Category Archives: Shmups

The most interesting, unusual or otherwise noteworthy games in the shoot ’em up, shmup or STG genre, whatever your preferred terminology might be.

Rigid Force Redux: An R-Type By Any Other Name

The mechanical genre that we refer to as “shoot ’em up” actually covers a number of different gameplay styles. And, as with everything else in this world, it displays distinct fashions and trends as the years go by.

Back in the early days of gaming, the fixed shooter was king. Then we moved into the beginning of the horizontally and vertically scrolling age, the former of which in particular flourished throughout the 16-bit home console age. The rise of polygons brought with it a shift to “2.5D”, where 3D graphics were combined with 2D gameplay for added spectacle. And today, many — though not all — shooters focus on the elaborate choreography of the “bullet hell” or danmaku subgenre.

This is an oversimplification, of course, but the fact remains that we see fewer shooters in the style of those from the late 16-bit and early 32-bit eras than we used to. Which is why Rigid Force Redux, a recent Nintendo Switch and Xbox One release from German developer com8com1 Software, was such a pleasure to explore.

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Xevious: Are You Devious Enough?

Namco really were trailblazers back in the early days of gaming; so many of their titles were true pioneers.

Much of the vertically scrolling shoot ’em up genre as it exists today owes a lot to 1983’s Xevious, for example. Xevious established or at least popularised genre conventions such as making use of different weapons for different targets, regular confrontations with powerful enemies and dynamic difficulty scaling.

Namco’s port to the Famicom became one of the system’s first “killer apps”, selling a mighty 1.26 million copies — and it still plays great today. And wouldn’t you know it? You can play that 8-bit console version on the Evercade retro gaming system thanks to the Namco Museum Collection 1 cartridge. Let’s take a closer look!

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Star Luster: Namco Does Star Raiders

One of the great things about the Evercade retro gaming handheld is its unofficial mission to bring a variety of overlooked, underappreciated or unlocalised retro gaming titles to a worldwide audience.

The publishing partners who have signed up to distribute their games on the platform are seemingly more than happy to jump on board with this philosophy too — and this is especially evident with the two Namco Museum Collection cartridges, which not only provide the classics we expect to always see on such compilations like Pac-Man and Dig-Dug, but also some lesser-known titles, some of which never officially left Japan on their original platforms.

Part of the reason for this is the Evercade’s initial focus on retro home consoles, whereas Namco’s own Namco Museum releases have historically tended to focus on the arcade side of things. And so, we come to Star Luster, a 1985 release for the Famicom that never came West. Until now!

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Waifu Uncovered: Return of the Strip ‘Em Up

So it seems that “strip ’em up” is a thing now. I am neither surprised nor particularly upset about this, given that Kaneko’s classic erotic Qix-alike Gals Panic also spawned its own subgenre; it’s just amusing to see this sort of thing happen in the modern day.

For the unfamiliar, the strip ’em up, previously seen here on MoeGamer in the form of Deep Space Waifu (and in a tangentially different form in Crawlco Block Knockers) is a take on the shoot ’em up — or, more broadly, arcade game — formula in which you not only blast enemies, you also, through engaging with the game’s specific mechanics, find some means of disrobing the (usually anime-style) young lady in the background. Success provides titties; failure provides frustration.

Which brings us to Waifu Uncovered, product of the delightfully named One Hand Free Studios, and a game that, rather pleasingly, isn’t just a clone of Deep Space Waifu. Let’s take a closer look!

Mild NSFW stuff ahead!

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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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Zero Gunner 2-: Making a Classic Affordable

Anyone interested in collecting video games has doubtless run into the issue of certain titles from previous console generations commanding astronomical prices.

There are numerous reasons this might happen — perhaps the game had a very limited print run; perhaps it only came out in certain territories or perhaps it had problems with distribution when it was current.

One such example is Zero Gunner 2 for the Dreamcast, which, at the time of writing, is going for anywhere between £100 and £200 on eBay. Fortunately, there’s a much cheaper way to get your hands on it today: the Switch version, which is available either on its own via the eShop, or as part of the Psikyo Shooting Stars Alpha collection. Let’s have a look!

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