Bullet Heaven
Cave has been stronger than ever. They've not just kept their shooting foothold in Japan, but gained even more fans worldwide. Once known only to an underground scene, Cave made great strides in making their masterpieces more accessible to everyone. It wasn't by coincidence, though, and it wasn't through an EA buyout or anything of the sort. It was all carefully-planned, smart marketing through a variety of channels. How? Through region-free Xbox 360 releases (ESPGaulda II, Muchi Muchi Pork!, Pink Sweets), localized Western releases (DoDonPachi Resurrection, DeathSmiles, Akai Katana), Xbox 360 digital releases (Guwange, DeathSmiles, DeathSmiles IIX), and smartphone releases (DoDonPachi Resurrection, ESPGaluda II). They're all great, but the smartphone releases were the most admirable.

Fair-Weather Fans
It's one thing for a distinctly Japanese developer like Cave to embrace mobile development and the booming app market, but it was a whole other thing for them to use it for shooting games. Not just any shooting games, either; manic ("bullet-hell") shooting games. They successfully implemented touch controls into titles embraced by quite possibly the most unforgiving, rigid scene in video games. Cave had to have known they would get shit from elitist "fans" in the "shmup" scene over it, but they went forward with touch controls and made SP (smartphone) versions of their most recent titles. And I'm glad they did; who the fuck are these elitists, anyway? What makes them entitled? What do they contribute to? What the fuck do they do? The true enthusiast supports unconditionally. To the dismay of elitists everywhere, Cave didn't just successfully implement touch controls into their shooters; they actually improved upon the refined digital control these shooters had before. Yes, improved control over the traditional control shooters have used for years. Naysayers and elitists will deny this up and down by default, but true fans know what's up.


Quality Control
I felt an immediate change when I played the SP versions of iconic Cave shooters like ESPGaluda II and DoDonPachi Resurrection. Having played Cave shooters past and present with the traditional controls, I felt a noticeable improvement with the touch controls. To the point of playing noticeably better. I was faster, more mobile, and bullets were easier to bob and weave through, so I didn't die nearly as much as I usually do. I can get to about the fourth stage without dying in most Cave shooters if I'm using traditional digital controls, but I can last about a stage longer with the newly-implemented touch controls. Compared to how well they have implemented touch controls, even Cave's polished digital controls feel jerky and restricted. Sensitivity and speed are no longer black and white; your ship (or character) moves at the speed your finger moves (no matter how slow or fast). From blazing across the screen through waves of fire, to crawling through mazes of bullet waterfalls, there are many degrees of sensitivity and speed to suit any situation. Those control enhancements make the smartphone versions of Cave's instant-classics play differently than the originals, and that's a good thing.

Even if the drastically-improved controls don't seem like enough to play through Cave's instant-classics again, the smartphone extras justify it. There are smartphone modes (similar to the arrange modes in other Cave shooters) with appealing gameplay changes for casuals and fans alike. It's a new experience for fans who have busted the original games wide open, and a fresh experience for the wider audience Cave has been striving to reach. Even the previously-unplayable "Big Boss Bee" is playable in one of them; a real treat for enthusiasts who eat, sleep, and breathe Cave. This is just the tip of the iceberg, but it's all a good thing for the shooting fan. Cave has a craft like no other, so it's always great to see them make new ways to play games that were already stellar in every regard.

False Preservation
The disapproval of "fans" really is unfortunate, though, considering how much of a better experience Cave made with touch controls. Control preference is what it all comes down to, but it's hard to see why anyone would prefer the constrictions of the old over the freedom of the new. Maybe for balance, but even then, aren't you an army of one against armies of thousands? The smartphone versions are Cave's way of attracting a wider audience, but they definitely hooked me (and I'm a fan of 10+ years)! At the end of the day, open minds will embrace Cave's smartphone shooter releases, and closed minds will deny them out of false preservation of classics. Let's just hope the latter doesn't ruin it for the former...