When it comes to Shmups I am more than a little green. I’ve played plenty in my time, but I have never sat down and truly let one overtake my life. That is, of course, until Crimzon Clover: World EXplosion for the Nintendo Switch. An expanded version, of an expanded version, of an Arcade game made by the Shmup super fan, Yotsubane, Crimzon Clover shows just how brain-meltingly good the genre can be. Needless to say, Crimzon Clover didn’t just overtake my life – it invaded my soul in the best possible way.
Enter (Bullet) Hell’s Gate
Bullet and Hell are two words that when taken separately can sometimes seem pretty cool, especially in terms of gaming. Things change drastically when you combine the two and throw them at Joe Public. Few can stomach screens filled with multicoloured balls, and streaks, of instant death and perpetual sadness. Crimzon Clover is absolutely one of those titles, but don’t let the stigma of labyrinthian bullet navigation put you off.
One of Crimzon Clover’s greatest aspects is just how accessible the game is for newcomers to the genre. The game has 2 main difficulties – Novice and Arcade. Arcade is the intended experience and will, naturally, be ball crushingly difficult if this is your first foray. Novice, on the other hand, dialled back the chaos and gave me just enough danger to feel accomplished when I narrowly scraped past death, but never too much that I felt overwhelmed.
Regardless of the difficulty, one thing that never changes is the high octane Shmupping you will be partaking in. Dodging is of course important, but Crimzon Clover has plenty of offensive mechanics that take centre stage and truly elevate this game to the highest of heights. As standard the ship in which you’ll be piloting fires an impressive volley of lasery goodness. It is not uncommon for your bullets to almost completely envelop the screen in a satisfying spread of death.
Even More Destruction
You also come equipped with a lock-on shot that can tag upwards of 20 enemies (or the same enemy multiple times…) with a devastating salvo of homing projectiles. There is no cooldown period on this ability, so unloading both your main cannon plus a charged shot absolutely makes sense and leads to some truly phenomenal scenes of carnage. Finally, you have a dinky little gauge that fills up as you blaze a trail of destruction, and this lets you drop a screen-clearing bomb.
The bomb mechanics in Crimzon Clover deserve a special mention because it’s not quite as simple as hitting a button and watching the fireworks. Your bomb, or Break Gauge, is split up into two parts. To drop a bomb, you just need to fill the first part up and let it rip. Super simple, right? Well, that first chunk of your gauge gets larger every time you drop a bomb, so every time you hit that panic button, it becomes harder to nab that next explosion. Death and certain pickups reset the gauge, which gives you plenty of leeways when it comes to pounding that bomb button.
It’s called the Break Gauge for a reason though. If you opt to not drop a nuke on your enemies, you can instead wait until your gauge is full to experience the transient bliss that is Break Mode. In this superstate, all currently launched bullets are destroyed, you gain a very brief stint of invulnerability and your damage, and shot spread, are amplified to ridiculous levels. Before you could almost cover the screen in bullets – now you absolutely can. Even the toughest of enemies will melt to the overwhelming barrage getting yeeted their way.
But there’s more. If you manage to charge your Break Gauge a second time during Break Mode, you can tear the game in half and make it your bitch with a Double Break. Not even bosses can survive prolonged exposure to this ultra state, and you better believe your spread somehow covers more of the screen and deals even more damage. It is not uncommon to see nothing but the green plasma that you’re hurling when in this mode…and it’s glorious.
Those are the basic mechanics of Crimzon Clover, and, on their own, they’d be enough to slap a label on and sell. That’s not how Yotsubane rolls, however, and Crimzon Clover absolutely doubles down on the cathartic, and endless, release of endorphins. Killing enemies not only results in a fancy little explosion but the release of shiny gold star medals. These medals are then sucked into you, and you gain extra points and lives.
Now, you might be thinking a couple of sparkly medals being vacuumed into a spaceship isn’t all that impressive. Let me tell you something, there is never just a couple. In any given STAGE of Crimzon Clover, you could be seeing not just tens or hundreds, or even thousands of medals violently escaping the fiery remains of your enemies – but tens of thousands. Every time something dies, boom, a handful of medals. Something big dies? A bag of extra large medals. Break part of a boss? Even more medals.
