficial to try an hit a 2CC first, since that is typically significantly easier and a good step towards the goal.

If you hit more painpoints, you can go back and do some save stating of course, but at this point, just doing runs to increase consistency with them is good. Doing full runs has the benefit of also allowing you to practice recovery from mistakes, since it’s rare to have a perfect run.

Eventually you will hit a point where you are pretty close to beating the game. This tends to mean that you will eventually have several great runs where you get extremely close to beating it, but dieing while the boss has just a little life less, which can feel disheartening, but this is a huge step towards the goal!

At this point, it’s just all about doing more runs, and increasing consistency. Keep playing the game, and eventually you’ll have a great run and beat it!