Insomnia | Reviews

Muchi Muchi Pork!


By EOJ, edited by icycalm / January 22, 2009

This review was originally published on CAVE-STG.

One may be either alarmed or excited when they first lay eyes upon this game's artwork; plump pig girls in skimpy cleavage-bursting outfits flying around on motorbikes is definitely not everyone's cup of tea. But whatever you think of the characters, what programmer Shinobu Yagawa has constructed here as a game is no less than brilliant, with a depth and refinement that only someone with long years of experience in the genre can produce.

When I first saw the game in motion what jumped out at me is how colorful and detailed it looks and how wonderfully everything is animated. Such graphical lushness unfortunately takes a heavy toll on Cave's aging SH3-based hardware, and there are parts where the game seriously stutters (the beginning of stage 2 being a glaring example). The enemy ship design, meanwhile, is an old-school Cave fan’s dream come true, as it is more or less an extension of the style seen in Ketsui, but updated with bigger, more detailed, and better animated sprites. It should also be noted that the boss designs are some of the best Cave has ever produced.

The bullet patterns are more Raizing than Cave, in stark contrast to Pink Sweets, which was heavily infused with Cave-style bullet spreads. Many of the bullets have elongated shapes, their colors predominately green and blue, their movement not terribly fast, as long as you don’t let the rank get out of hand. They are hard to dodge in dense bundles, but generally easy to manipulate across the playing field. Your hitbox is typical Raizing (as previously seen in Pink Sweets), so do not expect to be able to miraculously fly through bullets clouds as you could with a bit of luck in something like Mushihime-sama. Other Raizing characteristics include the lack of a visible hitbox, and no life gauges on the bosses.

The music, aside from the boss theme, is unfortunately quite bland, and a step back from Pink Sweets. Stages 4 and 5 are not that bad, but the first three stages are really quite disappointing. Overall though, this is a minor quip, as it is just game music, and it fits into the background well enough. I do not play Cave games for the music, and I definitely will not be buying the upcoming MMP soundtrack/superplay DVD package for the music either.

There are five stages in this game, which I find to be a wonderful change of pace for Yagawa (Ibara and Pink Sweets had six and seven stages respectively). The game does not really have any dull moments, and the length of a single run is a perfect 25-30 minutes, the same as most of my other favorite shooters (Ikaruga, Mushihime, et al.) But for those who want a longer challenge there is also a second loop, and going for a 2-ALL could keep you busy for years.

The scoring system is quite simple, but like all great such systems it lends itself to a tremendous amount depth. The A-shot destroys enemies, who in turn produce parachuting pigs in the sky and stationary pigs on the ground. Once you suck in these pigs (which is done automatically for the parachuting ones if you are within a certain, generous range), they fill up your lard meter. Press the B button to use the lard attack, and instead of piggies you get gold medals in the shape of pig heads, which are automatically sucked in once you revert back to the A shot or your lard meter empties out. These rise in value from 100 to the maximum 10,000 points a piece, and serve as the heart of the scoring system. Once you max out at 10K, the rhythmic "pork gold rocking", as it has been termed by westerners, becomes almost hypnotic, and feels more of Ikeda’s touch (he is listed as a "system adviser" for this game) than Yagawa's. Lastly comes the C button, which detonates your bomb, converting all bullets and enemies in its path into the essential lard-meter-filling piggies that permeate the game.

Muchi Muchi Pork is not a difficult game. For me it is perhaps Cave's easiest shooter to clear, with the possible exception of Death Smiles (which I have yet to play). It took me less than five days of sparse play to clear it with Rafute, the yellow pork girl who looks and acts far too young to be in a game like this, but has a speed and accuracy that make her the perfect candidate for a quick and easy 1CC. A week or so later I had cleared it with Ikuo, the buxom blue pork girl with the homing shot and strongest lard attack, and then the 1CC with Momo, the cute, pink, protagonistic pork girl with the wide shot, followed soon after. Despite being easy to clear, if you are going for a good score, the game becomes far less of a pushover.

Like most Yagawa games, the difficulty is predicated upon how well you score, and how many lives you have in tow as you go through a stage. In other words, this game has rank. And indeed, the rank can become quite brutal if you allow it. The nice thing about MMP is that unlike Yagawa’s previous game, Pink Sweets, the rank is very controllable, and once you figure out how to control it (i.e. just try and have three or less spare lives in stock for most of the game) you can rock the pork gold throughout with little to no fear of getting slammed backwards. In addition, you can have three-four lives in stock (sometimes even five) and still make it comfortably through most parts of the game if you are a moderately skilled player, something no one but the best of the best could ever dream of doing in Pink Sweets or Ibara when medaling. Extends are given with every ten million points you score, a la Ibara Kuro.

Thankfully the game gives the scorers out there a real incentive to control the rank and suicide often, as each time you die you get a full bomb stock. Using bombs to milk bosses is a crucial element for scoring, as a well-placed bomb while a boss is spamming the screen with bullets converts all of those bullets into parachuting pigs, which are worth 1000 points each when your lard meter is maxed out. Rinse and repeat a few times via suiciding for a fresh bomb stock, and you will quickly gain a few million points. The beauty of this boss milking and suiciding is that it is more seamlessly integrated into the flow of the game than with anything Yagawa has done previously with similar systems. It just feels natural, and after a while you almost become unaware of the suiciding element. As a final note, the size of each pork girl's breasts appears to correlate with their scoring potential, and the three demarcations in this cline are lined up neatly from left to right on the character select screen. There is an inverse correlation with bust size and character speed.

Muchi Muchi Pork is a delight from start to finish. It is tremendously fun, in a way so pure and effortless that it always brings a smile to my face the more I play it. I feel no hesitation in proclaiming it to be Yagawa’s magnum opus, and a game equally accessible to newcomers and veterans alike, with diverse play modes including the tougher Manpuku and Harahara modes, along with a second loop only accessible by 1-life-ing the first loop -- a charming example of Yagawa’s sadistic humor.

Thanks to INH for the demonstration video and GER for the superplay.