Review: Crimzon Clover: World EXplosion (Switch)

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There’s no shortage of great shoot-’em-ups on Switch, but few compare to Crimzon Clover: World EXplosion. Originally released in 2011 (with a couple of revisions since then), this indie gem has rightfully earned a spot at the same table as the DoDonPachis and Ikarugas of this world: bullet hells are an exercise in majestic, controlled chaos, and Crimzon Clover turns that into a work of art. World EXplosion takes that to another level with a new Arrange mode that reimagines the game’s systems in exciting new ways, while also delivering one of the best shoot-’em-up Switch ports I’ve seen. 

Crimzon Clover has you flying head first into an onslaught of enemies and a maze of shots, but it also lets you dish out almost as much bullet hell as gets thrown your way. Each ship comes equipped with a rapid-fire cannon that’s powerful even by shmup standards, and a full squad of drones right out the gate. Each ship has its own unique shot spread, but they’re all more than capable of flooding almost the entire screen with bullets. On top of that, you’ve got a lock-on missiles, and powered-up state that makes your already ridiculous weapons even stronger. 

Related: If you want a bullet hell that’s a little more laid back and with a big dose of playful humour, Sisters Royale: Five Sisters Under Fire is worth a look. Here’s our review.

With so many hundreds of bullets flying back and forth and bucketloads of score medals dropped by destroyed enemies, it’s not uncommon for every inch of the screen to be literally covered in effects. And yet, the clutter never becomes distracting. Crimzon Clover makes sure crucial visual information is clearly visible—no matter how much is going on, the game makes it easy to keep track of your own position, that of your foes, and the shot patterns you need to evade. It makes for a game that is hectic without being overwhelming, where the mesmerising quality of an intricate bullet pattern can always shine through. 

The cornerstone of Crimzon Clover‘s strategy—be that for mere survival or for sure chasing—is in its “Break” system. Downing foes and collecting medals charges a special gauge that, when half full, you can use to activate the Break Mode, clearing all bullets and drastically increasing your damage and scoring for a limited time. If you manage to get the gauge past the halfway point again before Break Mode runs out—either by gaining enough extra charge while it’s active, or having a full bar to start with—you can trigger an even more powerful Double Break state.

Therein lies the recurring tactical decision in Crimzon Clover: do you pop Break Mode as soon as and take the (relatively) modest strength boost it gets you, or hold out for longer to make sure you can get the benefit of Double Break? The former is probably safer in general, but the score bonus from a Double Break is nothing to scoff at, and it can be a big help against the game’s sturdier foes. 

Crimzon Clover: World Explosion builds on all this with a new Arrange Mode. The basic idea is the same, but the Break gauge is now broken up into lots of different segments with different power ups depending on when you choose to activate it. The regular Break Mode is one of those, but there are also things like extra options (drones), a shield, speed boosts, and the like. They’re not only linear upgrades, either, but also include settings that you may want to switch up depending on the situation, like different option formations focusing on focused fire or a wide spread.

Where playing the original mode is all about raw power, and when and how you use that, Arrange mode instead puts the focus on adaptability and creative use of a wide range of different tools. The core Crimzon Clover experience remains the same, but reinterpreted in a fresh, exciting way. 

The Arrange version of Crimzon Clover: World Ignition‘s Unlimited Mode is a particular highlight. Unlimited Mode is Crimzon Clover at its most intense; for its Arrange version, as well as the revamped Break system, it gives you the ability to shoot enemy bullets out of the sky. Rather than make things easier, it opens the door to Crimzon Clover‘s most unrelenting bullet patterns yet. To get through it alive takes wits, practice, and clever use of every tool available to you. It’s a nightmare, in the best possible way. 

At the other end of the scale, Crimzon Clover: World EXplosion can be rather welcoming to newcomers, at least as far as shoot-’em-ups go. The Break system, especially in Arrange mode, leaves plenty of room to just forego score-chasing and take the path of least resistance. There’s also a novice mode with bullet patterns that are much easier to deal with, but still remain interesting—it’s a great introduction to what makes bullet hells exciting, in a way that easy modes often miss. 

In bringing Crimzon Clover to Switch, World EXplosion has everything you could want. Vertical orientation works a charm with something like a FlipGrip, and you can even play vertically with a bottom JoyCon attached, Game Boy style (though it can be a little uncomfortable if you have big hands). There’s a gallery of concept art to browse, online leaderboards, and a training mode with an extensive array of options to let you set up and practice any scenario. Most importantly, Crimzon Clover runs smoothly on Switch despite how much stuff there is happening on screen at any given time, with the responsive controls a bullet hell needs.

Crimzon Clover: World EXplosion brings one of the best shoot-’em-ups of the last decade to Switch, while building upon the original game’s strong foundation with a creative, refreshing Arrange mode. Switch is fast becoming a home for shmups, and Crimzon Clover: World EXplosion is up there with the best of them.

Score: 4.5 stars

Crimzon Clover: World EXplosion is developed by Yotsubane and published by Degica Games. It’s available now for Nintendo Switch (reviewed).

A review copy was provided to Shindig by the publisher.

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About Author

Matthew is a writer based in Wellington. He loves all things pop culture, and is fascinated by its place in history and the wider social context.