Fatherhood changed not only me as a person, but me as a gamer. Much like how it's hard for me to remember what it was like to be a 30-something with expendable income and no child to care for now; it's also hard for me to remember what it was like to be a 30-something gamer with expendable income and all the time in the world to play games at night and on weekends.
I vividly remember discovering Triggerheart Exelica - gosh, this must have been around 2012 or 2013. I was pretty big into collecting Dreamcast games back then, and had picked this late released Japan exclusive up in a lot. At the time, I had a whole game room to myself. I had multiple TV's and monitors set up in the room. I popped Triggerheart into one of my three Dreamcast consoles - the one I had set up on a standing desk with a TATE monitor and arcade stick, and got really into it for a couple of weeks.
But times change, and so do we. I'm now 40. And I have a two year old. And no game room. And most of my old consoles are gone. Or boxed up. Or sitting under a spare TV in our home office not even actually hooked up because I don't play them anymore. Instead, nowadays my gaming is almost exclusively done on my two most modern systems. There's the Switch that got me and most of the gaming world through the pandemic. And then there's my Xbox One. My old trusty consoles. The one that I probably leaned on the hardest this gaming generation. The one I'm still holding onto because the Series X is so expensive and so hard to find, and so many of its games will still run on Xbox One in a lesser state.
While the Switch became my go to for a while because I could easily play it in handheld mode while my wife and I had the TV on in the background, I've sort of graduated to a new setup. I now have a trusty Surface Go 3 - which thanks to Remote Play - acts very much like my Switch did. Except the Surface Go has a gorgeous 10" screen. And I can use an Xbox One controller. And play often vastly better looking games.
But I digress.
One thing I kind of love is digging through my old Xbox/360/original library of digital games. I often forget the games I picked up in deep sales, or grabbed for free via Games With Gold. And somehow, sometime I guess I picked up the digital re-release of Triggerheart Exelica. And it dawned on me that I haven't played a shmup in a long time. Not since I was a younger version of myself who had no kid, but rather all the time the world to master a game like this. Or at least attempt to.
I'm not good at shmups. But I am a fan. Especially bullet-hell stuff. I love Cave. Deathsmiles is my absolute favorite. But give me Mushihimesama or Dodonpachi and I'm a happy dude.
Triggerheart was developed by Warashi. Not exactly a household name. But a developer that pumped out many games over the years. I don't know what it is exactly, but this one really does click with me. It checks off a lot of boxes. It's vertical. It's got girls in mech suits. It's got bright pink bullets. It's got solid music. It's also got a very weird hook system, where you can latch on to enemies to focus shots, but also to grab them and use them as shields, OR to throw them at enemies. It's kind of odd and awkward at times. But also unique. And somewhat reminiscent of Mars Matrix in a way - another oddball that I got really into on Dreamcast.
So I've been playing the past few nights. And I started off terrible. Like I could only make it to Stage 2. (I refuse to use a continue on shmups). And now I've hit Stage 5, which I think is the last, so I feel good. I don't know if a 1CC is truly in sight, but I feel good about my progress. If nothing else, it feels good to know that even as I've grown old, had a kid, gone grey, and lost my game room - if I put my mind and time into it, I can at least get competent at a bullet-hell shmup again. Maybe.