The series spans two main games:
Once upon a time, there was a peaceful kingdom named Shinra, ruled by a line of queens with supernatural powers. The current king, Jakou, decides to conduct a number of experiments to induce this power in his children as well as harness it for military purposes. Two of his children, Ageha and Tateha, are rescued from his grasp and taken into hiding by a man named Hiodoshi. Eventually, Jakou's forces track them down...
The game is known for its Ascension Dead Zone (Kakusei Shikai) mechanic (or Ascension/Kakusei for short), in which the player can press a button to slow down enemy bullets, allowing beginners to better enjoy the game, although Ascension can only be used for a limited period of time. Notably, the player's character changes genders when activating Ascension mode, and back when deactivating it. To encourage use of Ascension even in high-level play, the game's scoring system relies on destroying enemies in Ascension mode to collect gold items.
A PlayStation 2 port by Arika was released in 2004. It features an exclusive Arrange Mode based on the game mechanics of ESP Ra.De., the game's Spiritual Predecessor. Another port for Japanese mobile phones, Espgaluda DX, was released in 2005.
Espgaluda II (2005)
It has been three years since the first game, the events of which are known as the "Great Shinra War." The ruling family of another country named Soma decide to salvage Jakou's research and create an organization called the Spirit Society, dedicated to producing more children with psychic powers. One of the products of these experiments, Asagi, flees and joins Ageha and Tateha.
Espgaluda II expands on the gameplay of the original, this time featuring a variant of Ascension known as Ascension Absolute Dead Zone (Kakusei Zesshikai, also known as Zetsushikai or just Zetsu), which can create much higher score multipliers at the cost of generating extra bullets and a harder drain on the player's resources. Bullet patterns have also been made more difficult overall, ensuring that even survival-based players still face a lot of challenge.
A mobile port, Espgaluda II iPhone/Android, was released in 2010, marking the series' international debut, and features a mode that replicates the arcade version as well as an exclusive arrange mode that makes use of touchscreen-focused controls. It would later get an Updated Re-release, Espgaluda II HD for iPad 2, in 2011.
An Xbox 360 port, Espgaluda II Black Label, was released in 2010. Although Japan-only like the arcade version and the previous game, this port has no region coding, enabling it to be played on any region's console. This features an in-depth tutorial that demonstrates the game's (rather complex) mechanics, the arcade original as well as an HD version of it, as well as three Arrange Modes: the titular Black Label arrange, an arrange by Shinobu Yagawa that implements a bullet color cancelling system, and a bonus mode that is unlocked after completing the game once. There are also Novice versions of the base game and Black Label. This version would later be ported to Nintendo Switch in 2021 by Live Wire for all major regions, making it the first time that the console version was officially released outside of Japan.
The Espgaluda series contains examples of:
- Abusive Parents: Ageha and Tateha's father, the king Jakou is decidedly not a nice guy.
- Animal Motifs: Butterflies are everywhere in both games. The playable characters themselves are named after Japanese terms for certain species of butterflies, and fly around with butterfly wings.
- Anti-Frustration Features:
- Although Espgaluda II allows for scores in the hundreds of millions, the point-based extra lives are set at only 15,000,000 and 35,000,000 points, so that even a score-apathetic player can have a chance at getting both of those extra lives.
- Espgaluda II Arrange mode starts you with 5 lives instead of 3 by default to compensate for how hard it is to get extra lives. That said, another reason for the 5 lives is because the game's scoring system encourages intentionally dying to reset resourcesnote .
- Archnemesis Dad: Jakou from the first Espgaluda is the father of Ageha and Tateha and the main villain of that game.
- Aristocrats Are Evil: "Royalty" in the case of Jakou, an evil king who experimented on his children Ageha and Tateha so he can turn them into psychic Tykebombs and use them for military purposes.
- Arrange Mode: The PS2 port of the first game has an arrange that is a crossover between it and ESP Ra.De., complete with Suspiciously Similar Substitutes of J-B 5th and Irori and a force field meter replacing the usual Smart Bomb.
