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Video Game / Graze Counter

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Graze Counter is a 2017 Doujin Shoot 'Em Up developed by Bikkuri Software and published by Henteko Doujin. It is set in the early twenty-third century and revolves around an attempt by teenage fighter pilots Ginyose Uzuki and Furuyama Satsuki to liberate more than two million civilians who have been trapped in Cyberspace by the "virtual network" EDEN. They are joined by fellow teenage fighter pilots Katori Hayate and Kirisame Kiriko, who become playable after clearing the game once and twice respectivelynote . It is distinguished from other Bullet Hell games by the titular mechanic: by grazingnote  the enemy's bullets, the player can charge up a Wave-Motion Gun attack that destroys enemy bullets, causing them to drop stars that can be collected to charge up a second Limit Break called "Break Mode", granting enhanced firepower for a brief period.

The original game is available on Steam here, while its enhanced Game Maker Studio remake saw release on home consoles in addition to Steam.

Graze Counter contains examples of:

  • Achievement System: GM has 18 in-game achievements to unlock.
  • All There in the Manual: Everything about the protagonists, from Satsuki's backstory to Uzuki's gender to the characters' basic personalities is limited to the (Japanese) manual and promotional artwork. This is remedied with the Updated Re Release, which adds character bios as bonus content unlockable by clearing the main story once.
  • Artificial Intelligence: All of the stage bosses, except those fought in Stage 3, are sentient programs.
  • Astral Finale: The last couple of boss fights take place in space (or rather a mimicry of space, given the game is supposed to be taking place within a simulation).
  • Audible Gleam: On the ending screen, after "SHMUPS NEVER DIE" appears, accompanied by the visual gleam that appears at the top right of the third 'E.'
  • "Blind Idiot" Translation: The original game's English dialogue does not read very well. GM's English translation is significantly more comprehensible, although it also has some typos.
  • Boss Rush: Available as an unlockable bonus that can be accessed in the Omake!/Extra Mode menu.
  • Boss Warning Siren: One sounds along with a red warning message before each boss appears.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Hayate, according to her profile, has been arrested 250 times for stalking women—which she has done for fun—but charges against her have been dropped every time on account of her services to Saviours being just that vital.
  • Childhood Friends: Uzuki and Kiriko.
  • Close-Contact Danger Benefit: This game, as indicated by the title, makes grazing a core mechanic by filling a bar when you're doing it, which is indicated by the bullets turning red. Once the bar is full, you can unleash a highly damaging counterattack that also gets rid of enemy bullets and makes enemies drop stars when they're hit.
  • Company Cross References: The names of Hayate and Kiriko's fighters, "Revolgear" and "Kirisame Blade," are directly lifted from previous games that were also created by Bikkuri Software. And to further drive home the company cross referencing, the original game has two songs from Kirisame Blade 2—the stage clear and stage 3 themes—that are heard only while playing as either version of Kiriko.
  • Contractual Boss Immunity: Your Break Mode is a good tool against bosses and regular enemies alike, but final boss Striae is immune to it. You can still earn stars for hitting her during Break Mode, though.
  • Cool Mask: Kiriko is depicted in the original game—if inconsistently—wearing a hannya, albeit on the side of her head. She doesn't have a mask at all in GM.
  • Cool Sword: Kiriko, in exchange for the ability to use Break Mode, has a large sword bit that she can use in tandem with her regular shot and the Graze Counter. In GM, the alternate playable version of Kiriko gets to have both the sword bit and Break Mode, in exchange for having no regular shot. Kiriko herself can be seen with a katana at her side in a couple of official artworks.
  • Crossover: GM includes the Nexalts from Grand Cross Renovation as an unlockable ship type. In return, Grand Cross has Kiriko's ship, the Kirisame Blade, as an unlockable alternate ship.
  • Defeat Equals Explosion: Par for the course in a bullet hell. An explosion occurs after defeating the Stage 3 bossnote —Hayate or Kiriko—though their respective fighters will remain intact, if heavily damaged. This is because...
  • Defeat Means Friendship: Hayate or Kiriko, with a fully repaired fighter, will show up partway through Stage 5 to provide the player with a power-up before flying away. Both of them will show up later in the same stage (along with two other friendly fighters in GM) escorting either Uzuki or Satsuki, who will also provide a power-up.
