ESP Ra.De. (エスプレイド, Esupureido), also known as Esprade (pronounced Espraid), is a vertically scrolling manic shooter arcade game developed by CAVE and published by Atlus in 1998. This is the first of Cave's manic shooters not part of the DonPachi series as well as the first manic shooter in which the player is a flying person instead of a fighter. Unlike most other shmups, ESP Ra. De. has a somewhat involved story and setting.
- 1 Basic info
- 2 Gameplay overview
- 3 Advanced scoring techniques
- 4 Secrets
- 5 Strategy
- 6 Glossary/gallery
- 7 Story
- 8 References & Contributors
- 9 External Links
- A: (tap): Main shot. Varies by character. Power depends on how many power-ups are collected.
- A button (hold): Same as the main shot, only the player's movement speed is slower.
- B button: Power Shot. Fires a stream of "bubble" bullets which linger on enemies, dealing significant damage over time. There's a limit on the number of Power bullets that can be on-screen at once; initially this is 7, increasing by 2 with each shot power level, up to 15. Two of the three playable characters can angle the stream by moving after firing.
- C button: Barrier. Bomb equivalent. Depletes some of the Barrier gauge, makes the player character invulnerable, converts bullets into items and damages enemies on contact as long as it's active. Holding the C button will cause the Barrier to grow larger and stronger and continue depleting the gauge (it gets stronger faster when consuming bullets). When the C button is released, the player will perform a laser attack proportional in strength to the Barrier.
- Fastest movement, with significant slow while focusing
- Narrow, linear, high damage shot
- Can fire normal and Power Shots at the same time, resulting in a unique feel
- Can angle his Power Shot about 65 degrees to either side
- Causes less slowdown than the other characters
- Moderate-fast movement, with significant slow while focusing
- 3-way to 5-way spread shot with low damage per stream, but high shotgun damage
- Power Shot can't be manually angled, always goes straight ahead
- Moderate-slow movement, with little slow while focusing
- Wide, linear, low damage shot
- Can angle her Power Shot about 35 degrees to either side
The basic rule of play is to get as many Power Shot bullets as possible in contact with an enemy before finishing it off with normal shot. This will multiply the score value of the enemy, up to x16 for all 15 Power bullets, and scale the number of items the enemy drops. By finding an efficient route right out the gate of stage 1, you'll be able to get drastically more Power items and reach max shot power quickly, which sets up the next phase of the game. You may also notice that getting a multiplier on an enemy allows you to temporarily chain that multiplier onto other enemies, and that the amount of chain time you have depends on the type of enemy you started from. This is important, but becomes a lot more important later.
Max shot power mode
Once at max shot power, non-zako enemies will start dropping orange Score items instead of Power items. These items are worth 100 points baseline, but they inherit the multiplier of the enemy that dropped them. The scaling of number of items still applies, so by landing an x16 you'll get a ton of 1600 Score items instead of just a couple of 100 Score ones. Note that chaining a multiplier to a different enemy does NOT scale the items dropped by that enemy - not yet at least.
The higher the multiplier of Score items, the faster they drop on the screen, with x16s in particular being extremely fast. You'll have to line up under the enemy before going for the kill to get all of them.
Every Score item picked up is added to a total count that's visible under your lives counter. When this reaches 200, it'll start flashing and the game will change again.
Max Score item mode
Once the Score item total count is maxed out, every enemy you chain a multiplier onto will behave as though you killed it directly with that multiplier. For example, landing and chaining an x16 will result in every single chained enemy dropping its x16 number of Score items which will all be worth x16. This is the basis of scoring. What's more, each Score item picked up adds 3 frames to the chain timer - so as long as you keep grabbing items, chains can be extended drastically even if the only enemies on screen are too fragile to handle a Power Shot.
Upon destroying an enemy that will drop Score items, any enemy bullets that are very close to the destroyed enemy will be canceled into more Score items and will inherit the current chain multiplier. Therefore destroying enemies immediately after they attack will result in significantly more items. Note that this isn't limited to bullets fired by the enemy being destroyed - it's possible to herd bullets from other enemies into range to get a bigger cancel.
Bosses (and some midbosses) will cancel every bullet on the screen into Score items on death. In this case all of the items will inherit the boss' multiplier. The chain extension gained from picking these items up gets carried over to the following stage, so landing a big multiplier on a boss sets you up for the next stage in addition to its immediate benefits.
Max Score item mode part 2 (bombing)
Max Score item mode has another function. Any time the Score item counter is maxed out and the Barrier gauge is less than full, the item counter will rapidly deplete and enemies will drop Barrier Energy items which will refill the gauge. As soon as the counter reaches 0, Energy items will stop dropping, and the maximum item counter is increased by 100.
