As a college student I enjoy sleeping on the student union conference table in my underwear, only to be awakened, rather angrily, by the student council so they can have their weekly meeting. It was during one of these council meetings that I found the game Titanion, a bullet-hell shmup with a lot of attitude.
The game's visual layout is very similar to several other popular shmups but, in particular, is reminiscent of Ikaruga. The left and right sides of the screen are darkened rectangles with your current stats, such as the current wave of enemies and your score, written upon them. This causes the middle of the screen to be a thin, vertical line that is similar to older arcade machine layouts. There is also an effort to mimic wireframe 3D, which works quite well for the game.
The gameplay is top-notch for a vertical shmup, but unfortunately it is also very, very, very unintuitive. Trying to jump straight into the game without reading the accompanied English readme document left me crying in terror, as I couldn't figure out anything that was going on. One minute I was shooting this vertical stream of squares, the next I was exploding into a million pieces.
After reading the accompanying readme file, I realized there were three game modes in which the fire and secondary button react differently. In the first mode, Classic Mode, the primary fire button shoots a short burst of bullets. The secondary fire button fires a tractor beam that captures enemies and places them beside you. The enemies fire when you do, which basically makes them extra canons. You can only fire your tractor beam if a gauge at the bottom-left is partway full, however, and since captured enemies can die when hit, this adds an element of strategy to the usual shoot-and-dodge gameplay. Your ship is also invincible while firing the tractor beam, adding even more strategy into the mix.
In the second mode, Basic Mode, you have no limit to your tractor beam: you may capture up to, I believe, 16 enemies. Your ship is not invulnerable while firing the tractor beam, making this mode a compromise between the strategy of Classic and the bullet-hell of Modern.
Modern Mode doesn't allow you to capture enemies. Instead, the tractor beam causes enemies to shoot more bullets, allowing you to gain more bullet multipliers to bump up your score. You also fire a huge number of bullets in multiple directions, making this mode more action oriented than the others. Holding down the tractor beam button and the fire button at the same time focuses your bullets into a steady, uni-directional stream of bullets at the cost of speed. This mode has little-to-no strategy involved but is still criminally fun.
The music is great, but also becomes repetitive after a bit. It's a bumping techno beat with rhythm added by your shots firing, which is a nice touch.
Titanion is a great way to waste a lunch break if you don't have a copy of Ikaruga on hand.