♪ Megalomaniac

In order to put this stage into perspective, it might be worth talking about the overall structure of the game. Depending on how you choose to play, a typical run of Battle Garegga lasts somewhere between 30 to 40 minutes—the length of a shorter LP. And while this is just personal theorizing, I’ve found that, once a temporal work of art exceeds the 30-minute threshold, it becomes difficult to grasp the work as a uniform entity. The solution, then, is to either shorten the work (to around EP-length, like most other shmups) or break it into distinct acts. Garegga opts for the latter, with the climax of stage 5 signifying the end of the first.

For the past five stages we’ve been integrating elements one-by-one. Now it’s time to bring them all together. And what better way to begin than with all the air enemies we’ve previously encountered?

First come three of the planes from the end of stage 2. With the third placed just behind the center, there is no way to take out all of the cannons prior to destroying the wings. You’re gonna get walled-in one way or another, so the goal is to place those walls where they won’t interfere with medal collection. But this is much easier said than done, and without practice you’ll probably lose your medal chain.

Which is unfortunate, since we now face the medal-laden ships from the start of stage 2. Even though their pattern is hard to parse, once learned it’s pretty simple to maneuver within. Unfortunately, one slip-up will cause all these medals to drop as your shrapnel hits the hatches—a mistake worth hundreds of thousands.

Next comes two of the ships from stage 4. They’re still just as difficult, but if you’ve made it this far you have the skills to take these out no problem. A stray medal can still find its way inside the bullet columns, though.

Finally, you come across two of the stage 1 planes, just to show how far you’ve come.

Then you face the turret wall, and realize how far you still have to go.

It is affectionately known among Western players as simply “the wall,” and in both the literal and metaphorical sense it deserves the name. The scrolling outright stops for the first time in the game, and an array of turrets begin to ceaselessly fire at you. Though all of their shots are aimed, since the bullets are fired in side-by-side pairs you’re forced to make wide dodges around them, depleting screen real-estate and making cutbacks just that much harder. A well-timed bomb can wipe out much of the threat here, but after the previous air rush there’s a chance you might not have one to spare.

Unfortunately it doesn’t get any better from there, as now we come to one of the most sinister choices in the game.

Lining the walls are hatches which continuously deploy a stream of tanks. Naturally, these hatches can be bombed, stopping the tank flow and graciously revealing a pair of medals. However, there are so many hatches that bombing them all will leave you with just a few bomb fragments for the final stage. And since dying only gives you half a bomb, it won’t be easy to recover should things go south.

On the other hand, the tanks provide enough bomb chips for the player to stock up 3 to 4 bombs for the end. However, this also means facing the endless parade of tanks and missing out on points which could’ve lead to an extra life.

So do you make stage 6 hell to make 7 easier? Or do you make stage 7 hell to make 6 easier? Either way, the latter half of the stage is long, arduous, and requires you to stay sharp in order to make it through unscathed.

♪ Thrust and Thrash!

We now encounter the last ground boss in the game, and it does its best to not disappoint. Let’s go through the ground boss checklist, shall we?

Right. So form 1 exists mainly as a cooldown and a way to get us to the boss in question, before form 2 (pictured) brings out the big guns. As mentioned before, the first five stages were about incremental progression. Hence why the stage 3 and 4 bosses, while having a lot of turrets, chose to deploy them one set at a time. But now we’re in the stages where everything comes at once, which means we get to learn how to manage turrets en masse. Here we deal with homogenous turrets…

…and come form 3, we start dealing with heterogeneous turrets. It requires a surprising amount of situational awareness, as you have a giant spread which can either be sped around or weaved through, a missile spread which cannot be weaved through, and vertical walls which block your attempts to speed around the spread. Your ability to improvise and react on-the-fly, once a nice privilege, is now put to the test.

Clear out those, and the boss shifts into its final form, where it outright makes turrets and places them on the field. However, while novel, they take so long to construct that the boss can only put one or two out there before they’re cleared away as well. It’s as if you weren’t expected to make it this far in, and the boss has run out of options. You’ve put it on the ropes, and now you just need to finish it off.