Cave 1CC difficulty list

Some Cave game difficulty rankings have been going around the Twitterverse recently, so thought I’d post my opinions and list, with some motivations behind the entries.

This is how I’d rank the difficulty of most Cave games in one credit. Videos of me clearing them are attached for all titles.

  • This does not cover the more difficult modes of the games, so no Mushi Ultra, SDOJ EX or similar.
  • This is for 1-ALL for multi-loop games
  • Entries are grouped into five difficulty groups.
  • Entires within groups are pretty similar in difficulty, but somewhat ordered by hardest (top) to easiest (bottom). This is much more vague than the overall grouping though, since the difficulty will be similar-ish.
  • Some comments why they are placed where they are is attached

“The List”

T1 (Harder)

  • Dangun Feveron (B-Roll or C-Roll)
    Very hectic game that’s easy to mess up in. Don’t go for TLB, and time out last boss (it takes a while). Still hard.
  • Dodonpachi Saidaioujou (A-Shot)
    Overall high difficulty. Last stage is really hard, and its best to try and save bombs for it. Ideally no-miss to S4 midboss extend, which requires pretty strict routing.
  • Ketsui (Type A)
    You get a lot of extends and bombs in this, but even considering this, a lot of routing is needed for the last three stages. The bosses are quite hard. The lock-on system rewards quick lock ons for survival which means strict routing.

T2 (Hard)

  • Ibara (Bond Type C)
    The harder bosses can be skipped by saving up Hadou charges, but you still need to deal with the last two stages, which are hard unless you manage the rank . This means intentionally dieing a lot, and correctly. Requires a good amount of routing, and Garregga-esque rank management.
  • Dodonpachi Saidaioujou Exa Label (D-Shot)
    Overall easier than regular SDOJ if keeping rank low, but still hard. Some boss/midboss patterns are significantly easier.
  • Guwange (Any character, Gensuke is easiest)
    Most of the difficulty comes after full life refill in last stage. Getting to it requires some work, but is easier than the rest of the game. Later part of last stage is hard to no-miss, and you want to have some resources for last boss. Final boss pattern is real random and can mess you up unless you have some life to tank it.
  • Guwange Blue Label (Any character, Gensuke is easiest)
    Overall easier stages due to bullet slowdown on Shikigami, but some patterns are harder (especially phase 1 of final boss). About the same difficulty to clear.
  • ESP Ra.De. (Yusuke or J.B.)
    Last two stages require good routing. S4 boss is a little hard. Final boss has a lot of phases and is tricky.

T3 (Medium)

  • Ibara Kuro (Dio Type D)
    No need to control rank like in regular Ibara. Some easy graze safespots for setting up score for extends. Still need to deal with stage parts of last two stages, but still an easier clear than vanilla.
  • Mushihimesama Futari 1.0 Original (N Palm)
    Plays similar to 1.5, but Ab Palm is garbage, and N Palm is a better option. S4 boss has a pattern with broken safespots that needs bombing. Last boss is also harder. Overall a much harder clear.
  • Akai Katana Exa Label (Type C)
    If keeping rank low, the patterns aren’t too bad. Just like in Shin, you can’t just reflect bullets on hard patterns, so you need to learn them, and bomb the trickier parts. Type C’s Spirit attack is extremely powerful and can melt hard boss phases like S6 boss phase 2.
  • Akai Katana Slash/Shin (Type B)
    Much harder than regular Akai Katana, due to Spirit form not reflecting bullets, and additional stage. Still not too bad. Worst patterns can be bombed, and the sword attack does good damage. Type B is real strong in this.
  • Progear no Arashi (Bolt + Nail)
    Recommend going for 11M extend. That gives a good amount of resources, which helps with the clear. Not much to say otherwise. Medium difficulty patterns, where the hardest can be bombs.
  • Espgaluda 2 (Asagi survival route)
    Tateha/Ageha is very hard, but Asagi can “cheat” due to her Kakusei being so strong. Save gems for bosses, then just melt them. Allows basically skipping last boss. Still needs routing and resource control though.
  • Muchi Muchi Pork (Any character, but Rafute is easiest)
    Some hard patterns, but you get 10+ lives pretty easily, and the bomb is strong, and can be used often. This allows for many mistakes while still clearing.
  • Pink Sweets (Kasumi B, inifinite lives glitch)
    Without infinite lives, this game is extremely hard. Setting up infinite lives require strict routing and careful play, especially on S3 midboss. I’d argue its similar in difficulty to many other clears.
  • Dodonpachi DOJ Tamashii (B-L)
    Basically same as BL. Maybe a little harder, but not much.
  • Dodonpachi DOJ Black Label (B-L)
    Needs some routing, but you get enough resources in terms of hyper and bombs to skip a lot of the harder parts. Some early game scoring is sufficient to hit all score extends.

