I basically took two weeks off from playing this game, having two different trips back to back keeping me out of town. I just started in on it again tonight and blew away my old high score, but more importantly, I got the the end of stage 6 two different credits in a row. Once I get some solid patterns down for the dual Satans at the end of 6, I should be good for the loop - which I am absolutely dying to pass.
I honestly cannot believe how much time I have devoted to this game, but I am psyched at getting as far as I have. It's an excellent game, one of Capcom's best. Hopefully, I will be reaching the end of the first loop soon!