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KETSUI Kizuna Jigoku Tachi (Cave, AMI 2002)
(CAVE / AMI 2002)

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source: my own collection


Graphic Artist Tomahoru Saito
Tomahoru Saito

I believe it was a hard time for CAVE when their top graphic artist Junya Inoue (Joker Jun) left the company in 2001, right after Do Donpachi DAI-OU-JOU. His influence in the CAVE games was immense. Nevertheless, they found in Tomoharu Saito another great artist and he did a very good job in their next production, a vertical scrolling shoot'em up game called Ketsui Kizuna Jigoku Tachi (lit. "Decision to bind the hell")

So what is Ketsui about ?
It is about a modern war in the year 2054. It is about illegal weapon trades of an uninsightful company and a preventive war started by the United Nations to stop them. At first sight, the graphic style of this game remembers to Strikers 1945 by Psikyo, which had that "placing objects in rows" style. But Ketsui is a war game too, with city environments, lots of buildings, streets and tank convoys, so it is not too bad at all. Furthermore, there are still a few moments showing that unpredicatable complexity we know from their earlier productions.

The gameplay structure of Ketsui is refreshing simple and incredibly easy to use in the game: You shoot an enemy as close as possible with the standard weapon to receive a 5er box. Then swap the weapon to the lock-on gunner by holding instead of just tapping the same button, and for a short time all other enemies release 5er boxes too. It's similar to Progear, but less complex. To collect the boxes it is sufficient to fly close-by. They automatically get sucked in then. See further details "Items & Scores".

CAVE kept up their tradition and equipped Ketsui with 5 challenging stages. Stage 1 and 2 are easy to play, which makes this game interesting also for newcomers to manic shoot 'em up games. But from the end of stage 3, CAVE unleashes a bullet inferno we knew only from final bosses of the previous titles. I exclude here Do Donpachi DAI-OU-JOU which is known to be very hard to play even from the beginning. But CAVE-players know, that all of these games are perfectly elaborated, tested and never unfair. Just keep up the practice and you will able to beat it in one play. I promise that to you.

The background music of Ketsui is written by Manabu Namiki. The score contains synthpop, drum & bass as well as hard guitars. Although I personally prefer CAVE's earlier music styles consisting of catchier melodies (Esprade or Guwange), Namiki's sounds fit the gameplay surprisingly well, and I really started to love his work since playing this game.

Ketsui is another masterpiece of the japanese hitfactory CAVE and belongs to all manic shoot'em up collections. It's twisted gameplay makes it enjoyable for the amateur as well as for the pro: You can play it to survive alone, and you will enjoy an easy play for a while. Once you follow the scoring architecture, the game becomes very challenging but also more addicting. CAVE fans can pick it up unconsidered. Newbies should at least take a closer look at it.

It is known that the hardware of Ketsui and other, later CAVE games was made by IGS, and it is no coincidence that it is almost identical to the Poly Game Master system created by the same company. Nevertheless, CAVE released Ketsui, Do Donpachi DAI-OU-JOU and Espgaluda as well protected single board PCBs, instead of PGM cartridges, which had likely been illegally copied by chinese factories soon.

- [the sheep] in 2004