For Comiket 69, in December 2005, ZUN took the opportunity to make a game he’d actually had in the wings since Embodiment of Scarlet Devil. However, he didn’t have the means to make it at the time. After Phantasmagoria of Flower View, he did. What he needed was…a character taking pictures. And that’s how Shoot the Bullet happened.
While ZUN made a habit of introducing characters from the previous game straight into a new one, he had never dedicated a game to one of those before. But Aya Shameimaru was the beneficiary of this game, and this wasn’t the last we’d see of her. Not by a long way. You’ll find out over the next few pieces just why she is known as ‘ZUN’s girlfriend’. The game was originally going to come as a minigame with Bohemian Archive in Japanese Red, but eventually warranted its place as a half-game, the second such game ever.
So anyway, just what is this game? Well it’s actually just like the Touhou games we were all familiar with by now, with one crucial difference. The shots you fire at the boss are not bullets, but photos. Aya’s camera removes the bullets within its viewfinder, and shots with the boss in them are what you need to beat them, and you get a score for it based on the amount and type of bullets in the shot.
If that sounds confusing to you, don’t worry. Because I never managed to get the hang of it either.
Now this is an interesting start screen. It comes at you with the sound of rain, making it a degree more notable than most start screens, but the music itself is not too bad either.
Not only does this game have a different way to a normal danmaku game, but it also pulls no punches with its attacks. Indeed, so difficult is it that it’s perhaps best as an advanced challenge for the best Touhou players. There are quite a few scenes in particular that are hard even by this game’s high standards. Naturally, I didn’t stand a chance.
I had a save to hand with all the scenes. I didn’t try all of them, but the only one I beat which I did try was the very first scene. Everything else was too much for me to dodge, or an attack that came out of seemingly absolutely nothing. Also, while I know you’re really meant to make use of the camera to get rid of the bullets, I forgot this and simply went for the main aim of getting the boss in the picture. Unfortunately my lack of bullet dodging skill failed me every time before I could beat it.
Indeed, there’s probably a reason this was the first real time I tried to play StB properly. Because I knew it wasn’t a game for me. The premise is fun all the same, but I’m just no good at it. So I can’t give a very good outlook on it to be honest.
But that’s OK because Shoot the Bullet doesn’t have much more to it than the game itself. There is very little music to hand, and apart from the start screen none of the new music is much good. In fact, ZUN had to take Wind God Girl from PoFV and use it here as well. And there are no new characters to hand either – all the bosses are from the previous Windows games, although it does have the small matter of Suika Ibuki getting her first look-in as a character in a shmup.
ZUN was actually intending to introduce more stages over time. But that never materialised, as he had other projects to work on. It’s just as well for me, it’d be more to lose on. But for people who could play it properly it’d have been great to get more stages to take on. They didn’t have to worry much in the end, though…
Shoot the Bullet was one odd spin-off for Touhou’s standards, but on the whole it was not too bad all the same, a neat twist on normal Touhou. Just don’t come crying to me if you can’t get anywhere when playing it… Oh, and this wasn’t even the last we’d ever see of this newly-created side of Touhou. But that’s a while off yet. So back to more ordinary games it is, I say.