T4 (Easy)

  • Dodonpachi (C-L)
    Just bomb when things are scary.
  • Donpachi (Type C)
    You get so many bombs, and are encouraged to use them due to the end of stage recharges. Some bosses have easy safespots.
  • Espgaluda (Ageha)  
    Very easy except for last boss, which is hard. Practice that a lot.
  • Mushihimesama Futari 1.5 Original (Ab Palm)  
    Very straightforward game. Ab Palm is real strong, not much to say here.
  • Mushihimesama Futari Black Label Original (Reco)  
    A little easier than 1.5 probably, but basically same thing.
  • Dodonpachi 2 – Bee Storm (Without triggering TLB)  
    Keep score low enough to not trigger TLB. Most boss patterns are 100% static so learn the safespots. Abuse energy recharge glitch.
  • Mushihimesama Original  
    Recommend using S-power for the good speed. Fast sparse patterns that aren’t too hard.

T5 (Very Easy)

  • Akai Katana Climax/Zetsu (Type C)
    Similar to regular Akai Katana but one extra stage, thats not very hard. Energy recharge glitch doesnt work, but doesn’t make things much harder.
  • Akai Katana (Type C)
    Spirit form + energy rechage means skipping all hard patterns are possible. All the slowdown also helps. Type C just melts things in spirit form.
  • Deathsmiles (Rosa)
    Learn a simple route for first stages. Use hyper and don’t bomb Jitterbug to get the 2-up, which means you can just bombspam last boss. Silly.
  • Dodonpachi DFK 1.5 (Strong C)
    You can just autobomb through this basically. So many bombs.
  • Deathsmiles 2 (Casper)
    Easy patterns. Easy clear. Bad game.

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.


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!

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.


Ibara 1CC

Ibara was the first Cave game developed by Shinobu Yagawa (known for earlier games like Batrider and Battle Garegga). It was initially released in 2005 for the Cave CV1K arcade platform, and later ported to PS2. It’s consider one of the harder Cave games, and great fun both when playing for score and survival.

1CC capture from January 2020 – Played on original PCB

My first time playing this game was actually in some Akihabara game centers, since I happened to visit Tokyo in 2005 around the release of the game. Unsurprisingly it completely destroyed me though, and I don’t think I managed to beat the second stage.

Poster advertising Ibara in a Tokyo Game Center in 2005.

I then bought this game back when it was released for PS2, and still have the game and booklet. The port lacks a lot of the arcade slowdown, and has some graphical issues. It’s still one of the more expensive PS2 titles on online auctions nowadays though.

Clearing this in one credit took me several months, where the last few weeks was just me getting destroyed in the last stage. Felt great to finally clear it.

Stuff from collection

Ibara PCB
Ibara PS2 Port
Ibara PS2 Poster
Ibara PS2 limited booklet

Survival 1CC strategies

A lot of Ibara is about rank management, and I actually played this wrong, thinking that avoiding medal chaining was beneficial for keeping rank low. In practice, it is better to medal chain and suicide spare lives to keep rank low.

The biggest tip is to never hit two spare lives in Ibara before the last stage. As soon as you are getting close to hitting an extend, run into a bullet to go down to the last life, since this will lower rank a lot. On the last stage, it’s fine to extend up to two spare lives, since it helps with staying alive.

Other good tips for rank management is:

  • Don’t pick up more power up items once at max power
  • Don’t pick up more option items once at max power
  • Make sure to go down to zero spare lives before you get your first extend (preferrably close to when you get the extend, but doesn’t matter too much).
  • Machine gun increases rank a lot less than other options, so consider using that for easier sections at least.

Other good tips:

Activating Hadou Gun will create an Aura Flash which can cancel bullets. This means that activating a Hadou, and keeping it pressed can be used to get out of tight situations. Then release once you want the Hadou to fire.

Never bomb when playing for survival. Store bombs for Hadou Gun.

Learn the safe strat at the start of the S2 boss (4:15 in video at top).

Learn the Double Hadou into triple Bomb setup on stage 5 (see 13:09 in video) to spend two bombs to get three back.

Hitting a Hadou at the edge of certain sprites does massive damage and will cancel entire boss phases (15:20 in video for an example).

A lot of the game is bomb management to allow for Hadou Gun usage on the last two bosses, since they are crazy hard without it.


Espgaluda 1CC

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.

1CC capture from June 2020 – Played on PGM conversion cart.

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.

My initial 1CC from 2015

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.

Espgaluda PS2 port
PGM conversion PCBs
Espgaluda PS2 Poster
PGM conversion cart

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.

Stage 1:
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.

Stage 2:
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).

Stage 3:
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).
Boss (10:35)
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.

Stage 4
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.
Boss (15:21)
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).

Stage 5-1
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.
Boss (19:05)
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.

Stage 5-2
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.