I know, I know—I’m not really the target audience for Bug Princess (Mushihimesama). The first I’d heard of developer its developer was when Cave appeared as a character in Hyperdimension Neptunia mk2. I don’t even have an Xbox 360, which several of their shooters have been released on. But I do like shoot-em-ups now and then, so when I finally got an iPad I knew that one of the first apps I wanted was a Cave game. And I’m not gonna lie—I chose Bug Princess because it was the cheapest. But, despite an odd design choice and the bare-bones nature of the port (especially compared to other Cave offerings), I’m really glad I did.
Bug Princess has only one player character and a plot that’s only clear at the very end. Princess Reco flies around on her giant beetle-friend, shooting down other giant bugs. (Isn’t she their princess? So she’s, like, a vicious tyrant?) Reco has 3 speeds/shot types: a balanced M-shot, a wide W-shot, and a narrow S-shot. My favorite is the W-shot, even though (or maybe because) it’s the slowest ship. The shot aims the widest, so you can kill more bugs at once.
Swiping your ship across the iPad’s screen makes for very smooth control, and Reco shoots on her own. However, bombs are in the bottom corner, off the game screen entirely. Granted, in shmups I avoid bombing to a fault, but having to take my eyes off my (bullet-filled) iPad mini’s screen just to use a bomb isn’t good for practice. There’s a setting where Reco can use her bombs automatically, but that takes an important strategy tool out of the player’s hands.
Even so, Bug Princess has lots of other options for those who want to learn the game. Each of its three modes–Original, Maniac and Ultra–has five difficulty levels that progress nicely to help new players hone their skills. And though I’m no shmup veteran, I do know that the game’s true final boss fight can be found on YouTube with titles like “The Hardest Video Game Boss Ever.”
The third stage is not only where the game takes a spike in difficulty—it’s also the most difficult stage for me all around. The whole thing is a battleship (buggleship?) in a volcano; seeing bugs that need hitting can be tough amid the reds and browns of the background, and the homing-mosquito-dragonfly things are pretty tenacious.
What makes the iPad version special? Not much. Cave seems to have given us a basic port–the translation of what little story there is isn’t that great, and this version of Bug Princess came out before the HD version for the Xbox 360. And Arrange Mode has been removed, so there are even less features in this version. Still, Bug Princess packs a lot of entertainment for $5. To a Cave newbie like me, that’s money well spent.