For example, you max out the counter at 200, then bomb. The item count drops to 0. You now need to raise the count to 300 to reach maximum again. If you go below maximum Barrier gauge at 300, it'll drop to 0 again and then you'll need 400. There's a game clear bonus for the number of items you have in stock, so bombing in the right places in order to empty, expand and re-fill the counter can result in more points in the long run.
There are score extends at 4 million and 8 million points, plus an extend item on the right-hand train near the start of stage 4. Bombing the item will destroy it.
Missing is fairly horrible in this game.
- Go to minimum shot power
- Produce large Power items equal to the number of misses
- Lose 25% of Score item counter if at maximum, or 33% if not at maximum
It may be tempting to recovery bomb in order to get back to maximum power quickly, but note that this will inevitably trigger the Energy item mechanic mentioned above, which can damage your scoring even more if activated in the wrong place. As always, not dying is best, especially since there's a significant clear bonus for lives.
Game clear bonus
- 1 million points per remaining life
- 500,000 points per life frame (empty or full)
- 3,000 points * Point item counter
- 1 million points for a full Barrier gauge (scaling down the less full it is)
Extra life frames are gained by being at maximum lives when you get an extend. Once you have them, you won't lose them, so try to get all three extends before your first miss!
Advanced scoring techniques
Player 2 Bomb
While playing in the P2 position, killing enemies with the Barrier bomb (not the Barrier itself) will increase the chain timer. This is typically abused by getting an x16 multiplier on the stage 5.1 boss and then bombing the mob of Alice Clones at the start of 5.2, inflating the timer massively and potentially allowing the x16 chain to be carried over the whole of 5.2. Doing this is worth about 4 million points and makes playing as P2 strictly better than P1 scoring-wise.
The player is awarded large amounts of tick points per frame any Power Shot bullet is in contact with an enemy. These points are more or less constant no matter how much damage you're actually doing. This means that by hitting enemies with only a small part of the Power Shot (preferably the weak front bit), the player can gain a few thousand points per shot while doing very little damage. Combined with the game's long boss timers, when taken to an extreme full-game milking can add up to around 10 million extra points (and 15 minutes to your playtime).
It should be noted that the above is only accurate to the arcade version and not the Arcade+ version seen on the M2 home console port, which has different rules for milking.
Display chain timer
Hold the B button before pressing Start after inserting a credit.
Select your character with a specific button to choose the order of the 3 first stages:
- A button: Houoh High School, random, random
- B button: Houoh High School, Shopping Mall At Night, Bay Area (ABC route)
- C button: Houoh High School, Bay Area, Shopping Mall At Night (ACB route)
- A button: Shopping Mall At Night, random, random
- B button: Shopping Mall At Night, Bay Area, Houoh High School (BCA route)
- C button: Shopping Mall At Night, Houoh High School, Bay Area (BAC route)
- A button: Bay Area, random, random
- B button: Bay Area, Houoh High School, Shopping Mall At Night (CAB route)
- C button: Bay Area, Shopping Mall At Night, Houoh High School (CBA route)
Irori alternate ending
Hold both Start buttons before the ending sequence starts.
- Stage A: Houoh High School/Phoenix College (Yusuke Sagami)
A mechanical walker tank. Its attacks are mainly unguided, although their intensity increases the later he's fought.
Boss: Satoru Oumi
An ESPer clone, responsible for the Hoōh High School Massacre. Protected by five, weaker clones, he's the first antagonist during Yusuke's storyline. The number of life bars it possesses depends on how early the stage is played, with the bar count increases by 1 for every successive stage (begins with 3 and ends with 5). The boss's difficulty increases for every destroyed life bar. After 4th life bar is destroyed, he creates a doppelganger of himself. If either unit is hit, the life bar is damaged.
- Stage B: Bay Area (Irori Mimakasa)
Sub-Boss: Yaksa Armored Ships
A couple of heavily armored ships, the latter carrying a large anti-aerial cannon.
Boss: Hoverboard Assault Chopper
A large chopper. Two large rotors are responsible for the vehicle's propulsion. Its attacks are unguided but sometimes inescapable, forcing the player to constantly move across the screen.
- Stage C: Shopping Mall at Night (J-B 5th)
Sub-Boss: Aerial Bombers
A large number of enemies with greater resilience to the player's attacks, but with no peculiarity whatsoever.
Boss: "Izuna" Assault Tank
A conventional (albeit futuristic) battle tank, which reveals additional gun turrets mounted on the four tracks and a large cannon on the main body once the armor is destroyed. The majority of its attacks are aimed at the player's last position.
- Stage 4: Wangan Subway Line
Sub-Boss: Armored Trains
Two heavily armed trains enter the right portion of the screen, while various enemies walk along the carriages of the train on the left, providing distraction.
