Fast Striker is definitely, firmly a danmaku game. But it does also throw a couple curve balls to keep the design unique. Aside from the actual difficulty adjustments, each difficulty (plus the extra Omake mode, which has a bunch of extra mechanics for score chasing) also puts you in a different ship, with its own firing patterns and thus playstyle. Each ship gets a rapid fire, a sustained fire, rapid and sustained rear fire, and the strike shield.
I kept running into little things like this, where the game's interface kept fighting me and making it difficult to actually experience and enjoy the core gameplay loop. It was a layer of...Friction, is the only way I can describe it. And it meant every time I went to go roll my fun-ball down the track, it would stop way soonerthan expected. I'd quit having fun, and then I'd have to walk away for a bit so I didn't keep getting frustrated with the game and come back later.
Really, the one big problem that I think Bubble Bobble 4 Friends has is that, sticking true to the original design doesn't leave you a lot of room to grow and experiment. This feels like a more slick presentation of an 80s arcade game...Because that's what it is. For all of the 3D graphics and such, unless you're busting out the 4-player co-op, there's not that much here to differentiate it from the cabinet you played as a kid or one of the various decently popular home ports you may well have owned.
The focus on roguelike design, letting a relatively small amount of assets turn into a lot of game. The fact that there's no mid-game saves, because that sort of longer-term multiple-session play wasn't needed and would complicate the design. The little touches of things not quite refined, like how I can hear room tone in the relative handful of voice acting clips. Hell, the fact that the intro cut scene only plays the first time you play, with no way I found to start it up again. Or the hidden shield in the tutorial area, just tucked behind a rock without collision detection. If this is the work of newcomer devs, then it's a really interesting first piece. There's a lot of neat ideas here: I like the fact that a lot of the Berserker and Witch unlockables actually require some degree of success with the other class, thus forcing you to differentiate on playthroughs. It just...needs work, as a commercial product.
So, SNK Heroines: Tag Team Frenzy is a fighting game. It's also a cheesecake fanservice game, and a casual-friendly fighting game. Premise is thin on the ground in a lot of fighting games, and this is no exception; There was going to be a King of Fighters tournament, then a bunch of the women who were going to be there (plus Terry, who has been turned into a woman) wake up in a freaky mansion instead wearing skimpy outfits. That's the whole premise.
Storywise, you've got your classic beats here. Things went wrong, science went too far, the dead walk and hunger, and so on and so forth. The game's riffing on some very vintage ideas here, and isn't trying to reinvent the wheel. Rather, it's trying to make that wheel look like it belongs in a grindhouse film's crappy VHS bootleg, from the scanlines to the warped color palettes to the copious amounts of gore.
Built very heavily upon the mechanics of its predecessor, Nidhogg 2 mostly aims to presenting a new flare and new options...but those options make the experience harder to get into, producing a game mostly for people who already played and loved the first entry.
Sometimes pulled in two directions by its attempt to balance serious tension with comedy relief, Maize ends up relying heavily on the idea that you'll buy into both sides of the equation. For some, this will be a blessing, but for others it will be a curse that weakens the rest of the package.
So how do you feel about Ghosts & Goblins? It's not a comparison I make lightly. Cast of the Seven Godsends feels like nothing less than a complete and total love-letter to that franchise, borrowing several of its key stylistic elements and core mechanics to form something that is very, very much pulling from the classic arcade franchise...for better and for worse.
So where's that leave us? I mean, overall, I had a really good time with Crown Trick! It's a classic style roguelike with some solid modernizations. I love the art style, and while its permanent upgrades are all pretty standard stuff (go in with more healing elixirs! Keep some of your currency across runs!), they do a lot to make the genre feel more... achievable by mere mortal man.
What really seals the deal, when I boil it down, is charm. Charm and vision. Trying to do something interesting, different, and with your own spin on it goes a long way for me. And Steam Tactics is doing that left and right. From the positioning-focused dog-fighting tactics, to the delightful animal people, to the puzzle-like way you have to untangle the enemy formations at times to get a target in position, it just...It's trying something really cool, and I have to respect that.