To obtain a high score in IN, you want to:
- Collect a lot of time points.
- Collect point items at full value.
Some techniques are listed below, and listed in order of difficulty.
Lives and Bombs
Saving these will really help you survive, so you can clear the game, and they give a good bonus at the end. Each life is worth 25 million, and each bomb is worth 5 million. This is modified by difficulty. Remember you get 3 bombs per life. Losing a life will cause you to lose some Time Points. Deathbombing also has a penalty. Normal bombing does not.
As bombs not only damage enemies, but also destroy all onscreen enemy bullets, you can use them to escape bullet patterns you feel you can't evade, so there's no real reason to die with any bombs remaining - make sure you use your bombs while you have them (you'll get a lot further in the game).
Clearing spell cards gives you the spell card bonus. These range from 10 million to 30 million or more, depending on the stage. Keep in mind that the number of time points rewarded for defeating a Spell Card is based on the time taken to clear it.
It's easier to collect items above the point of collection in this game than in the previous ones. You can just go into focus mode at any time to collect all the items on the screen. When you are at full power, or if you are using Marisa, you don't need to focus to collect the items.
In general, auto-collecting items in the middle of the screen is dangerous (because bosses usually make their entrance there). Instead, move off to one side to collect your items. Of course, all this is done above the point of collection.
You can only collect Time Point items by killing enemies. If your gauge is in full Human mode, and you are firing unfocused, you can gain extra Time Orbs just by hitting enemies. During the non-boss portion of a stage, grazing will get you no Time Orbs, even at 80% Phantom mode.
So regardless if you are playing as a team or as a solo human, you generally want to stay unfocused during the non-boss portion of the level, and keep your gauge towards -80% (or -30% in the case of Youmu).
There are many special cases where tactical use of the focus button is conducive to scoring, namely when attacking enemies employing familiars.
In both stage 6 stage portions, destroying familiars before its master reduces item point the master drops. As item value is most likely very high at this phase, keep that in mind while destroying familiars makes the barrages easier, it will hurt your score significantly.
Imperishable Night rewards skilled players for grazing with points.
Grazing is thus important to scoring as well, but it works best, of course, when there are more bullets on the screen, especially on the higher difficulty levels. Grazing gives you different points depending on your phantom gauge. Overall, you get 6000 points if you are less than -80% or greater than 80%, 4000 if you are less than -20% or greater than 20%, and 2000 if you are in the middle between -20% and 20%.
The only difference is that if you are a human, for each bullet you graze you get 3, 2, or 1 added to your graze counter, depending on your phantom gauge. This is important when you collect star items after clearing a spell card, since the number of points per star item is determined by your graze counter. For those desperate to earn those few extra time points, grazing as a phantom during spell cards can get you up to 3 time points per graze.
Certain enemies' bullet streams (mostly in stage 3) are extremely fruitful for grazing.
Imperishable Night works on a time system in accordance with the story. The game begins at 11 PM; clearing a stage advances time a half or full hour (see next paragraph), and continuing advances it half an hour as well. If it becomes 5 AM at any point, the game is immediately over, resulting in a Bad Ending.
Collecting a lot of time points is thus the key to scoring high and, when first starting out, beating the game in the first place, as meeting the time point quota upon clearing each level will only advance the time by half an hour instead of a full hour (thus allowing you to use one additional continue without it becoming 5 AM if necessary). Extra time remaining after clearing the game will get you a higher Night Bonus.
Here are a few tips.
- Try not to kill enemies until they've spawned their familiars (if applicable).
- Try to leave enemy familiars alive until you kill their masters. The easiest way to do this is to be firing in Phantom mode, as you won't damage familiars in it. The "orphaned" familiars will auto-destruct and give you time orbs. A yellow number, "+n", will show you that n familiars auto-destructed. This also applies to bosses. It's worth noting that the self-destructing familiars also clear any bullets around them (within a small blast radius). Take advantage of the enemy with 4 harmless familiars (who appears strategically in stages 3-5) to help you clear the screen of bullets.
- Whether you fight bosses in Human or Phantom mode is an opinion call, but try to stay above 80% for whichever side of the gauge you're on and keep most of your focus on your respective time-rewarding activity (hitting the enemy with your shots for Human, grazing for Phantom). Collecting time points on easier levels tend to be better in human mode, whereas those on harder levels can give more points while in phantom mode.
- Take care when killing familiars, as they push you towards 0%; certain boss attacks (especially Mystia's) can wreck your scoring if you confront them head-on in human mode. The exception to this is when fighting enemies that have indestructible familiars (i.e. certain enemies in the Extra stage). For these enemies, you can get more time points overall by shooting them in 80% human form and above because you can gather both the time points when the familiars self-destruct as well as the points from shooting at them.
- Shooting at a boss's familiars will deal damage to the boss at a lower rate, and sometimes a boss' familiars are not destroyed very easily, if at all. This means that you can gather more time points per amount of health at a boss if you shoot only at the boss's familiars. This is only applicable in certain cases, as sometimes keeping a familiar alive is worth more because of the time points they give when they self-destruct upon the emptying of a boss's health bar.
Keeping good control of your phantom gauge is essential for collecting time points. You want to always be on one extreme end or the other. You generally want to stay as human during the stage, since you can't graze for time orbs outside of boss battles. However, staying at 80%-100% of either end of the gauge is important, since you also get a per-second scoring bonus for as long as you remain there.
If you need full-% quickly, the time points gathered at the end of a spellcard attack will usually boost you to 100% in your current mode. You can also get boosted very quickly in either direction by destroying an enemy bearing 4 or more familiars - almost enough for a 150% jump either way.
In addition, firing a bomb when unfocused will push your meter all the way to the Human side, while firing a bomb when focused will move it all the way to the Phantom side. In certain cases this is useful for switching methods of gathering time points immediately.
