During the Sharp X68000 computer’s expensive and Japan-only life it had some wonderful games available (quick shout-out to the lovely Geograph Seal while I have the opportunity), including some incredible arcade ports from Capcom and the fabulously expensive Akumajou Dracula that was mercifully ported to the Playstation after a few years, but the exclusive games are often overlooked. So let’s try and right a little of that wrong today with a look at Panther Software’s KU2!
You might not be familiar with this particular developer, but it turns out their best-known game had a worldwide release! Unfortunately that game was Metal Dungeon for the original Xbox. So… that’s probably not the best first impression they could have made. Still, they’re far from the first company to release a bad game, and thankfully KU2’s a neat little shmup with an unusual twist – there’s not one but two games in here!
You see in 1993 there were two ways to take your shmup – all brushed metal and sci-fi, or colourful and cute. Presumably crippled by indecision, Panther Software decided to do the only sensible thing and make both at the same time – after choosing which one of them you want to play the intro starts, and after that you’re prompted to insert the relevant discs and from then on the two games are entirely separate entities.
While both games are very different in tone the basics are the same, both are vertical shmups of the old arcade-y variety that are more about survival than score, and both feature the rather unsettling “Ku” as your ship’s permanent companion. These toothy hoovers can block bullets and devour small flying enemy ships in both games, but after that the games diverge. In “Serious” the Ku can only fire bullets after eating enemy ships, the upside being that this incredibly brief attack is also very powerful. In “Comical” they can fire all the time, and if they eat a power up it will change the characteristics of the shots fired. The downside of this is that they’ll consume any power up that crosses their path, which can sometimes leave your own craft wanting for firepower.
The other significant difference is that “Serious” is a far more unforgiving game with faster bullets, more enemies, and environmental hazards right from the start; in contrast “Comical’s” a gentler affair with crazy themed levels and frequent barrier power ups that will absorbs a few bullets on your behalf. Both games allow you to give yourself up to ten lives in the options menu before you start and decide how often you earn another through your score, although with no continues on offer when your lives are all used up it’s a quick trip to the hi-score table and then back to the title screen.
As I possess the shmup skills of a disinterested amoeba I’ve found myself playing “Comical” far more than “Serious” (as you can see in my awful performance in the video below), but while “Serious” is definitely the tougher game I don’t feel it’s unfair, just that it needs more patience and dedication than I’m currently able to give – unlike Knight Arms, which just wants you to die as often as possible. Want to blow things up but you’re not sure what to play? KU2’s got a game style for most shmup moods.
Project EGG store page here: http://www.amusement-center.com/project/egg/cgi/ecatalog-detail.cgi?contcode=7&product_id=312