Watching Other People Play Bullet-Hell Shooters Is Hellish

Normally I find watching the runs during Games Done Quick marathons relaxing. There was nothing relaxing about Gusto’s Wednesday playthrough of bullet-hell shooter Mushihimesama Futari on ultra difficulty. I spent the entire run on the edge of my seat, anxious and agitated.

Mushihimesama Futari, AKA Mushi Futari, is a 2006 arcade game by Cave. Cave is a Japanese development studio known for its bullet-hell shoot ‘em ups, auto-scrolling games where players must dodge screenfulls of projectiles while taking out swarms of enemies with their lasers/bullets/magical spells/whatever. Mushihimesama Futari translates to Bug Princess Duo and is the sequel to Mushihimesama, or Bug Princess.

The game is five stages of nonstop action. Waves of enemies fill the screen with bullets. Mini-bosses and proper bosses weave seemingly impassable webs of projectiles. The player has a limited ability to counter bullets, transforming them into gems which are then collected and applied towards the player’s score. Sometimes transforming bullets into gems is the only way to survive.

One thing to remember while watching this and many other bullet-hell shooters is that the player’s ship generally has a very small hit box. Only the very centre of the ship in Mushihimesama Futari is vulnerable. Bullet hitboxes are smaller than the actual bullets as well. If one could strip away all of the graphical noise on the screen, all of this would just be one pixel dodging hundreds of other pixels.

Gusto is playing through the 1.01 version of the game, a more difficult older version with more complex bullet patterns. He’s playing on ultra difficulty, which features tougher enemies and even more complex bullet patterns. He barely speaks during the run, letting his cohorts on the couch do the talking while he maintains an intense level of focus. He skillfully weaves his ship in and out of situations that filled me with panic, and I was only spectating.

Check out the full run at the beginning of the Awesome Games Done Quick 2020 Twitch clip below.

I play a lot of bullet-hell shooters, so I am familiar with that level of concentration. I am nowhere near Gusto’s level, but I know what it’s like to stare into a screen full of chaos, holding my breath as I navigate endless enemy pixels. It’s intense enough when I am doing it myself. Watching someone else do it, helpless to act? I can barely take it.

Gusto managed to complete the game in a little over 44 minutes, with no ships left in reserve. The man is a bullet-hell master. That won’t stop me from cringing and wincing every time I watch him play.

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