Sentimental Shooting is a surprisingly influential game, though I suspect many of you might not be familiar with it.
As we’ve seen with the recent releases from eastasiasoft and Zoo Corporation, a lot of today’s lewd games that aren’t visual novels can trace their roots back to much earlier titles. Anything with the word “Panic” in its title, for example, can usually be traced back to Kaneko’s classic Gals Panic titles, themselves a spiritual successor to Taito’s Qix.
But what of the lewd shoot ’em up, colloquially referred to as the “strip ’em up”? There aren’t anywhere near as many of these as there are Gals Panic clones, but there are a few out there. The most notable examples are Deep Space Waifu and Waifu Uncovered (watch out for a closer look at the latter soon) — were these games original creations, or are they paying homage to older titles in the genre?
The latter, of course. Today we’re taking a look at Sentimental Shooting, a 1998 shoot ’em up from Japanese doujin circle while(1); in which you blast the clothes off a series of anime girls while battling hordes of aliens spewing bullets at you. Sound familiar? It should, because Deep Space Waifu specifically is a modern clone of it. (Waifu Uncovered, meanwhile, is an homage to more recent indie title Vortex Attack, if you were wondering.)
Sentimental Shooting is, like many other doujin titles, a strictly unofficial spinoff of an existing media property. In this case, it pays homage to a pair of dating sims called Sentimental Graffiti, which were originally released by NEC Interchannel for Sega Saturn, PlayStation, Windows PC and Dreamcast.
Sentimental Graffiti was originally intended to capitalise on the success of Konami’s Tokimeki Memorial from 1994, but it took several years to come to fruition. Twelve characters were designed in total; six were designed internally, while the other six were specifically designed to cater to public appeal.
NEC Interchannel pushed hard for Sentimental Graffiti to become a major new media franchise. Advertisements and paid advertorials were placed in magazines of the time, a radio show was broadcast on TBS and an idol unit named “SG Girls” was formed to perform numerous events and concerts. It ultimately all paid off, since the first game in the series was very popular — popular enough to spawn an anime adaptation known as Sentimental Journey and, of course, the strictly unofficial Sentimental Shooting, which is what we’re concerned with today.
Sentimental Shooting provides no in-game explanation for what is going on, and original copies of it are so rare these days that there are no archives of the manual for us to see if there was any setup in there. All you need to know is that the entire cast of Sentimental Graffiti is here, and you get to blow all their clothes off. Which is, you know, nice.
Each of the girls in Sentimental Shooting challenges you to two separate stages. In the first, you must attempt to blast all her items of clothing off while fending off attacks from enemies, while in the second — which only triggers if you obtain 100% strippage in the first stage — you fight a boss while attempting to shoot off the girl’s lingerie. Successfully beat both stages without dying or using your bombs and you get to fight a super-tough “true” boss — though just surviving is challenging enough, even on the game’s easiest setting.
Your ship fires rapidly when you hold down the “Z” key on the keyboard, but moves more slowly while it is shooting. You can also tap the “X” key to set off a screen clearing bomb, or hold it down to stop the screen’s scrolling. Both of these functions consume a meter at the top of the screen; when this expires, you can neither bomb nor stop the scrolling. You also get a significant point bonus at the end of a stage for how much of this bar you have remaining.
The girl’s clothes are split into numerous distinct target areas which are only revealed when you start shooting them. Continually blasting them causes their numerical hit points value to decline; when this reaches zero, the area of clothing is shredded, and if all the parts of an item of clothing are shredded, the complete item is destroyed. In the first stage, you are destroying the girl’s outer clothing, while the boss stage allows you to get her fully nude.
The game has a strong bullet hell element, since many of the insect-like enemies that assail you in each stage blast out complex bullet patterns to distract you from the job at hand. Conversely, the increasingly provocative image scrolling past in the background will doubtless be enough to distract many players from the equally important job of dodging bullets, so you’ll need to pay careful attention to what’s going on.
Thankfully, in true danmaku tradition, your ship in Sentimental Shooting is only vulnerable in its tiny cockpit.
You can collect power-ups as you play through each stage, with each attaching to your ship as an option to either side or behind it. These can either be lasers, which fire directly at enemies, or missiles.
There’s a surprising degree of depth, strategy and complexity to Sentimental Shooting — just as there is in its spiritual successors in the Deep Space Waifu series. The enemy attack patterns are varied and interesting, and with each stage’s unique layout you’ll need to figure out an optimal plan of attack that allows you to destroy all the clothing items while still keeping the screen as clear of enemies as possible. This is especially true on the harder difficulty settings, where tough enemies show up more frequently.
It’s a challenging, fun game that stands up well today — and some kind soul has archived it over on the Internet Archive so we can all enjoy it. Note that the game only runs in 640×480 resolution, and keeping the music active will cause it to crash on most modern operating systems and setups. Switch off the music, though, and you can enjoy hours of clothes-blasting fun.
Or you could just play one of the many Deep Space Waifu games instead. But sometimes it’s nice to know your roots, right?
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