Crimzon Clover: World EXplosion

Crimzon Clover

The older I get, the more I’ve learned to speak plainly: Crimzon Clover: World EXplosion is simply one of the finest shooting games on the Switch, and a title that should be on the radar of anyone who loves arcade videogames. Initially released on PC back in 2011, followed by an arcade release in 2013, Crimzon Clover: World Ignition has often been heralded as the greatest indie shmup ever made. The announcement of an updated World EXplosion version for the Nintendo Switch created considerable excitement within the STG community. Genre aficionados were not only delighted to have another superb addition to the bountiful Switch shmup catalogue, they were also especially keen to get their hands on a brand new Arrange Mode to rejuvenate the Crimzon Clover experience. It does not disappoint.

Published on Switch by Degica Games, who have previously brought the Cave classics DoDonPachi Resurrection and Mushihimesama to Steam, Crimzon Clover can stand proudly alongside its elder bullet hell brethren. One-man developer Yotsubane was a renowned Cave STG player and high score record holder before starting work on his own game, and he has borrowed liberally from the legendary Japanese team both in terms of mechanics, stage design and bullet patterns. The lock-on missiles are reminiscent of Ketsui, the spumous golden medals and blinding laser beams recall DoDonPachi Daifukkatsu Black Label and the creepy insectoid enemies of stage 3 certainly evoke Mushihimesama, but it would be unfair to call Crimzon Clover a mere imitation. The novel elements introduced by Yotsubane elevate this game beyond a reverent awe of its forefathers and arguably above its doujin genre peers. 

This can be seen most spectacularly with the Break Mode mechanic. As you hoover up the bursts of golden medals which enemies spray when destroyed, your Break meter fills. Once the bar reaches a certain point, you can trigger a Bomb – the classic shmup Get Out Of Jail card. It clears the screen of glowing pink and blue bullets and deals massive damage to enemies. Cleverly, each time you set off a bomb, it raises the level of meter required to trigger the next one, thus keeping you from simply spamming your way to the 1CC.

If you let the meter fill up completely, though, you can trigger Break Mode – or rather BREAK MODE, as the game emphatically burns into your retinas – and you get a brief moment of invincibility, plus enhanced firepower and heightened scoring multiplier on a countdown. If you fill a second bar of meter before this expires, you can trigger DOUBLE BREAK MODE which is twice as destructive and exponentially more valuable to your high score. The screen will erupt with golden medals, lime green lasers, and cathartic chaotic destruction. It is the attempt to harness and master this blinding, euphoric bedlam which will keep both novice and expert players coming back to Crimzon Clover again and again.

And it is important to mention the novice player here, and how this game welcomes and rewards both the bullet hell beginner and the danmaku doyen. This is not only down to the excellent range of Novice settings, including the adaptive difficulty Boost Mode, but also the customisable Training Mode which allows players to practise the more challenging sections individually and to tweak the difficulty and power-up options accordingly. This is something that too many shooting games fail to include and, while the options here are not quite on a par with the best-in-class M2 ShotTriggers releases, they are very much appreciated here. I do hope that this improved accessibility ensures that more players unfamiliar with the genre, or indeed put off by it, will take a chance on Crimzon Clover: World EXplosion.

For those who already own the original, is this release worth the double dip? While the portability alone arguably makes it a very worthwhile purchase, whether or not you use the compatible Flip Grip attachment, the Arrange Modes are what really make this an essential for shmup devotees. Yotsubane has delivered something special here, with considerable new depth to the scoring systems, increased mechanical variety with a Gradius-inspired selectable power-up system and a frankly absurd commitment to meting out layer upon layer of bullets, medals, lasers, explosions and glorious, giddy excess. The Unlimited Arrange mode is simply a dopamine fountain and the most fun I’ve had with any game in months.

Without suitable presentation, however, all of this visual noise would make the game virtually unplayable. And while Crimzon Clover is graphically very busy, clear colour delineation, sharp edges and a distinctive player ship design allow you to consider the whole picture while weaving your glowing hitbox through the cascading, swirling bullet patterns. I couldn’t argue that it’s a pretty game, and the assets show their origin in a game first conceived well over a decade ago, but it’s both effective and dazzling.

The pumping synth soundtrack and the somewhat jazzier alternative themes are appropriately energetic and maintain momentum, although only the stage one track is a real earworm for me. I’m possibly being a little generous in offering a comparison to the mighty Battle Garegga, but I’d say that both soundtracks are working from a similar sonic palette, even if I much prefer the Underground Resistance-inspired tunes on the Raizing classic. Nevertheless, as with the visuals, the musical score complements the game very well without either distracting or diminishing.

The Switch is home to a superb library of shooting games, from Cave’s own ESP Ra.De. Psy, the austere and addictive Ikaruga, the grazing buzz of Psyvariar Delta and the macro-dodging mayhem of the Psikyo stable. It also features an enormous range of often-overlooked indie crackers such as the brilliant Rolling Gunner, Neko Navy, Missile Dancer, Black Bird, Danmaku Unlimited 3 and many more. It is no small feat therefore that this title ranks alongside the very best STGs on this or any current-gen system.  

To sum up emphatically, if you love the intense, immediate, addictive thrills that the best arcade games provide, Crimzon Clover: World EXplosion undoubtedly deserves your attention.

Will Marley 

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