Hellsinker

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Hellsinker.

HellsinkerLogo.png
Title screen 3 of 4. Title screens are unlocked as you progress through the game.


Hellsinker. is a doujin bullet-hell shoot-em-up developed by Ruminant's Whimper for PC in 2006 and re-released on Steam in 2019. It's defining gameplay features are its multiple gauges that affect your attack strength, its enemies with multiple parts to strategically dismember, and its three different tracked scores (Spirit, Kills, and Tokens). The game is also often noted for its unique, sometimes inscrutable, lore and aesthetic. The story follows 4 members of the mysterious organization GRAVEYARD as they attempt to reach and infiltrate the Cardinal Shaft, a giant tower responsible for the end of the world.






Gameplay Overview

Hellsinker. is a four-button with 4 playable characters (one of which has 4 different load-outs, for an overall total of 7) and 9 levels (referred to in-game as "Segments") in the main game. There are also unlockable, harder versions of the first 3 Segments (unlocked by [1CC]]-ing Segment 4) and 2 Extra Segments, unlocked by 1CC-ing the game and defeating the TLB, Lost Property 771. The scoring system involves destroying enemies (including destructible parts) to gain Spirit, keeping your Stella (Rank) high to spawn extra enemy waves, and collecting extra lives past the life cap for Immortality bonuses.


Controls


  • C (Press): Fire your main shot. Tapping rhythmically enables rapid fire. Some characters have an extra attack used by mashing the C button faster than rhythmically tapping.
  • C (Hold): Charge up a strong attack based on your main shot. Release to fire this attack. Holding this button in conjunction with pressing the subweapon button can also perform different special attacks.
  • X: Fire your subweapon. The mechanics of this attack vary with the character chosen and whether your subweapon gauge is filled.
  • Z: Fire your discharge attack (bomb). Discharge attacks do high damage, clear the screen of bullets, and makes the player character invincible for some time.
  • V: Activate slowdown. The exact behavior of this button is dependent on a setting chosen at the start of each run.

HUD


HellsinkerHUD left.png

The lefthand side of the HUD focuses on gameplay features and contains vital information for any player. Additional information is below:

  1. Rank and Speed settings. These are determined before a run starts and cannot be changed during the run. Rank settings do not work outside Practice mode.
  2. Lives. Lives are indicated by the heart containers. Max denotes the maximum number you can stock at once, set before the run. The Necessary counter counts down as you collect Life Chips and Ingots; When it hits 0 you earn an Extend.
  3. Sol gauge. Sol determines the strength of your main shot and bombs. Default levels are from 1 to 5. The number will flash red when a bomb is available.
  4. Luna gauge. Luna determines your main shot's rate of fire. Default has 3 levels, LO/MI/HI. Text will flash blue when HI, indicating maximum fire rate.
  5. Subweapon gauge. Indicates the status of your subweapon. The bar indicates subweapon charge, while the rectangles indicate the level of attack available. For option type subweapons, MOUNT indicates the weapon is mounted to your character while INDEPEND indicates that it has been launched.
  6. Rank gauge. Also called Stella. Levels go from 1 to 9 to A. The number will flash red when the gauge is filling and blue when it is emptying.
  7. Target name. Indicates the name of the last target hit. Can be ignored.
  8. Terra gauge. Terra is a special gauge that indicates when you will visit a bonus segment called Shrine of Farewell. The full details of this gauge are described below.
HellsinkerHUD right.png

The righthand side of the HUD is mostly reserved for scoring info. Players playing for survival may ignore most of this.

  1. Autbomb status. If an autobomb is available, it will say so here and state how many you have remaining for the current segment. Otherwise it will tell you why an autobomb is not available.
  2. Spirit counter and gauges. The counter tracks your Spirit gains over the course of the run. The top counter represents Spirit earned from all previous segments and the bottom shows the amount earned on the current segment. These numbers are added at the end of the segment. The gauges represent decimal values of Spirit gains. A full gauge from top to bottom represents 1, 10, and 100 Spirit. This allows players to easily track Spirit changes of any size, no matter how large their score becomes. If a Spirit BREAKTHROUGH is achieved, the word BREAK will appear next to the word Spirit.
  3. Kill Counter. This tracks the total number of kills made in a run. Like the Spirit counter, the top number tracks previous segments and the bottom number tracks the current segment. BREAK will also appear next to Kills for a Kill BREAKTHROUGH.
  4. Luna Gem multiplier. This tracks the value of Luna Gems. The value inside the gem tracks the current size of gems (and ergo their worth) while the number outside tracks how many more gems need to be collected to increase gem size. Letting a gem fall off screen will instead increase the number of gems needed to increase size and also lower size.
  5. Token counter. This tracks the number of Tokens collected over the run. It works similarly to the other two scores aside from lacking a BREAKTHROUGH.
  6. Timer. Counts the time (in seconds) since the start of the current segment.
  7. FPS counter. Tracks your FPS, to 2 decimal places (ie 6000 is 60.00). At one time it was possible to configure this to also show VRAM usage and Object Count. It is unknown if this is still possible.

