Espgaluda was developed by Cave in 2003 on PGM hardware and was later ported to PS2. It was one of the first Cave game I played, and much later also the first one I cleared on one credit, so I’ll start this blog by writing a bit about it.
I picked this game up for PS2 some time around 2004, when I had very little experience with shmups. Arika did an amazing job porting it to PS2, and it’s still sitting in my shelf. I always kept dieing on the last boss back then though, and eventually gave up.
Much later in 2015, a nice dude at my office brought an Astro City cab to work, and I was able to play it during breaks. Since I’ve played around with a bunch of other shmups then, it wasn’t too long until I finally managed to clear it.
Later on in 2020, I ended up building a PGM conversion cartridge of this game, and getting a video capture of a more recent 1CC (video on top of page). It’s an enjoyable game that’s definitely easy by Cave standards, which makes it a nice game for beginners.
The scoring doesn’t rely on long chains, but rather on individual big cancels, which I enjoy. Shoot enemies to get gems, use gems to activate Kakusei mode and kill big enemies for big juicy cancels.
Stuff from the collection
Since the arcade version can be replicated easily with conversion PGM carts, I do not own the original PCBs for Espgaluda. I’d rather spend that money on other PCBs.
Some survival 1CC Strategies
Ageha is the easier character to clear the game with, since the focused shot takes down bigger enemies quicker, and the spread shot of Tateha doesn’t really do much for survival. Timestamps below are for the video at the top of the post.
Not a lot of survival threats on this stage, including the boss. Once you hit phase 2 of the boss, activate Kakusei Overmode until the overmode meter is maximized (see 2:15). This will give more gems later on.
Even if just playing for survival, try to hit some Kakusei cancels on the bigger enemies, to make sure to hit the score extends (which should not really be a problem). Midboss has huge gaps between bullets, so easy to dodge. Killing the front train carts will cancel all on-screen bullets.
Some tricky patterns. The first one (5:48) should just be practiced until it’s no longer a threat. After that, just focus on staying in the middle, and consider Kakusei canceling at end of phase 1.
Phase 2 is trivial to dodge (6:03), but Phase 3 is surprisingly tricky, and should be bombed if it becomes too scary (there’s a bomb refill S3 anyways).
Easy up until midboss. Kakusei cancel trains for big points. Midboss is also easy. For Phase 1 (8:13), just stay close to the middle, doing small dodges. Phase 2 is aimed , so just dodge left or right after it shoots. For the later section, make sure to build up gems on the smaller enemies. Use Kakusei when in a tight spot as a survival strat (see video, whenever things get dangerous, I just do some small Kakusei cancels). The big propellers are full-screen bullet cancels, so you can plan those in. Make sure to save up enough gems to comfortably hit the fixed extend (shoot it with Kakusei on, see 10:25).
Phase 1 needs to be practiced enough so that you’re comfortable with the patterns, and when to fly up between the horizontal bullet waves. Not too bad though.
Phase 2 is made easier if you have enough gems to Kakusei the first part, you might still want to bomb if the second part gets scary.
Phase 3 is a good practice pattern for typical bullet hell dodging. With some practice, going through this is not bad at all. Worst case, just bomb.
First section is not too bad, just Kakusei cancel all big enemies and get gems from the smaller ones. The midboss however is pretty tricky, and I almost always have to bomb it (like in the video). The huge red enemies post midboss are very scary without Kakusei, so try to use it there if you can. I often end up dieing once here, but somehow manage to survive in the video.
The hardest parts of Phase 1 is the transition to the top (around 15:37) and then back to the bottom. Just save state practice this a lot. For phase 2, try to go back and forth between the initial turrents to limit the bullets. For Phase 3, just bomb if you have stock available (I did not, but it worked out).
Like most games, this is a big difficulty spike, but not as bad as in some of the games. Make sure to Kakusei big threats, and bomb aggressively to save lives for the later parts. There’s a pretty early bomb refill, so bomb any early threats (I died instead). The section until the midboss is quite short luckily.
The first pattern is a bit tricky, so Kakusei helps a lot. When she shoots out the circular firing ball, try to stick close to it to hit it with the laser while going around it. After that, you may have to bomb the last section since it gets pretty fast. Phase 2 is really rough, so just charge up a big bomb (if available) to take her down without having to worry about it.
The Alice-clone section is real rough. Practicing it a bit to memorize the bad parts makes sense, but in general… just Bomb and Kakusei when it’s scary. At least this is also very short.
Boss 1 (21:57)
Most of Espgaludas difficulty is in the end boss, but Phase 1 of the first boss is not too bad. Use the “Wings” on the side for bullet cancels, but leave one alive since the patterns get harder if all of them are destroyed. Phase 2, just Kakusei and/or Bomb.
Boss 2 (22:54)
Ok, now the real fun starts… Phase 1 is easy to doge without Kakusei, so just save your gems there. Phase 2 is fine until the last part which can be bombed/Kakusei’d. The last phase starts out with big gaps in the bullets, and a very simple Alice clone pattern. After that, Kakusei/Bomb if available.
Boss 3 (24:26)
Hopefully you saved up some spare lives, cause at this point, the easiest way to get the 1CC is to just Kakusei until the gems run out when you die, and then bomb repeatedly. The last pattern has no randomness, so it makes sense to try and memorize it a bit, and work on crossing the streams. When things get too scary, bomb while quickly moving to the side of the screen, avoiding the boss, since bombs will heal him. The last pattern is a huge difficulty spike, so expect to die to this several times before getting the clear.