I'm the (un)lucky owner with the cart that first wouldn't go into my CMVS, but luckily that got sorted out. And T. J.´s shanty already posted the video, but here's my first impressions about the game after a few credits:
The game is absolutely gorgeous. The art looks great and the art style is very cool, reminds me of 80's/90's sci-fi awesomeness. I especially like the intro and game over screens. The music is of high quality as well, very fast-paced, kind of synth rock -like music. Gameplay-wise, I never had problems seeing any bullets, the contrast is very good. After a boss explodes the bonus icons are covered by the explosion so it feels like you might miss them, but since you can just fly around the top of the screen without a worry at that point, I'm not sure if it's actually a problem. NG
ev, please re-make Last Hope: Pink Bullets with this level of graphics and I'll be your best friend.
The choice between tate and hori play is good. The game's clearly meant for tate play, but the hori mode isn't just an afterthought. The UI layout is different to take proper advantage of the extended vertical space, the intro/game over/score tally screens between stages all have their graphics oriented properly, even the short "How to play"-guide at the start of the game (which can be skipped) is laid out differently between the modes. I really would've liked to see the medal and bomb icons (the ones you pick up in-game, not the ones on UI) to be oriented correctly in hori mode, now they're still pointing at left of the screen. That would really convince the player he's not just playing a tate game in hori. Maybe we'll see that in a patch?
The gameplay is very fast-paced. The ratio between aimed shots / bullet patterns is very good at about 50/50, it doesn't really feel like a danmaku and I would say it's not supposed to, either. More like an early 90's shmup like Batsugun. The ship is very fast but not uncontrollably so, and the speed is welcome when you want to fly around to screen dodging bigger bullet clusters and gathering up all the items. No power-ups here, only medals, bonus icons, bombs and bomb fragments. And there's the slow mode which comes very handy during more hectic moments and boss fights. I do wish the screen's left/right scrolling would start just a hair earlier than it does now.
In my first credit ever
I only made it to Stage 2, but I've since made it to Stage 3. So far the game feels neither unbearably hard nor stupidly easy, so the difficulty level seems very good. Then again, I suck at vert shmups (and I am playing this on tate mode) so somebody else will probably have an easier time with it.
I did find a small bug: in hori mode, when entering your initials, the controls were not only flipped to tate, but also mirrored, as if it was the right side of the screen was at the bottom and not the left. Nothing gamebreaking, but still weird. Certainly this will be fixed in a patch.
On the whole, I'd say this is a damn good game. After the Dreamcast version is released and more people have a chance to play, I'm pretty sure this will be hailed as NG
ev's best game yet. Not only that, but a good game in its own right as well.
Bonus! Huge image with all the assorted swag that came with the game.