The true challenge of a shooting game is not simply completing them, but completing them ‘in one coin’. Now before I even typed that out I realised that will require some explanation as most of the people reading this will have no knowledge of the coin swilling vortex that a video game arcade used to be. Put simply beating a shooting game ‘in one coin’ is finishing the game without continuing after losing all the lives the game gives you at the start. This was even the premise of one of the all-time great movie boasts near the end of Fulltime Killer.
Even as shooters disappeared from arcades (and arcades transformed into card game hybrids or PC-café) shooting games continued placing the one coin at the top of the tree of sephiroth often reserving an extra stage or ending to reward players who achieved it. But while every game hoped that you would beat it in one coin, no game I had seen built its structure around it. Until I played The Void Rains Upon Her Heart.
The Void Rains Upon Her Heart is a sideways oriented curtain shooter in the vein of the Gundemonium Collection. But it has two twists to the usual way these games work. Firstly each stage is a boss battle without the usual preamble of mooks and sub-bosses that normally proceed them. The other is that the game requires you to beat it with a single life bar. Lose all that life and you must start all over again with only the knowledge from previous failures saved to your file allowing you to plan ahead just that little bit better the next time.
If this sounds suspiciously almost like the video game Rouge you would be correct, the game is almost Rouge-like in the way it deals with death. This means that you gain knowledge about the enemies and the bonuses for beating them in a much more rewarding way then just remembering them through replays. As you play, the game builds up its own little encyclopedia about the bosses’ stats and drops that you can further expand your knowledge. So that what initially seems like a daunting and unknowable odyssey eventually becomes something you can start to see the end of as it grows with the players own mechanical skill at the game.
But while The Void Rains Upon Her Heart works well with its two main advantages it does drop the ball in other areas. Enemies can often get away from you by moving to the far left side of the screen where you cannot hit them without a rare upgrade rendering you useless for a noticeable period of time. There is also a minimal connection between the visuals of the game you play and the story told to us in the cutscenes. For shooters, this often is not a problem but The Void Rains Upon Her Heart seems to really be trying to tell a story of the constant adversity faced by people every day and how they overcome it. Right now it currently does not tell that story in a way that takes advantage of its medium.
I say right now because all this could change. The Void Rains Upon Her Heart is still in early access on steam and was significantly updated while I was playing it for review so many of these problems could be acted upon before its full release. I really hope so because despite its few faults The Void Rains Upon Her Heart has the freshest take on what you can do with a shoot-’em-up game since Suguri.
A game still in development so this score could improve. I really hope so as this is a truly fresh take on what can be done with the shoot-’em-up genre and was a joy to play. I look forward to furthering refinement as development on the game continues.