Japanese developers have refined shoot ‘em ups to a point where many casual observers are fascinated by the action and speed but are too intimidated to play. “It’s like standing in the rain without getting wet” is a phrase fans came up with to describe playing the games of ZUN, and it touches on the kind of fear and awe that bullet hell shoot ‘em ups can inspire. It’s not only the playing of them that’s awe-inspiring, though, but also the development – ZUN is a single individual who handles every aspect of the dozen or so games that he’s released in as many years. (In the West, you could maybe make an analogy to roguelikes, which are usually made by a small team – oftentimes an individual – and are legendary for their challenge.)
It’s under this backdrop that Jamestown was released by a small American team, Final Form Games. From the get-go, it’s obvious that FFG was careful to make a shoot ‘em up that fans of the genre might appreciate, while avoiding the pitfalls that enrage (or at least bore) them. At the same time, the game is very accessible to newer or more casual players, offering five difficulty levels and a very clear tutorial that explains the game’s scoring system.