By the time the early 2000s rolled around the gaming world was starting to get big enough to support arcade shooters again, but there were still a few problems figuring out the marketing. Capcom had done nice work on the Dreamcast but, for some reason, there were still remnants of belief in needing to completely retool Japanese games for a US audience. XS Games was a budget publisher with quirky taste but a weird marketing department, so it saddled a pair of unrelated vertical shooters with new titles and pretended they were a series. Mobile Light Force on PS1 was actually Gunbird and Mobile Light Force 2 was Castle of Shikigami, and while both games were saddled with unnecessary edits it was still good to see them make it outside of Japan. Now, in Degica’s epic quest to bring every lost old arcade shooter back to life on Steam, Castle of Shikigami is getting brushed off and re-released for the modern PC on June 16.
Castle of Shikigami looks a little rough nowadays but plays as nicely as ever. While never a heavy-hitter like DoDonPachi or other shooters of the time it was a solid round of bullet-hell when it was still impressive to get that much moving on screen at once. The advantage of the new version over the old PS2 one is that the story will finally make any sort of sense, as a team of psychic and mystical heroes track down a serial killer in modern day (2005) Japan. The investigation is done by flying through the sky dodging heavy firepower while using the risk/reward system to maximize score, playing in fields of bullets to maximize the coin payoff from destroyed enemies. It doesn’t have to make sense so long as the shooting is good, and with a little luck this should be the definitive version of a game that didn’t deserve the light mauling it got on the way to the US back in 2001.