Bootleg Ghost


The Bootleg Ghost setting, chosen at the start of each run, determines autobomb behavior. All characters can autobomb up to 3 times per segment. The settings work as follows:

  • Aspirant: Autobombs will only activate if the Sol gauge is 5 and the player has less than 4 lives.
  • Solidstate: Autobombs will activate anytime discharge is available.
  • Adept: Disables autobombs entirely. Additionally, disables the suppression radius.

Suppression Radius


All characters have a suppression radius which can be activated by not firing the main shot for several seconds. (Fossil Maiden works differently, and her suppression radius is only active while her subweapon button is held down.) The suppression radius takes the form of a light blue circle around the character. It slows down many types of bullets and, for a smaller number of them, will destroy them entirely. Destroying bullets with your suppression radius creates small Luna Tokens. You can create slightly bigger ones by point-blanking enemies whose bullets you have also suppressed.

Collision


In a departure from the genre, colliding into walls or enemies in Hellsinker. does not kill you. Instead, you will be knocked back a certain distance away from the object collided with. If you are in a position to get knocked back several times (for example, wedged between two objects) your movement can become quite erratic. This encourages aggressive gameplay, as making a mistake and getting too close won't kill you (unless you get knocked back into a bullet). Additionally, any time the player character is invulnerable, they are also immune to knockbacks.

Sealing Enemies


When you approach certain enemies pointblank, a blue box and the word SEAL will appear on them. Enemies sealed in this manner cannot fire as long as you remain close to them as well as for a few moments after you move away. This also encourages aggressive play rather than waiting for enemies to fly down to you. The size or type of enemy gives no indication as to whether they can be sealed or not. Only by attempting to seal an enemy will you know.



Characters


Hellsinker. features four playable characters, each with vastly different load-outs and playstyles. Three of the characters are available by default, while the last is unlocked by beating Segment 4 with a 1CC. The characters and their loadouts are as follows:

  • Dead Liar: The oldest member of GRAVEYARD. He focuses on strong but narrow main shot attacks while his subweapon, the Misteltoe Tobari-Maru, can be freely placed to attack enemies with a small AOE. His load-out option allows him to change the behavior of this subweapon.
  • Fossil Maiden: A particularly sickly member of GRAVEYARD who uses her Misteltoe, Saraba-Maru, to see as well as fight. Her combat focus is on covering extremely large areas of the screen with Saraba-Maru, who fires on all enemies who enter her radius.
  • Minogame: An androgynous non-binary robot deity, powerful enough to fight without a Misteltoe. They focus on strong AOE attacks and discharges, allowing them to survive especially dangerous situations.
  • Kagura/Kagura-Maru: An Elder Misteltoe used as a living weapons platform. This gives Kagura 4 distinct load-outs to use in combat. Kagura is unlocked by achieving a 1CC in Segment 4.
    • Moon Cradle (Multi-Trajectory Shell): Features an aimable burst shot subweapon, and discharges that only cost 2 Sol rather than emptying the gauge.
    • Ecliptic Chariot (External Gunner): An external, three-pronged turret that can be launched and retrieved freely.
    • Infernal Sabbath (Variable Gun): Load-out with no distinct subweapon; Instead, the subweapon button controls the spread of the main shot.
    • Xanthez (Anti-Bacillus Saber): Uses two highly destructive but short range swords to swipe at nearby enemies.



Resources


Hellsinker. uses lives to measure player health, and starts the player at four lives. At the start of each run, players use the Way of Life setting to set their life cap at 5-7. Setting a lower life cap offers less safety but greater score, as it allows the player to rack up Immortality bonuses faster. Extends are earned from Life Chips (the amount of which that are needed for an extra life going up as you earn more lives) and Revive Tokens that are dropped in rare circumstances.

Discharges are governed by the Sol gauge. Using your discharge attack depletes the Sol gauge, which also affects your main shot's strength. The Sol gauge refills over time, or by gathering Sol pieces which refill it quickly. Discharges cost a minimum of 3 Sol (unless you are Moon Cradle Kagura, which costs 2) and always empty the Sol gauge (again, unless Moon Cradle). Having 5 Sol gauge unlocks a more powerful bomb that lasts a longer time.

The Luna gauge affects the rate of fire of your main shot. It goes down as you fire your main shot, and goes up while not firing it. Collecting Luna Crystal tokens also fills it slightly, while also increasing your Token count. The fact that this gauge empties as you fire your main shot encourages the player to use their subweapons and discharges to keep this gauge up.

