Here is where you gotta start planning long-term.
At the start of the stage, you’re confronted with some dead air and some conspicuous framework. While you may not know to now, bombing here would release a massive cache of medals. Come in with a maxed-out medal chain, and this is worth a good half-million.
Of course, this isn’t exactly free. Not only do you have to come in with both some bomb stock and a high-value medal chain, but once your bomb is exhausted there is still a whole lot of railing to destroy. There are turrets up above which drop a single bomb chip, but using those involves heading up into danger. To make it even worse, since the railing is in the center and the turrets are off to the side, without good option use you’re gonna be spending most of your time unable to counterattack.
Next is a series of missile launchers which like to make horizontal walls, accompanied by small air enemies which like to drop medals. It’s similar to the stage 2 big planes, except that there’s just enough variability to cause medals to get walled-off if you’re not careful. Fortunately, there are just enough bomb chips lying around to let you use a couple fragments to clear things out. Your bombs are surprisingly versatile, and this is another way of showcasing that.
Shortly after, you come across this highly suspicious formation. A bunch of enemies dropping nice things appear in rows, along with a set of six drums that stick out. While I’ve been repeatedly mentioning that bombing the scenery leads to good things, it’s still quite possible that a new player could approach the game without knowing about this mechanic. And as the game goes on, it will try to point this out in increasingly-unsubtle ways.
And now we arrive at the main attraction: the hovertank. Strangely, while it doesn’t start out that difficult, destroying certain parts (such as the central turret) causes it to become significantly more hazardous. Destroying it thus becomes a tricky affair if you wish to minimize risk. But until you destroy it, it’ll follow you to the end of the stage.
Fortunately, that’s not too big of an issue, as the latter half of the stage has the hovertank weaving in and out of these giant ships under construction. Since the hovertank is nonthreatening (albeit invincible) while beneath the ship, you’re given the ability to take each task on individually. As long as you’re diligent the tank should go down pretty simply.
Finally, we reach the end of the stage, where…
Anyway, on to the boss. Since you’re given the opportunity to collect powerups immediately beforehand, it should be pretty interesting.
Here we have the first ground boss in the game. Beyond the music change, ground bosses have differences in their composition which require a slightly different strategic approach. To begin with, ground bosses are multi-form affairs, partly to encourage you to save your resources for when they matter and partly because multi-form bosses are always cool. The first form is pretty simple: take out all the turrets to move on. It’s deceptively difficult, however, since each turret will fire wider spreads once its neighbors are taken out. Plus, since some of the turrets are initially hidden behind scaffolding, you can’t just drop a bomb and finish the form before it even starts.
After they’re all taken care of, we move to the meat of the boss, and the part where the second major characteristic of ground bosses is in effect. As you may have noticed, nearly every boss in the game is structured as a series of chains. In the case of Mad Ball, taking out an outer turret activates an inner turret. Well for ground bosses, the structure of the chains is often quite complex. If you’re able to figure out which parts trigger which and come into the boss with a plan of attack, you can usually take it out with minimal risk.
On the other hand, if you just sorta shoot and hope for the best, you’re gonna die.
THE SECOND TIME
So let’s go back to that hovertank, cause I feel like there’s something we missed. As you might’ve guessed, the hovercraft indeed will follow you all the way until that marking, at which point it stops. Destroy it when it arrives and...
Voilà! Not bad, but we can do better.
And the correct solution will likely manifest itself naturally. Once the weapons on the hovertank’s flanks are taken out, there really isn’t much to do during the intermittent parts. So the player will likely focus on destroying the sides of the tank. Take out both sides, wait for it to arrive and…
An extra life! In all honesty it is a pretty convoluted puzzle, but given that reward I guess it’s to be expected.
Finally, there is a special trick with the boss that I feel obligated to mention, since its presence is a point of contention. As alluded to before, the second form of the boss involves three main sets of chains, with the most critical one being three central turrets hooked to the core. Until those three are destroyed, the core stays inactive. Smart players can use this to their advantage by leaving one turret alive while taking out everything else, before popping off that turret and taking on the core with no distractions.
The problem is that once players notice that they can do this, they also notice that they can do this.
That is, the boss remains harmless and invulnerable, while the player is free to milk it for points (since each shot which connects awards the player some points). It’s easy to label it as an oversight, yet why would an oversight exist so close to the ideal way to destroy it anyway?
One of the challenges of shooting game development is that you’re forced to cater to the whole spectrum of players. The credit your game is given might be someone’s first, or it might be someone’s hundredth. And, as the developer, you want to craft a great experience for both.
So far I’ve largely been focusing on Garegga’s relationship to those who are just beginning to learn it. And while some of the major scoring elements have been touched on, there’s an entire realm of optimizations and game-length strategies waiting for the next aspiring scoreplayer. As a result, while the first three stages are fairly chill for those who want them to be, someone playing for score will likely be pushing them so hard that they won’t have many chances to breathe.
For the most part and for most ships, this trick is worth a meager amount of points in the long run. Those who treat score as a way to get extra lives won’t need to bother with this. But for those who aim to be the best, this break might be as profitable for the player as it is for their score. Even this early on, a respite can be desirable, giving you time to calm your nerves during a good run and figure out your next move.