Battle Garegga is the very face of Hell—Bullet Hell, that is. This game, released by Raizing in 1996, is what I consider to be the first example of what would eventually become Bullet Hell today: complicated, screen-swarming bullet patterns that have to be evaded with the most delicate of control and a fair bit of reflexes. This game is iron tough. It doesn’t help that it uses an increasing difficulty adjustment (oft-referred to as the “rank” system) that makes the game harder the better you perform. As you destroy enemies, score points and even just survive, an internal counter creeps ever higher, making enemies more aggressive and their shots more numerous. The only way to lower the counter is to lose a ship, which comes with its own problems, like powering down. Making it all the way to the end of the game on one life is a monumental feat (one I can’t even fathom, much less perform), especially if you have the audacity to actually try for a high score. Battle Garegga isn’t satisfied with being your opponent, it wants to be your arch-nemesis, arming itself with ever-greater weapons that are fueled by hatred at your success.
Although your ultimate success in completing the game relies on the ability to dodge bullets and shoot down enemies, the secondary goal of big points requires multitasking to snag medals and emblems that drop from all sorts of enemies, quickly falling off the screen. Grabbing them consecutively without missing any as they sail by is key, since they get bigger and more valuable as long as you don’t miss any. But never forget that the more points you score, the bigger a target you become for enemies. The game provides autofire for each ship’s one weapon type (which can be powered up); you can also acquire up to four mini-ship options, and, interestingly, these can be arranged in at least five different formations and behaviors with the press of a button, which is quite handy.
The graphics are dull in color, but decent in detail, filled with destructible environments and infeasibly large enemy craft. The spritework is admirable although the enemy variety could be a bit better. Bosses are multi-part affairs, arranging and rearranging themselves as you destroy pieces of them. The final boss, which comes in three stages, starts out hard and escalates to just plain ridiculously fast and sadistic. The soundtrack is clean and peppy, which you’re going to need to keep your mood up. Overall, Battle Garegga is an awesome game that will simply be too much for all but the most hardened gamers. People can talk all they want about modern gaming feats like Mile High Club from Call of Duty: Modern Warfare or any number of enemies in Dark Souls, but ask them to beat Battle Garegga on a credit or three. Now that’s an achievement.