- Espgaluda II has the "Black Label" arrange, which includes a chaining system in the style of DoDonPachi which multiplies the value of gold, makes it so that when an enemy is killed, their bullets are always canceled into gold, includes a shield meter that repels bullets, and includes Seseri as a new playable character. There is also an arrange mode, programmed by S. Yagawa of Recca and Battle Garegga fame, that implements a polarity system akin to Ikaruga or Dimahoo, where bullets are either blue, which are canceled with normal shots, or red, which are canceled using the laser. Switching between your two shots costs gems. Finally, there is the Omake mode, where collecting gems and gold contributes to a combined counter, and when enemy shots approach your character, they turn red. Activating Kakusei mode cancels these bullets, but killing an enemy turns them into gems instead.
- Art-Shifted Sequel: The art for the first game was done by Tsukasa Kado, while the art for the second game was done by Masaki Hirooka.
- Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence: Asagi's ending has this for herself, Tsubame & Janome, and all of the children who were being experimented on by the Spirit Society.
- Bare Your Midriff: Ageha's female form in Espgaluda II. Tateha's male form in both games, with much tougher abs in the second game.
- Madara, the midboss of Espgaluda II stage 2, carries an oversized pistol.
- In Espgaluda II Black Label, Seseri's male Ascension form carries a pistol that seems to be half the size of his body.
- Big Bad: Jakou in the first game, and Tsubame and Janome share the position in the second as co Big Bads.
- Bilingual Bonus: In Espgaluda II, there's an inscription on the podium at the end of Stage 5 where you fight Seseri, which reads "Shinra meine heimat", or "Shinra, my homeland" in German.
- Bullet Time: The effect of being in Awakening mode and having spare gems.
- Cain and Abel: Seseri's father is Jakou, but her mother is not the Queen of Shinra (a.k.a. Ageha and Tateha's mother), making her the half-sister of the player characters. She hates Ageha and Tateha because Jakou focuses all of his attentions on them, so she seeks to kill them to earn Jakou's love.
- Continuing is Painful: In the first game. If you die, your gold meter is cut in half.
- Creepy Child: Suspiciously Similar Substitutes of the Alice Clones from ESP Ra.De. return for the final stage of both games in this series.
- Curtains Match the Window: Ageha and Tateha... sort of. Their eyes are a darker shade of green than their hair. Seseri's purple eyes have a reddish tint compared to her blue-violet hair (in the first game at least).
- Cyborg: Seseri, after the first stage of the first game.
- Difficult, but Awesome:
- To maximize scoring potential in Espgaluda II, one not only needs to make use of Ascension to cancel enemy bullets and to build up Kakusei Over level, they must also master the new Zetsushikai mode. It uses both gems and gold at a rapid pace, destroying enemies while in Zetsu spawns extra bullets that can spell disaster for the player and eats up gems even faster. Masterful use of Zetsu will cancel those revenge bullets en masse for massive amounts of points; whereas a no-Zetsu player will probably take until Stage 4 to get both point-based extra lives (first at 15 million points and seconed at 35 million), someone who knows their way around Zetsu can get that 35 million on Stage 1.
- Espgaluda II: Black Label has this in two different flavors. First, Zetsu instead causes bullets near your character to multiply, and also grants complete invincibility...at the cost of draining your shield meter and rapidly draining your gem and gold counters. By flying your invincible self into a thick cloud of bullets, you can create even more bullets to cancel when you step out of Zetsu, but you must be very careful that none of the three resources your invincibility runs on run out while you're in the middle of the bullet thicket, or else you are sure to take damage. Mastering this technique can generate a lot of bullets that can make your score skyrocket. And then there's Zetsu Over; activating it causes enemies to fire back aimed revenge bullets and bullets that you graze to spawn aimed bullets, which of course creates a great risk to the player but will cancel nicely into gems, allowing a skilled player to generate extra points and fuel for their Kakusei modes.