  • Defeat Means Playable: Stage 3 bosses Hayate and Kirikonote  become playable, after clearing the game once and twice respectively in the original, and after clearing the game just once in GM. Even final boss Striae is a playable character—in GM—and can be unlocked by clearing the main story three times, whereas Felicia, Noa, and Seika can be played by holding up while selecting Alternate Uzuki, Striae, and Alternate Kiriko respectively.
  • Difficulty Levels: Three in the original game, four in GM. The original has Novice, Arcade, where the difficulty scales based on how well the player is doing, and Expert, where baddies burst into bullets upon being destroyed. GM meanwhile has Novice, Original, Hard, and Extreme.
  • Disc-One Final Boss: Kaika Toshihira is set up as the game's final boss, being fought at the end of the Final Stage, piloting a craft called "Final Guard." And once you've dispatched Kaika, Striae comes flying in in her Bullet Angel.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: This little exchange between Uzuki and Hayate in Uzuki's ending:
    Hayate: I know I said I would help... But this is really pushing it.
    Uzuki: Hey, I'm the one who did most of the legwork here.
    Hayate: Oh please. Don't act like you didn't enjoy it.
  • Dramatic Thunder: Well into Stage 4 of the original game/Stage 4-A of GM, not long before the player encounters Seika, the sky goes dark and lightning begins to periodically flash. Naturally, this persists throughout the actual battle with Seika.
  • Dueling Player Characters: In Stage 3, Uzuki and Satsuki respectively have to fight the unlockable playable characters Hayate and Kiriko, who themselves have to battle each other in Stage 3.
  • Emotionless Girl: Lily Butler, pilot of the Type-C SAS-02-G2 ARYS, does not emote while using Graze Counter or Break Mode, or really even when getting hit. When she does gets hit, she merely slightly closes her eyes in disappointment.
  • Evil Knockoff: Stage 5 boss Kaika Toshihira assumes a form that mirrors the player character, except with differently colored hair, eyes, and clothing, as well as a never changing facial expression.note  Interestingly, Kaika's imitations of Uzuki and Satsuki in GM are identical to their appearances while in Break Mode.
  • Expressive Health Bar: Of a sort. Your character's expression will change to a less than pleased one whenever you are hit and lose a lifenote  or shield.
  • Failed a Spot Check: Stage 1 boss Felicia Loach makes sure to stop Uzuki and Satsuki to prevent either of them from going further into EDEN, and at least tries to tell Hayate that no one is allowed into EDEN given Hayate apparently gets in through a backdoor. But for some reason, she determines the dour Yandere swordswoman Kiriko—whose eyes are even empty relative to her human compatriots—to be a non-threat, and Felicia naturally pays for it.
  • Final-Exam Boss: Striae, who utilizes all the attacks of the bosses that precede her.
  • French Maid Outfit: Hayate's ensemble.
  • Fun with Acronyms: The "GM" in "Graze Counter GM" stands for "Game Maker."
  • Gender Bender: Is said to have happened to Satsuki, who was originally a boy, as a result of a botched experiment.
  • Guest Fighter: GM has a few. Hazuki Hachimiya, Machinery Tomoko, and Kiine Asagiri are indie Japanese Virtual Youtubers, while Cocoa and Eugene come from the platformer TOKOYO: The Tower of Perpetuity, and Akane Isshiki and Shizuku Mikazuki are from the also Bikkuri-made shoot-'em-up Revolgear Zero.
  • Hard Mode Perks: Harder difficulties mean more bullets...which also mean more sources of building up the Graze Counter gauge and more bullets to cancel into stars with said Graze Counter. The Unlimited toggle in GM makes enemies fire revenge bullets upon defeat, which can be again grazed to pop off more Graze Counters.
  • Haunted Technology: Very briefly discussed between Hayate and Uzuki, in Uzuki's ending. Hayate tries to float the idea that there might be supernatural activity occurring as part of the abnormalities going on with EDEN, and, to support this idea, notes how EDEN's servers are hosted on old hardware from an abandoned hospital. She almost immediately drops this concept though.
  • Have I Mentioned I Am Gay?: Hayate's profile says she came to realize she was homosexual after having to go through a heartbreak. She is seen winking at other characters, though this could just be her acting cutesy and not necessarily being flirty, especially since a couple of characters she winks at are the boy in girl's clothing, Uzuki, and her cousin Kiriko.
  • Hiding Behind Your Bangs: Kiriko has hair that conceals her left eye, as well as a complementing murderous affection for Uzuki and a generally surly attitude, both of which Satsuki gets the worst of.
