Also available on Wii via Virtual Console (Japan only)
M.U.S.H.A.: Metallic Uniframe Super Hybrid Armor is one of the premier shmup titles of the 16-bit era. It's also one of those games so rare and expensive that it's a prized piece of any collection. And yes, I do have an actual CIB copy. MUSHA is one of those shmups that does almost everything right. The style is metal af, the music is pumpin, the action is non-stop, and the control is solid. It's not flawless, but it's pretty close.
MUSHA is a lot of things, but one thing it's not is easy. It seems like I had a harder time with it than most, but it did get much more manageable for me once I realized two things. First, your hit box is enormous. Just accept the fact that you have ZERO margin for error in MUSHA. I'm used to shmups with smaller hitboxes that give a little bit of breathing room, but MUSHA makes no such allowances. That took me a long time to get through my head. Second, power-ups will let you take a couple hits. I don't know why this took me so long to figure out - I suppose because many shmups don't afford any protection from power-ups - but once you realize that, things get more doable. The game is also relatively generous with its power-ups, so keeping one usually isn't too tall an order.
Let me be upfront with something before I continue - I played MUSHA on my Retron 5 using save states. I feel no shame about this, personally. Normally I prefer to beat shmups by bashing my head against the wall until it goes through, but even with finally understanding the two things I mentioned above, MUSHA is a tough game. It's also just absolutely oozing style, so I really wanted to see everything that it has to offer. You bet I'll be going back and playing again on my Genesis sans save states, but I wanted to experience the full range of music, enviornments, and enemy designs that MUSHA had to offer, and I don't regret it a bit. I'm normally one of those guys who prefers the SNES's smoother sound chip over the grittier sound of the Genesis, but MUSHA really shows that, with the right musical style and composer, the Genesis has some damn good tunes to offer. I had to make a point not to play this until after my roommate got out of bed because headphones just wouldn't do MUSHA justice; I had to have the soundbar and subwoofer cranked up.
Screenshots don't really do it justice, but the backgrounds are just fantastic. What makes them so great is the way parallax scrolling is used. I know that parallax scrolling is extremely common in Genesis and Super Nintendo games, but it's used to great effect in MUSHA. Compile proved that they really knew what they were doing back in the day. The enemy designs are also incredible. I meant it at the top; this game is metal as fuck. You've got baby faces that split in half to reveal death rays, skulls spewing lasers, Satan's face on a battleship sailing through an ocean of magma - fucking metal as shit, bro. The visuals in this game are just outstanding all around. The problem, however, is that the hardware can't always seem to keep up with the visuals. There's a LOT of slowdown when the screen gets super crowded and busy. Fortunately it only gets to that level a handful of times, but it is worth noting - any change in the run speed of a shmup is going to throw a wrench in the flow of action.
MUSHA is a damn good shmup. It's one that every shmup fan needs to play, and while the cartridge is hella expensive these days, it's on the Wii virtual console (accessible on the Wii U), so there is an affordable option. I guess you could also emulate if you're a punk ass bitch, but I'll look down on you in shame. I can't say it's perfect - there is some noticeable slow down, and while I know that it's a stylistic choice, I'm not a fan of the huge hit box - but damn if it's not close. Even with its few flaws, you're doing yourself a HUGE disservice by foregoing MUSHA.
My Rating - 4 Neps
I'm a teacher.
And I like to play video games. I like to collect video games. I like to talk about video games, and I like to write about video games. During the day, I teach high school history; during the night, I spend my spare time gaming. Then I write about it.