Boss: "Line-Rider" Security Mecha
A gigantic mechanized security guard riding the tracks: as damage is dealt, parts of its armor and systems are destroyed, increasing the fierceness of its attacks. Its third form shows two laser cannons hidden within its frame, protecting the main core.
- Stage 5.1: Yaksa Fortress (exterior)
Sub-Boss: Yaksa Tank mk. II
A variation of the standard enemy tank seen during the previous stages: yellow in color, fires a continuous stream aimed at the player, while a second curtain of bullets on the said further limits movement. Two of them are fought.
Boss: Main Gate Defense System
The player is faced with the Fortress' main gate, where a continuous stream of land vehicles are spawned to attack the character. In addition, snipers line the roof, and two turrets provide additional firepower. The target is the shield projected by two ESPer clones, whose support attacks grow increasingly strong as the life bar is depleted.
- Stage 5.2: Yaksa Fortress (Ms. Garra's private quarters)
The early part of the mansion is filled with Alice clones, continuously firing at the player and creating a dynamic curtain of bullets; later on, smaller units and tanks appear.
Boss 1: Ares' Head
The large head of an Ares statue is psychically torn from the body and revealed to be a complex war machine, with six different weapons. Two different bullet patterns are used at a time, increasing to three after half of the life bar has been depleted.
Boss 2: Garra Ono
The player is faced with Ms. Garra herself. After a brief, easier skirmish, she evolves into a winged form, increasing her firepower as damage is dealt, until actually attacking with tightly knit bullet curtains.
By 2018, Tokyo has reached its maximum extension, therefore falling prey of common problems such as overpopulation and criminality. For this reason, an artificial island, aptly named Tokyo-2, is created just offshore, thanks to the support of the shady "Yaksa" corporation, led by elusive billionaire Garra Ono, whose ties with the modern incarnation of Yakuza have not been proved. Another source of instability is given by the rising number of humans exhibiting extrasensory perception, the so-called ESPers, who are constantly hunted down by the Japanese Police force.
Unknown to everyone, Garra herself is an extremely powerful ESPer, bent on using her influence over the government and military to replace every living being in the city with clones (disturbingly enough, these ESPers take the form of a 10-year-old girl, named "Alice" and implied to originate from Garra's own DNA). Just as her plans begin to unfold, three children are forced to take action, each one for his or her own personal motives.
At the beginning of each stage, a philosophical sentence related to the overall plot is given. The characters have near to the same speed of movement.
- Yusuke Sagami, a 17-year-old high-school student, portrayed in sporting gear and depicted as member of the volleyball team, whose school (Phoenix College in the Japanese original, translated as Houoh High School in the international release) is suddenly attacked by Yaksa's private military force and a squad of four ESPer clones. One of Yusuke's friends is killed by the squad commander, Satoru Oumi, whose pursuit sets the stage for the entire level. When encountered as a boss, he is seen assuming the form of the boy he killed, thus fueling Yusuke's desire for revenge. His A-attack is a powerful focused forward shot which increases in thickness. His B-shot is 45 degree to 135 degree. He is the only character that can fire the B-shot without interrupting the normal attack.
- J-B 5th, a 14-year-old psychic assassin, trained since early childhood as part of a secret psychic squad of the Russian government. Fearing the expansion of the Yaksa's influence, he is clandestinely smuggled to Japan with the intent of eliminating every high-profile member of the organisation, up to Garra Ono herself. His code name for the mission is Black Peter Pan, however his success at assassinating a Yaksa general gets both the Japanese Self Defense Force and Yaksa's army on his trail. His A-attack is a 3-way spread shot which increases in thickness, and eventually to a 5-way shot. His B-shot is focused forward and more useful for scoring.
- Irori Mimasaka, an 11-year-old girl, daughter of a family high ranked against the anti-Yaksa organisation "JUDGE", possibly a criminal cartel itself. After a failed assassination attempt by Yaksa's mechanized forces at the Tokyo Bay Area, she is compelled to bring their persecution to an end. Her A-attack is a medium-wide forward shot, weaker than Yusuke's; increases somewhat in range and thickness. Her B-shot is 0 degree to 360 degree.
The story takes place in December, during a 24-hour arc: each character has a specific stage which initiates his/her storyline, then culminating with the final encounter. After completing Stage 5 a character's specific ending is shown if only one player is active. If the character is Irori, pressing both Start buttons before the ending scene causes an alternate ending to appear. If two players are active, a group ending is shown.
References & Contributors
- GD:Esp.Ra.De, https://shmups.system11.org/viewtopic.php?t=279
- Plasmo, highest scoring replay resource topic https://shmups.system11.org/viewtopic.php?f=5&t=60767
- Main page information provided by IrateIrem