Millions Of Medals
Combined with Break Mode, the medal system goes truly next level. There is no stage left. There are no enemies. Just superheated energy blasts and golden tokens covering the playscape, not to mention the near-orgasmic levels of fuck-yeahery coursing through your veins. It’s almost like Crimzon Clover channelled the innately addictive nature of a one-armed bandit and distilled it into pure zen-fuel. It’s truly a sight to behold, let alone experience first-hand.
Crimzon Clover is spread over 5 stages, each one ending with a screen-filling mechanical monstrosity for you to take down. Most stages also come with at least one mini-boss, which helps keep the game feeling fresh. All in all, it will take you about 20 minutes to get through Crimzon Clover, and this is the perfect length as it has been designed to be replayed over, and over again.
The game comes with a Life and Continue system – Lives being limited, but Continues being unlimited. Anyone can get through even the hardest difficulty of Crimzon Clover by brute-forcing it, but that is far from satisfying. To see the true ending of any given mode, and to experience the full game, you are required to beat the game using 0 continues, and doing so, even on Novice, is no easy feat.
Replayability is where Crimzon Clover gets its wings. Runs are short, the reward for playing is astronomically high thanks to amazing mechanics and satisfying gubbins being pocketed every nanosecond. I found chasing that coveted 1 credit run to be highly engaging, and sunk many, many hours into finally achieving it – and that was just on one mode.
Crimzon Clover World EXplosion not only comes with two very engaging difficulty modes, but also a slew of game modes that fundamentally alter how the game is played. Boost Mode, which can also be played in Novice or Arcade, ramps the insanity to roughly 13 by allowing you to be in a permanent state of Break Mode. The trade-off? The game’s difficulty is somewhat modular, meaning you have to constantly be on your toes to get through unscathed. Ultimate Mode dials things up even farther by letting you shoot down bullets and increasing the madness to dizzying heights. Despite its daunting name, this is more than accessible for newcomers and is absolutely worth experimenting with.
Not-quite-so-finally we have Arrange Mode, which is its own difficulty, technically, but also its own self contained way of play. Arrange Mode’s difficulty lands somewhere between Novice and Arcade, can be played in both standard, Boost and Ultimate variants, and reworks the progression system something fierce. Similar to games like Gradius, you have a brand-spanking-new meter that fills as you collect medals. The meter is segmented into various power ups that you can activate in whatever order you want. Your ship starts weaker than usual but can become significantly more powerful once you get the ball rolling. This mode is jam-packed with strategy and changes the feel of the core experience in the best possible way. Oh…and it has a third stage of Break Mode.
The Modes Keep Coming
Finally-finally, every mode, other than Novice, can dip into the Caravan Mode which lets you play a short, but oh-so-satisfying score attack. Screw lives, this is all about racking up those insane scores and posting them onto the leaderboards. Speaking of which, every single permutation of difficulty, mode and even ship, of which there are four, has its own board, meaning you can track your worldwide progress no matter how you choose to play. Oh, and your scores will hit the billions…heck, even the trillions – with a capital T.
After hearing about all of these features, modes, bullets and medals, you’d be forgiven if you’d thought I was about to jump into the negatives of Crimzon Clover – but there aren’t any. Seriously. The game even runs well, with super tight controls, a rock-solid frame rate, regardless of how many gazillions of stuff is on screen. It can even be played in handheld mode without any issues. If you want the true arcade experience, jump into the settings, rotate the screen, and have the game running vertically. Ideal for people with spinning TV’s, or way more likely, a flip grip for their Switch.
This must-see to be believed visual spectacle is supported by not one, but two kickass soundtracks that can be changed on a per-stage basis. Both soundtracks are stellar examples of music elevating gameplay – and let’s be real, elevating something like Crimzon Clover is difficult enough as is. It just so happens the sound design is also top-notch with every bullet, explosion and Break sounding great – no matter how many times you hear them.
Do I Even Need To Conclude?
Crimzon Clover World EXplosion is one of those games that I struggle to adequately score. This game transcends its genre in a way that I genuinely believe every Switch owner should own this game. The only flaws the game has are flaws inherent with the genre, and honestly, Crimzon Clover does an excellent job of fixing most of those issues. This is the perfect gameplay experience. Everything it does, it does with a degree of precision that puts most games to shame – even within its genre. You need to give this game a whirl, and heck, you know what? It’s dirt cheap to boot.