- Disney Death: In the first game, Seseri falls from a great height while injured and bloodied from the first boss stage. She comes back in Stage 5 as a cyborg.
- Do Well, But Not Perfect: Players looking to get a quick and simple clear in Espgaluda II: Black Label should die at least once before the end of Stage 5. It's entirely possible for a halfway decent player to no-death up to that point note , and then experience total regret when they realize that they unlocked the True Seseri fight. Downplayed in vanilla Espgaluda II, where you also have to advance to Ascension Over level 3 to unlock True Seseri.
- Dude Looks Like a Lady: If not for the first game and the other two characters as references, you might not realize that Asagi's alternate form is supposed to be a boy, especially thanks to the artwork showing that this male form's shoes have higher heels, and the book is changed to a stuffed bunny head.
- Every 10,000 Points: By default:
- In Espgaluda you gain an extra life at 4,000,000 points and again at 14,000,000 points.
- In Espgaluda II:
- Normal mode: You gain one at 15,000,000 points and another at 35,000,000 points. Given that judicious use of the two Ascension modes can earn scores in the hundreds of millions, these extra life points seem to have been made with survival-focused players in mind, so that they can play the game like it's the original Espgaluda and still get both extra lives.
- Black Label: The first one is at 100,000,000 points and the second at 300,000,000 points.
- Arrange: Every 100,000,000 points. Yes you keep gaining extra lives after the first two.
- Omake: 15,000,000 and 30,000,000 points.
- Evil Counterpart: Jakou, the final boss of the first game, is able to do gender-changing Awakening just like the player characters.
- Evil Laugh:
- Jakou does this at the beginning of his Final Boss fight, daring his opponents to show them their full strength.
- Also Madara, the boss with the multi-part tank, Asmodeus, in Espgaluda II.
- Fanservice Pack: In Espgaluda II, Tateha and Ageha have aged a bit, and their clothes for their female forms are noticeably more revealing. Almost literally for Seseri, who was rebuilt to look like she had aged as much as the main characters. (not counting her playable version in Espgaluda II Black Label)
- Feed It with Fire: In the first game, if you hit Jakou with your Guard Barrier attack in his final phase, it will heal him.
- Flight: The main playable characters can fly around with butterfly wings made of Psychic Powers. Seseri can do it, too, but with machinery. Jakou can do this, too.
- Fusion Dance: The final boss of Espgaluda II is Tsubame and Janome fused together.
- Gender Bender: The core gameplay mechanic for high scoring. The final boss of Espgaluda can do it too. In Espgaluda II, this game mechanic is required for unlocking the fight against True Seseri, and the final boss is the fusion of Tsubame and Janome.
- Gender-Restricted Ability: In the first Espgaluda it's explained that only the female royalty of Shinra can wield vast psychic powers passed down every generation. The only reason why Ageha and Tateha can wield them too is due to their mother being Shinra royalty, and being experimented on by their evil and ambitious father.
- Guest Fighter: The PS2 port's Arrange Mode has two Suspiciously Similar Substitutes of J-B 5th and Irori.
- Incest Subtext: In the second game, Tsubame and Janome unify into a single being named Kujaku as the final boss. There is a lot of additional subtext between them shown in Asagi's ending. Also present in Ageha's ending, between him and Tateha.
- Inconsistent Dub: The English localization of the mobile versions translates Kakusei as "Awakening", but in the Switch version, it's called "Ascension" in English.
- Innocent Flower Girl: Janome, the boss of Espgaluda II stage 3, is strongly linked with flowers. She turns not-so-innocent when she becomes a boss of a Cave game.
- Light Is Not Good: Jakou's female form is angelic and beautiful, and has golden wings. He later combines his male and female forms together, resulting in a saintly figure with demonic-looking wings.
- Long Song, Short Scene: Unless you're listening to the soundtrack, you won't get to hear the entire stage song in some levels.