  • Improbably Female Cast: Only two of the main castnote , Uzuki and Noa, are male, although Satsuki was herself a boy until she underwent a botched experiment. Kaika merely takes a form that resembles whoever is in its presence. Accounting for all characters in GM, there are four who are male—the aforementioned Uzukinote  and Noa, Eugene from Tower of Perpetuity, and Satsuki's original form, Itsuki.
  • Japanese Delinquent: This was Satsuki while she was still a boy.
  • Japanese Ranguage: Stage 2 of the original game is called "Crystal Labylinth."
  • Limit Break: The Graze Counter and Break Mode.
  • Luckily, My Shield Will Protect Me: A shield is one of three available power-ups, which allows the player to survive being hit and not lose a life. There's also the skill "Auto Shield," which deploys a shield for the player after 15 seconds without one, as well as Eugene's personal skill "Manual Shield," which allows him to generate shields by grazing bullets.
  • Mascot Villain: Striae is both the anomaly causing EDEN to malfunction, and the face of Graze Counter GM.
  • Master Swordswoman: Kiriko is referred to as such in her profile. She even has a katana at her side in her artwork.
  • Meaningful Name: "Uzuki"/"卯月" is the archaic Japanese word for the month of April. Uzuki Ginyose's fighter is called "April Divider." Meanwhile, "Satsuki"/"皐月" is the archaic Japanese word for the month of May, and Satsuki Furuyama is the second default playable character, after Uzuki.
    • Kiriko's "Kirisame Blade" serves both as a callback to past works by Bikkuri Software and a nod to her swordsmanship. Even the name "Kiriko Kirisame"/"霧雨 斬子" references said swordsmanship, as the "Kiri" in the forename and surname is homophonous with the Japanese word for "cutting"/"slicing" (切り).
      • There's more. If Kiriko is the boss of Stage 3 in GM, said stage will be subtitled "The Executor Girl." There are two kanji in the forename "Kiriko:" "斬," which means "kill," and "子," which can be taken to mean "girl."
    • In GM, "Alternative-Dancer" ("Alternative-D" as it appears in game) is the name of Itsuki Furuyama's fighter. Itsuki may be Satsuki's original form in the lore, but he is an alternative playable version of Satsuki, who pilots the Freedom Dancer.
    • Hayate's boss theme is called "Like a Flash Breeze." The kanji in the name "Hayate," "疾" and "風," respectively mean "rapid" and "wind."
  • Mercy Invincibility: Granted every time after losing a shield or upon respawn after losing a life.
  • Miko: Kiriko's standard outfit.
  • Minigame: GM's unlockable Laser Maiden 2, which stars Hayate, who has to defend the Earth from fearsome fuzzy flying felines known as "Necokaburi."
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: "Grave Stone," what Felicia's craft is known as in the original game; "Violet Devil," Seika's craft in Stage 4-A, and to a greater extent, "Genocide Angel," the name of Striae's craft in the Extra Stage. Meanwhile, the subtitle for Stage 3 of GM with Kiriko as the boss, "The Executor Girl," is all but certainly a nickname (and a transliteral one, at that!) for Kiriko.
  • No Full Name Given: Stage 4's boss is only known as "Seika."
  • Ominous Visual Glitch: A very minor example in playable Striae's reaction to getting hit.
  • Pacifist Run: Encouraged by the game's aptly named Pacifist mode, in which you have to find your way through the enemy's onslaught with no form of attack of your own, barring the Graze Counter.note 
  • Palette Swap: The original game has four unlockable characters that are this design-wise. These characters' fighters are naturally in different color schemes from their regular counterparts, while the characters themselves are Hayate in a scientist's coat, Kiriko in a serafuku, and Kaika's imitations of Uzuki and Satsuki. Meanwhile GM also has a schoolgirl Kiriko, as well as Uzuki in casual clothes, and each of Kaika's imitations of the original playable four.
  • Pinball Scoring: Oh yeah. A successful run will net a player well over a billion points.
  • Pre-Battle Banter: Before each boss battle in the original game, the bosses will talk to you as though you are the character you're controlling. This only applies to regular Uzuki and Satsuki, though—Hayate and Kiriko do not have any pre-battle dialogue with the bosses. GM turns this into a proper pre-boss back-and-forth between your character and the boss, and adds Pre-Battle Banter for Hayate and Kiriko. Seika's dialogue in Stage 4-B is unique in that it takes place not before her boss battle, but before the stage as a whole begins, while Hayate and Kiriko will say the same things to each other in Stage 3 regardless of, between them, who is the player character and who is the boss.
