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ESP Ra.De. (エスプレイド, Esupureido), also known as Esprade (pronounced Espraid), is a vertically scrolling manic shooter arcade game developed by CAVE and published by Atlus in 1998. This is the first of Cave's manic shooters not part of the DonPachi series as well as the first manic shooter in which the player is a flying person instead of a fighter. Unlike most other shmups, ESP Ra. De. has a somewhat involved story and setting.
- Main shot (Psychic Fire): Press A button. When holding the button, the character's moves at 40% of normal speed. The attack's power depend on how many power-ups are collected.
- Power shot (Piercing Cannon): Press B button. The directions of projectiles can be changed by moving horizontally when firing. When the button is pressed, a varying number of flames are fired forward, with the amount of projectiles depending on the number shown in lower corner of the screen. Power shot explodes when it contacts with an enemy, creating an area of explosion wave that damages enemies. The amount of flames fired is initially set at 7, but increases by 2 every time power level increases (up to 15). When player's character is destroyed, Power shot's level remains. When an enemy unit is hit by power shot without being destroyed, the explosion wave stick to the unit.
- Barrier (ESP Drive): Press C button. The size of barrier increases by holding C button, until it grows yellow or barrier stock is depleted. To do the Barrier Shot, release the C button when barrier is active; otherwise it is automatically fired when barrier stock is depleted.
Barrier system (ESP Drive)
When using barrier, the barrier forms beginning with an arc in front of the character, then it wraps around the character and grows until it changes colour. At minimum, the barrier is formed before barrier shot is fired. When guard barrier is active, the character briefly becomes invulnerable at the expense of guard barrier gauge, visible at the bottom of the screen. Furthermore, the barrier itself damages enemy units and convert enemy bullets into power up item (score up item if power level is already full) at the expense of barrier stock. Guard barrier stock can be restored by death or picking up E item.
After collecting sufficient Yen item (red cube), the item stock grows yellow. Whenever barrier stock is drained, the item stock goes down. Destroying enemy at this phase causes E item to appear until Yen stock reaches 0. In boss battle, Yen stock is not drained, and any ongoing drainage is stopped when entering boss battle. After drainage is completed, Yen item stock can once again be filled. The maximum amount of score needed for E item to appear starts with 200, and increases by 100 every time Yen stock drainage is completed. If player continues, the value is reset to 200.
The game uses life point system, which causes a hit character to stay in place instead of being destroyed until all life points are lost. Whenever character loses life point, it drops the number of large P item equal to the number of boosted power levels, and its boosted level is decreased to 0. The character loses 1 point whenever it is hit. Life point can be increased by obtaining sufficiently high score (adjustable in configuration screen), with the maximum of 7.
After hitting an enemy unit with power shot without being destroyed, destroying an enemy with main shot or barrier triggers a multiplier. The multiplier depends on number of ongoing powerful shots received by the unit, which starts with x1 (no hit) and increases by 1 for every additional ongoing hit. After receiving a multiplier, the multiplier timer can be recovered by collecting cubes, which can be found by destroying large enemy units. The multiplier timer has maximum duration of 2 seconds. If playing gains a multiplier, destroying item-dropping enemies causes items dropped by the destroyed enemies to move down the screen faster, except for bosses. The active multiplier and timer can be viewed by holding B button at title screen before pressing Start button.
- Stage A: Houoh High School/Phoenix College (Yusuke Sagami)
A mechanical walker tank. Its attacks are mainly unguided, although their intensity increases the later he's fought.
Boss: Satoru Oumi
An ESPer clone, responsible for the Hoōh High School Massacre. Protected by five, weaker clones, he's the first antagonist during Yusuke's storyline. The number of life bars it possesses depends on how early the stage is played, with the bar count increases by 1 for every successive stage (begins with 3 and ends with 5). The boss's difficulty increases for every destroyed life bar. After 4th life bar is destroyed, he creates a doppelganger of himself. If either unit is hit, the life bar is damaged.
- Stage B: Bay Area (Irori Mimakasa)
Sub-Boss: Yaksa Armored Ships
A couple of heavily armored ships, the latter carrying a large anti-aerial cannon.
Boss: Hoverboard Assault Chopper
A large chopper. Two large rotors are responsible for the vehicle's propulsion. Its attacks are unguided but sometimes inescapable, forcing the player to constantly move across the screen.
- Stage C: Shopping Mall at Night (J-B 5th)
Sub-Boss: Aerial Bombers
A large number of enemies with greater resilience to the player's attacks, but with no peculiarity whatsoever.
Boss: "Izuna" Assault Tank
A conventional (albeit futuristic) battle tank, which reveals additional gun turrets mounted on the four tracks and a large cannon on the main body once the armor is destroyed. The majority of its attacks are aimed at the player's last position.