Your subweapon gauge determines the power (and in some cases, the type of attack) of your subweapon. It empties whenever you fire your subweapon, and fills when you are not firing your subweapon. Firing your main shot locks your subweapon gauge at level 1 if below it, or somewhat quickly empties it down to level 1 if above it.



Items


Hellsinker. features 11 items (called relics) that govern score and gameplay. Sol pieces are dropped by many enemies and slightly refill the Sol Gauge. Luna crystals mostly function to increase the Token score while also slightly refilling the Luna gauge. They are dropped by specific enemies, or created by erasing bullets inside your suppression field. Stella relics allow you to control your Stella, changing the gauge by 1 whole number when picked up, and filling or emptying it for several seconds after, depending on the relic. Stella relics are dropped from scripted events, either certain moments in the stage or certain actions taken against bosses. Life chips are somewhat more rare reduce the counter for your next extend by 1. Other relics will have a fractional impact on this extend count. Ingots are made when a boss is destroyed and give you some Spirit, as well as around 1/50th of an extend count. Terra tokens are rarely made by exploding subparts of some enemies. They increase your token count, Stella, and Terra, a resource that determines when you visit a special stage.

Finally, the rarest relics are Comet relics and Revive tokens. Comet relics are dropped when the player character dies, and allow them to recover some of their lost Stella. You wil drop 1 Comet relic for each Stella you had on death, and they each give .75 Stella back. Revive tokens are dropped in very specific circumstances and immediately offer an extra life. However, they have no effect on the extend counter and do not offer Immortality bonuses.

(pictures incoming)


Continues

Hellsinker. has only one continue and this cannot be changed. Furthermore, entering a special segment will disable your continue for the rest of the run. If you do manage to use your continue, several segments are also skipped in your playthrough (Segments 3L and 6 are known) and you are locked out of fighting the Segment 8 boss, precluding a good end. Additionally, segments played after a continue do NOT unlock in Segment Location (practice mode). Thus, you are highly encouraged to 1CC the game, or at least as far as you can manage.


Terra

Of all the gauges in Hellsinker., Terra is perhaps the most mysterious. The Terra gauge starts any run at the full 240 points. Terra is reduced when you make mistakes, let life chips fall off the screen, or finish segments. However, increasing Terra is much harder. This means Terra is constantly falling during normal gameplay. When Terra does finally hit 0, a special segment called Shrine of Farewell is set as the next segment. Once you visit Shrine of Farewell, the Terra gauge is disabled as it no longer has any effect on gameplay. Shrine of Farewell is mandatory in a Full Sequence Order playthrough but its position in the playthrough can be changed with Terra management. With optimal Terra management in Full Sequence Order, Shrine of Farewell will take place after Segment 7.

The following events decrease Terra:

  • Dying or autobombing
  • Finishing stages with the amount varying based on the stage. Notably, Segment 7 essentially has -240 Terra if played in Full Sequence Order.
  • Letting Life Chips fall off the screen costs 1 Terra per chip.

And the following actions increase Terra:

  • Terra tokens which are rarely dropped from very specific enemies
  • Extending gives you a small amount of Terra
  • Fate control: Putting the Segment 5 boss in a special state at the end of the fight will allow you to constantly raise your Terra every time the boss dies and revives itself.

Avoiding hits and using fate control are the main ways to manipulate Terra to enter Shrine of Farewell at a chosen moment.


Shrine of Farewell Mechanics

When you eventually visit Shrine of Farewell, you will notice several mechanics behave differently from the rest of the game. Shrine starts as a room with no enemies but several doors showing the same 4 symbols in different orders. Shrine is a boss rush with a strict time limit and these doors set the order you fight those bosses in. Touching a door will set that door as your order, and pressing Main Shot will open the door and start the rush. it may be worth it to time out this first room for score. Your Spirit very slowly rises while inside this room, so waiting 30 seconds can net you a handful. This is a very tiny amount in the grand scheme of things but all it costs is some patience.

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One of the doors in the waiting room of Shrine of Farewell. The boss order shown here is Temperament Nil, Million Lives, Al4th, and finally Nine Lives.

Once you have selected your boss order and entered Shrine proper, the full force of the gameplay changes come into effect:

  • Your Spirit drops to 0, however doing well in Shrine will reward your lost Spirit back, with even better gameplay actually increasing your Spirit greatly.
  • You have infinite lives. The place where your lives sit in the HUD will instead say UNCHAINED for the duration of Shrine.
  • Bootleg Ghost does not function inside Shrine.
  • You cannot earn credit to your next extend until the score screen of Shrine. This means ingots are worth only Spirit and Life Chips do not drop inside Shrine.
  • Your Stella constantly rises while inside Shrine.
  • Your continue is disabled upon entering Shrine. Notably, Shrine is still mandatory even if you have already used your continue.