When attacking phantom enemies with lots of familiars surrounding them, switch to phantom mode to kill them without damaging the familiars (even if you're 100% human). If you want to remain Human on the gauge, drop back out of focus mode as the resulting Time Orbs vacuum toward you.
Sound effects are a key element in gameplay (so make sure you're using quality speakers or headphones). While you're trying to avoid curtains of bullets, sounds tell you about things that you wouldn't otherwise notice or see. Some examples:
- Low hum while you're hitting an enemy. If the sound stops, the enemy has moved/died and you should move to compensate.
- When a boss is low on health for a particular health bar, this hum will change in pitch. This is your cue to stop firing if you are waiting for a certain point to finish off the boss, or if you are milking that particular bullet pattern by grazing. If you are doing the latter, it is still advised that you shoot the boss in short bursts in order to lower her health so that she will die instantly in the next shot, as sometimes the remaining health even when this sound effect applies will take a few seconds to finish off.
- When the timer on a boss has 10 seconds or less remaining, a tone will sound for every second that passes. On the last three seconds, the tone is echoed. This is your cue to finish off a boss if you are milking a particular spell card so that you gain both the benefits of milking the spell card as well as the spell card bonus.
- Tick sound while you're collecting time orbs. If the sound stops, you've either hit too many familiars (as a human) or you've already grazed those bullets (as a phantom).
- Sound while a phantom enemy is spawning familiars. Wait for the sound to come from phantom enemies before killing them.
- A high-pitch bell sound when bullets are changing type or direction, usually aiming at you. When you hear this sound (or finish hearing a sequence of them) it is time to move your character a little, so you can get out of their direction and graze them. This is noticeable in spellcards 67-70 and 168-171 and many other times during the final stages. Sometimes you hear this sound when bullets change direction, but not aiming specifically at you (like in spellcards 164-167).
If you are playing as a human-youkai team or human, and your phantom gauge is less than -80%, you will gain double the number of points for collecting point items above the POC.
When collecting the point items after a boss's spell card, wait a bit below the POC to collect extra time points to boost the value of the point items. This is commonly seen in the high-scoring replays.
Enemy Bullet Bonus
Just like in PCB, you get star items and points for all the bullets on screen you cancel out by beating a boss, so try to have as many as possible on screen when you land the final blow. Also, sometimes it's a good idea to wait until the bosses have spawned another set of familiars to milk it for extra time points.
Getting time orbs at high level playing requires more timing and carefully planned route. Here's some pointer to score even higher in Imperishable Nights :
- Many enemies shoot bullets at your direction and can be manipulated. Try to herd the bullets into familiars (or vice-versa) and destroy its respective master at the right time. The familiars will cancel more bullets, thus yield more. This technique, not only beneficial to scoring but also provides more room for maneuvering because of less bullets on the screen. Example where this technique can be applied are, stage 3 before mid-boss Keine fight, and Extra Stage.
- Enemies that shoot ring of bullets and produces familiars at same time should be shot at when they are about to release the ring of bullets. If done correctly the ring will be canceled fully, and yield much more time orbs than usual. Example where this can be applied are, Stage 2 fairies before Mystia fight and stage 3 in general.
- Milking bosses' familiars using unfocused shot. Bosses take less damage if damaged via familiars, so their attack is potentially worth more time orbs. Be careful not to sink into below -80% phantom gauge as destroying familiars moves the phantom bar to the middle.
Supergrazing in IN is a little different than in PCB. Each spell card has a maximum value that can't be exceeded, so you can't supergraze your way to a really high spell card bonus. However, you can still supergraze as a phantom to collect a lot of time points, which by itself adds to immediate score and item value, which will highly boost your score. Cards that come to mind include Wriggle's Last Spells and several of Marisa's "Stardust Reverie/Event Horizon". For Lunatic difficulty, supergrazing Spell card 47 is worth about ~9,000 time points alone vs 1,500~ if done in normal fashion. Spell cards that require you to survive for a timed period have a maximum value (99,999,990) that aren't reachable by normal means, so you can supergraze as a phantom to increase your score. This mostly applies to Kaguya's Last Spells.
Youmu Solo is technically the most useful for gathering time points because, unlike any other team, she gathers time points by shooting at 30% human and above, and by grazing at 30% phantom and below, making it easy for her to change methods of gathering time points quickly. She can also shoot down any number of enemy familiars in human form without moving her meter below 30%. However, because she can be difficult to use in certain situations, it is once again an opinion call as to whether she is the best choice for a player's particular style when score running.
- Kill boss familiars because it gives you less bullets to avoid and a better shot at the boss.
- The faster you kill enemies, the fewer bullets you have to avoid. Learn where the enemies are going to come from and anticipate.
- Some familiars are harmless to humans (e.g. spell 45) while others hurt most humans (e.g. spell 60). Know the difference (or play as Reimu who can pass through all familiars without getting harmed), it is indicated by its color. Red means harmful for humans, blue means harmless. But even if a familiar is harmless, you still have to avoid its bullets.
- For enemy projectiles, you only have to avoid the hitbox (not the entire projectile) to avoid getting hit. Hitboxes are learned mostly through trial and error. The most obvious example of a bullet's hitbox being smaller than it looks is the large bubble shaped bullets. The game will only register you being hit by one if your character's hitbox touches the part of it where the colored part begins to fade into the clear center.
- When a phantom's familiars self-destruct on their master's death, they will remove all bullets within a certain area around them. Using this strategically is useful for cutting a path through showers of bullets.
- Some of the enemies that don't have any collision hitbox have a deadzone. Deadzone is an area around the enemy sprite that if the player is inside it, it will prevent the enemy from shooting any bullet at all. As a general rule, less bullet means better survival.