- Stage 4: Wangan Subway Line
Sub-Boss: Armored Trains
Two heavily armed trains enter the right portion of the screen, while various enemies walk along the carriages of the train on the left, providing distraction.
Boss: "Line-Rider" Security Mecha
A gigantic mechanized security guard riding the tracks: as damage is dealt, parts of its armor and systems are destroyed, increasing the fierceness of its attacks. Its third form shows two laser cannons hidden within its frame, protecting the main core.
- Stage 5.1: Yaksa Fortress (exterior)
Sub-Boss: Yaksa Tank mk. II
A variation of the standard enemy tank seen during the previous stages: yellow in color, fires a continuous stream aimed at the player, while a second curtain of bullets on the said further limits movement. Two of them are fought.
Boss: Main Gate Defense System
The player is faced with the Fortress' main gate, where a continuous stream of land vehicles are spawned to attack the character. In addition, snipers line the roof, and two turrets provide additional firepower. The target is the shield projected by two ESPer clones, whose support attacks grow increasingly strong as the life bar is depleted.
- Stage 5.2: Yaksa Fortress (Ms. Garra's private quarters)
The early part of the mansion is filled with Alice clones, continuously firing at the player and creating a dynamic curtain of bullets; later on, smaller units and tanks appear.
Boss 1: Ares' Head
The large head of an Ares statue is psychically torn from the body and revealed to be a complex war machine, with six different weapons. Two different bullet patterns are used at a time, increasing to three after half of the life bar has been depleted.
Boss 2: Garra Ono
The player is faced with Ms. Garra herself. After a brief, easier skirmish, she evolves into a winged form, increasing her firepower as damage is dealt, until actually attacking with tightly knit bullet curtains.
By 2018, Tokyo has reached its maximum extension, therefore falling prey of common problems such as overpopulation and criminality. For this reason, an artificial island, aptly named Tokyo-2, is created just offshore, thanks to the support of the shady "Yaksa" corporation, led by elusive billionaire Garra Ono, whose ties with the modern incarnation of Yakuza have not been proved. Another source of instability is given by the rising number of humans exhibiting extrasensory perception, the so-called ESPers, who are constantly hunted down by the Japanese Police force.
Unknown to everyone, Garra herself is an extremely powerful ESPer, bent on using her influence over the government and military to replace every living being in the city with clones (disturbingly enough, these ESPers take the form of a 10-year-old girl, named "Alice" and implied to originate from Garra's own DNA). Just as her plans begin to unfold, three children are forced to take action, each one for his or her own personal motives.
At the beginning of each stage, a philosophical sentence related to the overall plot is given. The characters have near to the same speed of movement.
- Yusuke Sagami, a 17-year-old high-school student, portrayed in sporting gear and depicted as member of the volleyball team, whose school (Phoenix College in the Japanese original, translated as Houoh High School in the international release) is suddenly attacked by Yaksa's private military force and a squad of four ESPer clones. One of Yusuke's friends is killed by the squad commander, Satoru Oumi, whose pursuit sets the stage for the entire level. When encountered as a boss, he is seen assuming the form of the boy he killed, thus fueling Yusuke's desire for revenge. His A-attack is a powerful focused forward shot which increases in thickness. His B-shot is 45 degree to 135 degree. He is the only character that can fire the B-shot without interrupting the normal attack.
- J-B 5th, a 14-year-old psychic assassin, trained since early childhood as part of a secret psychic squad of the Russian government. Fearing the expansion of the Yaksa's influence, he is clandestinely smuggled to Japan with the intent of eliminating every high-profile member of the organisation, up to Garra Ono herself. His code name for the mission is Black Peter Pan, however his success at assassinating a Yaksa general gets both the Japanese Self Defense Force and Yaksa's army on his trail. His A-attack is a 3-way spread shot which increases in thickness, and eventually to a 5-way shot. His B-shot is focused forward and more useful for scoring.
- Irori Mimakasa, an 11-year-old girl, daughter of a family high ranked against the anti-Yaksa organisation "JUDGE", possibly a criminal cartel itself. After a failed assassination attempt by Yaksa's mechanized forces at the Tokyo Bay Area, she is compelled to bring their persecution to an end. Her A-attack is a medium-wide forward shot, weaker than Yusuke's; increases somewhat in range and thickness. Her B-shot is 0 degree to 360 degree.
The story takes place in December, during a 24-hour arc: each character has a specific stage which initiates his/her storyline, then culminating with the final encounter. After completing Stage 5 a character's specific ending is shown if only one player is active. If the character is Irori, pressing both Start buttons before the ending scene causes an alternate ending to appear. If two players are active, a group ending is shown.
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