There are three common perspectives used by traditional shoot-em-ups: horizontal (the side of the ship), vertical (the top of the ship), and rail (the back of the ship). However, oblique shooters are surprisingly uncommon. Slipheed did an oblique take on the vertical shooter, and Nichibutsu did their own take from a different perspective with their 1984 game Seicross. Because of it being a sidescrolling game, its perspective is actually similar to that of belt-scrolling beat-em-ups. The game was actually developed by a company called Alice, and published by Nichibutsu. It was designed by Yosuke Yamashita, who also worked a few other games for Nichibutsu like Chouji Meikyuu Legion and Mighty Guy.
In Seicross, the player takes the role of Gilgit, a member of an alien tribe called the Petras, threatened by the conquering Basrah, on a rescue bike (which actually kind of looks like a futuristic hovering Vespa). They must navigate through six levels to rescue fellow Petras, while dodging and shooting various obstacles and enemies. The bike has an energy meter that depletes automatically, but decreases faster when hit by another bike or from shooting too much. To restore energy, the player must collect gray and red hexagon-shaped objects. The landscape is made of rectangular lined grids, which along with the bikes, suggest that the game may have been inspired by the movie Tron.
Levels alternate between two types: all of the odd levels involve moving battles with opponents who have their own bikes. The player can shoot at these bikes to destroy them, or ram them into walls or other obstacles. However, these bikes can ram the player back as well. When shooting at a bike and colliding with it before it completely vanishes, the player will die as well. The other type of level is slower paced, as now the player must navigate through various projectiles spawned by the flora and fauna of the alien world. However, these areas can also be harder as a result. Also near the end of every even level is a fight with two dinosaur tanks, who can launch their heads at the player.
Seeing some sort of large patch of mud usually means that the player is near the end of the level. Here, the amount of rescued Petras is tallied up, each being rewarded with 1000 points. After beating level six, the final two levels repeat over and over again until the player has run out of lives. Beating the top score will net an extra life, but other than that, there are no means to extend lives in the game.
The arcade game requires a great deal of memorization to get through unharmed, and is very difficult as a result. Unless the player is bumped by another bike and does not collide with anything, they die in one hit. Like later shoot-em-ups, the game does provide checkpoints, but these are so few and far in between that they do not feel all that helpful. The vertically-oriented monitor does not help matters either, as it is not a good fit for the horizontally scrolling game. While the graphics look pretty good for 1984, the music feels uninspired and unfitting for the action.
The NES port in 1986 improves on the original in a multitude of ways. For starters, the regular TV aspect ratio is much more suitable for the game, so now players have more time to react to what's in front of them. However, the biggest draw is the inclusion of power-ups. Some enemies or objects drop a star when destroyed, which activates a larger shot. Collecting it again makes the shot go automatic. Power-ups that increase the speed of the bike or slow down the game can also be collected. Dying and checkpoints work the same way as in the original, and when dying the player loses all power-ups. However, it is easier to obtain extra lives here, so that is at least sort of alleviated.
The music has been greatly improved in this port as well, feeling much more action-packed and memorable than in the arcade version. Overall, while Seicross on the NES retains some of the same flaws as its arcade counterpart, it fixes a lot of its issues as well, and is a much more enjoyable experience because of that. The game also seems to count lives in base-16 - when collecting ten lives, the game will read "0A" instead of "10".
Seicross isn't exactly a classic, but the design for the motorbikes is pretty cool, and for an early shooter it's not too bad either.
There are tons of Touhou fangame based on classic video games, ranging from Mega Man to Spelunker. And while some are just as good as the games they are homaging, others tend to fall short and live in the shadows of their predecessors forever. Touhou Seicross is neither of these, and if one were to take out the various Touhou characters and references, it could very well be a Seicross 2.
Right off the bat, the player is given three choices for a character and vehicle, each with their own stats. Reimu has the best acceleration but is the lightest, while Marisa has the best top speed with the worst acceleration, and Patchouli is the heaviest but has the worst speed. Basrahs are replaced with other Touhou characters, and Petras are replaced with Reimu Yukkuris (caricaturized heads of Touhou characters).
The gameplay and interface have been given noticeable upgrades as well. Now the player has an automatic shot by default, which can be upgraded to a more powerful attack with a power-up. Bullets no longer cause the player to explode, but rather drain more energy, similar to how the other bikers do. As a result, the player may experience more energy-related deaths than deaths based on collisions. The player also revives as soon as they lose a live, avoiding the annoyance of the checkpoints from the original game. Another feature added to the interface is a bar telling how close the player is to the end of the level, which is a wonderful addition to the game. Overall, the game feels more balanced than the two previous versions.
The graphics are generally what's to be expected from a standard doujin game, with some decent pixel art, but nothing incredibly unique. The music, like most other Touhou fan games, consists of remixes of songs from Touhou, so however much players likes those will probably determine the opinion of the music in this game as well. In the end, while it may not be a legitimate sequel, Touhou Seicross is still a decent upgrade over the original.