Hitotsu is a freeware vertical shooter from the mad mind of Ryusui. The game was originally created for a contest in which participants create a game from scratch in under 48 hours. Knowing Ryusui, he probably finished the game in ten minutes and spent the rest of the time ripping out a guitar solo while pulling a wheelie on a motorcycle and simultaneously snorting coke of the back of a Japanese schoolgirl because fuck you he’s Ryusui and that’s how he rolls. He is also a prominent member of the ROM hacking and translation scene, and some of his handy work can be seen here.
Opening up the game I was greeted with a simple title screen, followed by a brief helping of back story and then it was on to the game proper. I was pleased to find that the game had a medieval theme, as opposed to the usual “shootin’ shit in outer space” motif that most vertical shooters offer. You play a flying wizard who fires projectiles to kill off his enemies. There are power-ups available which can increase the wizard’s fire power or rate of fire, and there is also a shield power-up, although that last one can and will run out just when you need it the most.
This is probably a good point to tell you that the game is as hard as nails. You get one life at the start of the game and there are no extras to collect. One hit will rob you of your life and then it’s back to the start of the game. Now, I’m sure that Ryusui would have no trouble with a game like this (he once beat Ninja Gaiden 2 with one hand after drinking an entire box of wine and complained that it was too easy), but for the rest of us mortals out there Hitotsu will pose quite the challenge. It’s not the kind of difficulty that is borne from poor game design or shoddy controls, it’s that “honest” kind of difficulty. For that reason you will find yourself continuing over and over and over again. You know the game is playing fair and that your failures are entirely your own fault.
The main draw of the game is the dragon you have with you, the Hitotsu. There is a bar at the bottom of the screen that gradually fills up as you take down more and more enemies. The higher the bar, the more powerful the dragon will be when you whip him out to help you fight. But there is a drawback. You can only get the dragon out once. So if you call on him when your bar is only half full, he will only be half as powerful as he could potentially be. The best tactic is to let the bar fill all the way up before unleashing the dragon, but staying alive long enough without the dragon’s help is as difficult as it is to stay alive in a fight against Ryusui himself (Jackie Chan once asked for his autograph). But don’t let that put you off, the game itself is quite short, but a hell of a lot of fun. I would give it two thumbs up, but I can only give it one as Ryusui broke my right wrist giving me a high-five.