Hands On: Mind-Blowing NES Shmup Chouyoku Senki Estique Just Keeps Getting Better 1

Following on from our previous report on Chouyoku Senki Estique for the Famicom / NES. Takayuki Komabayashi has been regularly updating and sending us ROMs of the 2D hori-shmup as it progresses. Seeing the game improve and undergo refining and polish has been a real pleasure ā€“ especially since it reminds us of the days of reading magazines, and seeing previews claiming 40% and then 60% complete, and so on, in the build up to a review.

Komabayashi tells us: "The game is about 60% through development. We still need to implement Stage 5 and 6, plus visual scenes, and also compose the rest of the most. Currently only Stages 1 and 3 have their finalised music. Also we plan to add a Hard Mode. The sound will be improved and more huge bosses added. Please wait for next ROM."

The exciting thing about the latest update is the addition of bespoke music tracks. The first and third stages have a real jazzy tune to them, which feels fresh and, surprisingly very fitting to the stage themes. The night theme of the opening stage, coupled with the music, calls to mind old-timey noir detective films - you can almost imagine one of those city lights is inside a smoky whisky bar with a live jazz band. The third stage's warm blue skies benefits from an upbeat tune too - and just look at the use of colours. We've discussed the NES' limited palette, and Komabayashi and his team have worked well within the limitations.

But don't take out word for it, check out this video captured directly from real hardware. Notice the natural dithering that takes place between pixels:

"The first and third stage music is composed by Shinichi Sakamoto," explains Komabayashi, adding that, "He's famous for composing music for the Wonder Boy series. Most of the music will be by Shinichi Sakamoto."

It's clear from the ensemble cast of staff that this is a real passion project for Komabayashi, bringing together people from various classic series including Wonder Boy, Aleste, Spriggan Mark 2, and Golvellius. To have these veterans combining their talents to create a game a based on your personal vision is a dream we can barely imagine - we're only ever so slightly extremely jealous.

Finally, we ask about whether it will be physical or digital, Famicom or NES, pricing, date, and what sort of box and manual it will have.

Hands On: Mind-Blowing NES Shmup Chouyoku Senki Estique Just Keeps Getting Better 2

"Cartridges will be produced by Broke Studio this winter," reveals Komabayashi. "The date and price is not yet set, so please wait for the announcement. It comes with box and manual. Both Famicom and NES versions will be released."

We wish him luck. The game has come quite a long way from when we first played it. There's a definite challenge now, and we died a couple of times, but it's not unfair. There's still no flicker - some enemies flicker, but only as they materialise, for effect. The fourth stage has a cool tunnel system with sloping floors - touching them does not destroy you, which we appreciate, though it's clear the collision is still being tweaked. While the orange background for this stage is gorgeous, it makes some projectiles difficult to see. Given that enemy projectiles come in various colours (including blue), we suspect this will be amended before release. Seeing that Statue of Liberty at the stage end, though - *chef's kiss*.

For us, part of the excitement for this project is not just the game itself (though we feel confident it'll live up to expectations), but also seeing how it evolves and grows. There are plenty of devlogs online for modern indie games, but those tend to be for modern operating systems. Estique offers a window into Famicom development, which hasn't taken place professionally for around 30 years now. And as Komabayashi takes on board feedback, we've seen the difficulty balance improve, bugs get fixed, and the overall feel become more polished.

We're nearing the end now, but expect an update when we finally have our hands on this. In the meantime, enjoy the video on YouTube and let us know what you think in the comments. The team will keep an eye on all feedback.