- Mad Scientist: In the first game, Jakou experimented on his own children in order to induce Psychic Powers. In the second game, the Spirit Society is doing this on a larger scale on many children.
- Magic Pants: An interesting example, in that the characters' clothes magically transform to be appropriate for their current gender, for certain definitions of "appropriate."
- Mirror Match: In Espgaluda II Black Label, Espgaluda 1 Seseri can fight against their older self in Stage 5, and there's a unique theme for this setup.
- More Dakka: Part 1 of Stage 5 has Jakou's men shoot at you with a ludicrously amount of bullets. The second half of Stage 5 has the Alice Clone-like minions do the same as well.
- Nigh-Invulnerability: In Espgaluda II Black Label, activating Zetsu mode with your shield meter non-empty causes you to activate absolute invulnerability mode, during which you are impervious to all damage, however the shield, gem, and gold meters will drop rapidly and once any of those reach zero, you lose absolute invulnerability.
- No-Sell: In Espgaluda II, the final boss, a fused Tsubame and Janome, is immune to your Guard Barrier, raising a shield if you use it. Technically, they use their shield any time you use yours (such as after taking damage), but it so happens that firing your Guard Barrier activates your shield, rendering the Guard Barrier incapable of damaging them. Believe it or not, this is actually a Nerf from the previous game's Final Boss, who would recover health if you hit them with the Guard Barrier.
- Ominous Pipe Organ: In Espgaluda II Black Label, True Seseri's theme features an intimidating pipe organ playing throughout.
- Pretty Butterflies: The playable characters have butterfly-esque wings made of psychic energy.
- Promoted to Playable: The Espgaluda I version of Seseri, who is fought twice in that game, is available as a playable character in Espgaluda II Black Label.
- Psychic Powers: The player characters were engineered specifically to have these.
- Robot Girl: Seseri appears to be fully machine in Espgaluda II, after she was apparently killed near the end of the first game.
- Shapeshifter Baggage: It is difficult to calculate how much of a mass difference there is, or whether or not any of it is involved in keeping Kakusei ("Awakening") mode going besides the gems.
- Spiritual Successor: To ESP Ra.De due to the guard barrier mechanic, bosses with huge psychic wings, and enemies resemblant to the Alice Clones.
- Steampunk: The technology and fashion featured in Espgaluda are both reminiscent of this trope.
- Super Gender-Bender: The heroes are already powerful psychics, but gender-changing makes them into even more powerful psychics. Not only can Jakou, the Big Bad, do this himself, but in the final boss battle he fuses his male and female forms together to create a powerful, androgynous being.
- Tank Goodness: Asmodeus, Madara's war machine, is a three-part tank that can combine, no less, in Espgaluda II stage 4. Lampshaded by the achievement for the iOS version, "One Less Tank in a Cave Game" upon defeating Asmodeus.
- There Is No Kill Like Overkill: At the beginning of the first game, Hiodoshi gets shot up a lot of times.
- Traumatic Superpower Awakening: Seeing their Parental Substitute Hiodoshi get brutally killed by Jakou's men caused Ageha and Tateha's Psychic Powers to awaken, and they slaughter the men who killed him before embarking on their journey.
- True Final Boss: Subverted in Espgaluda II, in which it's the boss of stage 5 - Seseri - who has a true version. In vanilla, she is unlocked by advancing Ascension to level 3, then reaching her without dying once. In Black Label, you merely need to reach her without dying.
- Voice of the Legion: Jakou's final form, a fusion of both his male and female forms, speaks with both male and female voices.
- We Can Rebuild Him: Seseri, twice. The first time, she only received some cybernetic implants to recover fron her earlier thrashing in Stage 1 of the first game. The second time, she was dead, and had to be rebuilt as a full-on robot.
- "Well Done, Son!" Guy: Seseri's motivation for wanting to kill Ageha and Tateha, since she was not born from a psychic queen like they were. When she is killed in the second game, she even says, "Father, I'm sorry..." as her life expires.