I enjoy few things as much as I enjoy early American history. The politics, the literature, the giant laser-shooting Spanish trains and constant threat of Martians… Oh, right. I don’t mean the real early American history, because I’ve gone over that stuff a few dozen times. I’m talking about the alternate history presented in Final Form Games’ Jamestown: Legend of the Lost Colony. Do you wish that colonial America had infinitely more bullets and a few more Martians? If so, then welcome back, bizarre and specific tastes guy!
Jamestown has us following Walter Raleigh, an Englishman who has fled to the Martian colony of Jamestown in order to escape execution as well as earn fame and glory in an attempt to redeem his name. Upon reaching the colony, Raleigh finds himself at the heart of a war between the English colonists and the deadly Spanish/Martian alliance. Sounds crazy, right? Well that’s because it is! It sounds like a bad 80’s movie and it works so, so well. The story is presented in bits of pre- and post-stage dialogue that takes the form of Raleigh’s journal entries. The art that accompanies these scenes is absolutely gorgeous, so massive props to the artists on this one.
Thankfully, the art looks equally good throughout the entire game. Everything is nice and clearly designed, the bullets are bright and colorful (not to the level of Touhou, but…) and the enemies look great. Oh, and their explosions are satisfying as hell. Bosses, which range from the tentacled Lady of the Lake to the flying prison known as Dread Sentry, are appropriately epic and massive. Considering that Final Form Games did this for the art, I’d say they’ve succeeded.
Now, you fine folks know what a music fiend I am. I go on and on (and on) about my favorite pieces, to the point where a good chunk of this site’s content deals with music in some fashion. Let me tell you, the Jamestown soundtrack is easily one of the best I’ve ever heard. Not just from a ‘this is an indie company who did a really good job’ sense, either. It’s more of a ‘this reminds me of John Williams’ sense. The soundtrack, which I highly recommend purchasing, is just full of sweeping, epic orchestral moments. Oh, I didn’t mention that it’s entirely orchestrated? Because it is and I’m an absolute sucker for orchestral music. Here, have a listen to the stage one theme, War Upon the Eastern Frontier.
Good, ain’t it? Anyway, moving on! So, the game looks and sounds nice, but that wouldn’t mean crap if it didn’t play well. At first glance, I was only vaguely interested in Jamestown because I happen to enjoy danmaku games. I figured it would be okay, I’d play it for a bit, then move on and forget about it like so many other games. Like I say, I’m glad when I’m wrong. Jamestown is so much more than a basic, generic shooter.
First, it’s co-op, which is pretty cool despite be having never used it because I don’t know anyone else who owns this. Second, it’s hard as hell. Seriously, I’ve been playing for a few days pretty regularly in an attempt to beat (or at least unlock Farce mode, which makes the story silly and outrageous) it so I could be more thorough, but… Damn. Legendary difficulty hurts, man. Third, a good danmaku game has a good, unique mechanic that sets it apart from others. Touhou 12 had the UFO system. Touhou 8 had the partner/team mechanic.
Jamestown has ‘vaunt.’ After collecting a number of (coins, gears, points, whatever you want to call them), Raleigh and his allies can vaunt, giving their ships increased firepower and a temporary shield that dissolves bullets into pure point goodness. After vaunting, your meter slowly depletes. Let it run out for more points and a longer lifespan on your powerup. Vaunt again to prematurely end the mode, but give yourself a quick, extra shield. The best way I can describe it is take the bullet freezing mechanic from Great Fairy Wars, wrap it around your ship (or little girl, as far as GFW goes), and limit it with a meter. There’s nothing quite as satisfying than pulling off a perfectly timed vaunt, then staying alive long enough for the full point bonus.
Also, Jamestown has a nifty little shop(pe) feature. Accessible from the stage select screen, you can spend your hard-earned ducats on such things as new ships, challenge modes, a higher difficulty and even the ‘let’s make this sillier’ Farce mode. This, combined with the online leaderboards and limitless personal challenges (and achivements!) give Jamestown huge replay value.
Anyhoo, if you’re looking for a western approach to danmaku and just an overall well-made shooter by guys with a lot of potential, definitely check out Jamestown on Steam or GamersGate, because it is well worth the money and, I mean come on, it’s colonial America in space. Anyway, that is me done for the day. I hope you fine folks do indeed check out Jamestown and give some support to Final Form Games. I’ll be back tomorrow with the Music of the Wednesday and hopefully some more cool stuff on Thursday. As always, thanks for reading and have a good’un.