Each of the 4 bosses in Shrine of Farewell has 3 different attacks, and these attacks form the basis of scoring inside Shrine. Defeat an attack without dying, and you will earn Crystals (a Shrine only item) that are each worth 1/200th of your pre-Shrine Spirit total meaning 200 Crystals will get you your score back. The max amount of Crystals awarded in shrine is 424, meaning perfect gameplay will more than double your score. Additionally, once you reach the end of Shrine, Crystals will rain from the top of the screen. These crystals act as Life Chips meaning a player can earn several extends to get back in the run, or several Immortality bonuses to drive the score even higher. The following actions affect Crystal gain in Shrine:

  • Dying to a boss attack will reduce Crystal earned for that attack. The amount is dependent on the attack in question, and several deaths will set this score to 0.
  • Bombing the Kaname Stones that hold the bosses inside them instantly sets their Crystal score from 18 to 0.
  • Timing out a boss will cause them to instantly leave, voiding any Crystals from attacks you had not yet defeated.
  • Seeing a secret 5th boss in Shrine will add a large amount of Crystal. This secret boss is unlocked by defeating all 4 previous bosses under a par time (indicated by the Kaname Stones wailing) and you are not penalized for dying or bombing once it appears on screen. This secret unnamed boss cannot be damaged, has a health bar that constantly drains until Shrine ends, and summons many Scary Stupa enemies to shoot down for a ton of Kills.

Shrine represents a unique opportunity for players of all skill levels. Players playing for survival mostly do not care where it ends up in the rotation but it will naturally happen after several deaths, potentially saving players from a Game Over. Experienced players will appreciate the potential to double your score inside Shrine and therefore choose to delay it as long as possible. Doing this maximizes the score gained and is an integral part of scoring.


Rank


Rank in Hellsinker. is governed by the Stella gauge. High Stella will spawn extra waves of enemies and adjusts the Spirit value of all enemies upward, making it vital for score. Conversely, Stella has little to no effect on bosses, with a few notable exceptions. The beginning of a run always sets the Stella gauge to 1 (adjustable for practice mode only in the options) and a proportion of your ending Stella is carried forward to the next stage.

Outside of this system, the following actions ***increase*** the Stella gauge:

  • Destroying enemies and subparts.
  • Picking up green Stella items, Terra tokens, and Comet relics.
  • Fine play, which includes staying alive for a long time and grazing many bullets and lasers.
  • Surviving for at least 30 seconds after a death.
  • Playing aggressively by staying at the top of the screen and point-blanking enemies.
  • Shooting indestructible parts of enemies.

And the following actions ***decrease*** the Stella gauge:

  • Dying, compounded greatly by dying twice within 30 seconds.
  • Autobombing
  • Using discharge attacks, by an amount based on the number of enemies hit.
  • Picking up pink Stella items
  • Grazing a certain numbers of bullets over time will always drop 2 pink Stella items from the top of the screen. The number needed is indicated under the character and labelled "Appeasement". This is only visible while currently grazing.
  • Spending long periods of time at the bottom of the screen.



Scoring


Hellsinker. features 3 different scores: Spirit, Kills, and Tokens and as a result 3 different ways to score. Spirit is the closest to a general score. Aside from destroying enemies, spirit can be raised by destroying subparts, destroying many destructible bullets at once, grazing many needle bullets at once, and unchaining special Master enemies which are tethered to slave enemies. Kills are simply a track of enemies killed. However, undestroyed subparts that die along with the main enemy, and slave enemies that self destruct during an Unchain do not count. Tokens measures how many Luna Crystals you have picked up during play.

Breakthrough


At certain Spirit and Kill amounts, the character will earn a Breakthrough. Breakthrough not only adds a life but resets the number of life chips needed for an extend, which makes future immortal bonuses easier to obtain. Breakthrough can only be triggered once each for Spirit and Kills, and the number needed is dependent on which one is triggered first. Spirit Breakthrough happens at 5200 Spirit if the Kill Breakthrough is untriggered, or 6200 otherwise. Likewise, Kill Breakthrough occurs at 2500 or 5000 kills.

Immortality


If a player earns a life while already at the life cap, they instead earn an Immortality bonus, increasing their Spirit. Immortality bonus starts at 80 Spirit and increases by 40 for each subsequent bonus. Immortality bonuses earned through a Breakthrough are instead worth 200 spirit.



Strategy

no way hombre. this one will take awhile.


References & Contributors

  1. Primary info contributed by Yukkuritime‎
  2. Additional page formatting by CHA-STG