  • Recurring Boss: A version of Felicia's craft colored red appears in the Final Stage and Extra Stage. The large-winged, grey mid-boss craft from Stage 1 also appears in the Final Stage.
  • Red Eyes, Take Warning: Final boss Striae Alis normally has a red left eye and a blue right eye, but both her eyes become red before she attacks. In the Extra Stage, Striae's eyes are already red. Kiriko isn't as dangerous, but Lord help you if you are also a girl with close ties to Uzuki, like Satsuki.
  • Route Boss: In GM, the player can choose between two levels for Stages 2 and 4. Noa and Seika respectively will always be these stages' bosses, but the crafts they pilot, as well the enemy patterns, will be different.
  • Sailor Fuku: Uzuki wears one, as does the alternate playable version of Kiriko.
  • School Uniforms are the New Black: Stage 2 boss Noa Shishise rocks a gakuran while he defends EDEN, although he is an AI.
  • Shout-Out: The three powerups of the game forming a triangle is clearly a page taken from Cho Ren Sha 68k. This is made further evident in GM, which implements the ability to get all three items at once if you remain in the center of the triangle for a few seconds.
    • The names of Kiriko's and Hayate's fighters, "Kirisame Blade" and "Revolgear," are nods to older games also made by Bikkuri Software.
    • Stage 3 of GM with Hayate as the boss is subtitled "Show Me Your Moves!", which can only refer to Captain Falcon's (in)famous catchphrase coined in Super Smash Bros.
  • Snowy Screen of Death: What happens to your character's display in the top right when you are hit and lose a life in the original game.
  • Sound Test: Unlockable in both the original and in GM.
  • Space Plane: The protagonists' "Divider Type" fighters can operate just as well in space as they do in-atmosphere.
  • Spear Counterpart: In GM, you can play as Satsuki as she originally was before the events of the game—the male Itsuki.
  • Speed Echoes: Ironically, in the original game, your fighter will produce trailing afterimages as you move it while holding the "Slow" button. As for GM, with Break Mode engaged, your fighter doesn't actually gain speed, but still leaves brief afterimages as you move.
  • The Stoic: Eugene appears to have a similar demeanor to Lily in that he also only reacts to getting hit, except he fully closes his eyes, and his default expression comes off as less neutral than annoyed.
  • Super Title 64 Advance: The Graze Counter GM remake; "GM" is a reference to the Game Maker Studio development platform used to make the game.
  • Sword Beam: One of Kiriko's attacks as a boss is to sit at the bottom of the screen and swing a large sword bit that launches three, also large, crescent-shaped projectiles. In GM, Alternate Kiriko can also fire triple sword projectiles as part of her Break Mode.
  • Teen Genius: Hayate, who is the creator of EDEN, as well as Saviours' entire arsenal. She is even said to be an early graduate of a world-renowned university.
  • This Is a Drill: Machinery Tomoko, like Alternate Kiriko, foregoes a regular shot for a melee weapon, only Tomoko uses a drill and not a sword.
  • Title Drop: An ever-present one exists with the "Graze Counter" meter at the bottom left of the screen. The game also displays the name of each level's and boss battle's BGM, so players will also see that the final boss battle's theme is also named "Graze Counter."
  • Training Stage: Players are able to practice any stage or boss, an option available by default in the original, and unlockable in GM.
  • Tsundere: Kiriko briefly crosses into this territory when she calls Uzuki a jerk in Satsuki's ending.
  • Twinkle in the Eye: Or is it twinkle over the eye? A gleam encompasses Kiriko's visible eye for the duration of her Graze Counternote  or Break Modenote , as long as she doesn't get hit.
  • Wave-Motion Gun: It is part of the Graze Counter attack, as well as a common form of attack among enemies and especially bosses. Notably, Kiriko opens her boss fight in GM by firing several lasers one by one from beyond the top of the screen before she can actually be hit, while Striae has four laser attacks total—three in the original game, one in GM.
  • Wholesome Crossdresser: Uzuki. Apparently women's clothing is somehow required to properly handle the fighters in this game.
  • Yandere: None other than Kiriko, toward Childhood Friend Uzuki. In pre-battle dialogue with Satsuki, Kiriko promptly takes her for a potential love interest of Uzuki's and just as quickly begins trying to shoot her down, leaving Satsuki to wonder what the hell is happening.