Category Archives: Genres

Articles about the best, worst, most interesting, most overlooked and most underappreciated games in specific genres.

Boulder Dash 30th Anniversary: The Rockford Files

Boulder Dash is an all-time classic game from the early microcomputer era.

First releasing on Atari 8-bit computers in 1984, it has enjoyed numerous ports, sequels, spinoffs and unofficial level packs for a wide variety of platforms, with the latest at the time of writing being the Nintendo Switch release of Boulder Dash 30th Anniversary. The official website has a nicely comprehensive history for you to enjoy at your leisure.

The astute among you will note that there are more than 30 years between 1984 and 2020. That’s because this port in particular also goes back a few years, too. Let’s take a closer look.

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Gunbarich: It’s Flippin’ Psikyonoid

2001’s Gunbarich was one of Psikyo’s last games before they merged with X-Nauts in 2002 — and the last title in the Psikyo Shooting Stars Bravo collection for Nintendo Switch.

It wasn’t one of their last shoot ’em ups, however, because despite technically being part of the Gunbird series in the loosest possible sense (it has the word “Gun” in the title and also features a cutesified version of recurring Gunbird mascot character Marion the witch) it’s not actually a shoot ’em up at all.

Nope; Gunbarich represents Psikyo turning its hand to that most venerable of genres: the ol’ bat and ball. Let’s take a closer look!

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Gunbird 2: Peak Psikyo

Speak to anyone familiar with Psikyo’s work, and doubtless Gunbird 2 will come up sooner rather than later.

It’s probably one of the most fondly regarded entries in the company’s back catalogue, and for various reasons. Not only is it a solid shoot ’em up in its own right, but it also had an excellent Dreamcast release in collaboration with Capcom, featuring Morrigan from Darkstalkers as a guest character.

The Nintendo Switch version that comes as part of the Psikyo Shooting Stars Bravo collection sadly lacks this latter aspect — presumably due to licensing issues — but otherwise allows a whole new audience to enjoy this classic blaster. Let’s take a look!

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Gunbird: The ’90s Anime Shoot ‘Em Up

In conversation with casual shoot ’em up fans I’m acquainted with, I’ve come to learn that Gunbird is one of Psikyo’s most fondly regarded series.

It’s not hard to see why, either. Although the first Gunbird game predates many of Psikyo’s other works, it features a lot of their most appealing elements. We have the multiple endings and strong replayability of Samurai Aces. We have the strong degree of physicality of the Strikers series. We have the overblown narratives of Sol Divide and Dragon Blaze. And the whole thing is topped off with a ton of ’90s anime charm.

Sounds like a recipe for success to me. Let’s take a closer look.

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Samurai Aces Episode III: Sengoku Cannon – Blasting Goodbye

Samurai Aces Episode III: Sengoku Cannon (“Sengoku Cannon” hereafter) is a game of farewells.

It bids a fond farewell to the Samurai Aces series, which is how Psikyo began as a developer. It waves goodbye to Psikyo’s run of arcade-centric shoot ’em ups, being designed specifically for the PSP platform. And, in some ways, as a title developed by X-Nauts after they took over Psikyo in 2002, it’s something of a sayounara to Psikyo themselves, too.

Some of the snobbier shoot ’em up fans out there would also argue that Sengoku Cannon also bids adieu to Psikyo-branded games being “good”, but I’ve actually found quite a lot to like about this curious, clunky shooter. Let’s take a closer look.

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Tengai: The Return of the Samurai Aces

If there’s one thing that becomes clear from looking at Psikyo’s shoot ’em up output over the years, it’s that they love a sequel.

The Strikers 1945 series saw two sequels, for example: one which built on the original formula, and another which transplanted the action into the modern day. They all played fairly similarly to one another in terms of their core mechanics, though each with their own unique features to enjoy.

The Samurai Aces series shook things up a bit more with each new installment. So after the straightforward, no-nonsense, enjoyable fun of the original Samurai Aces, we come to the second episode: Tengai. Let’s take a closer look.

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Samurai Aces: A Strong Debut

It’s always fascinating to see a developer’s first game, because it often represents a combination of the new company’s staff bringing their past experience to the table and an attempt for that new company to truly define themselves as something unique.

Psikyo kicked off a prolific few years of shoot ’em ups with Samurai Aces (also known as Sengoku Ace: Tengai Episode I), originally released to arcades in 1993. As the company’s first game, it certainly helps set the mould for their subsequent games, but it remains a solid shoot ’em up in its own right, and can easily be experienced today as part of the Psikyo Shooting Stars Bravo compilation for Nintendo Switch.

A lot of that is probably down to the fact that it was designed by Shin Nakamura of Aero Fighters fame, so Psikyo was always set up to get a good start. But let’s take a closer look anyway, and see what makes this game truly tick.

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