Category Archives: Series

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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Dragon Blaze: Strikers 1495

As we’ve already seen with the three Strikers 1945 titles, Psikyo is a developer that is more than happy to make incremental improvements to a formula rather than radically inventing things with each new game.

There are exceptions, of course, but few can deny that the Strikers 1945 formula worked well and could most certainly support a few more games with a few tweaks here and there. Like, say, changing the aesthetic somewhat.

Strikers 1945 III already transplanted the weighty shooting action from post-World War II to the modern day. Dragon Blaze, also part of the Psikyo Shooting Stars Alpha collection, zaps us into a fantasy world with neon pink bullets and challenges us to survive another stiff challenge.

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Sol Divide: Blast of the Titans

While Psikyo could have easily stuck to being a heavily armed one-trick pony with the success and popularity of Strikers 1945 and its two sequels, the company decided to branch out and get a bit experimental in a number of its games.

A particularly potent example of this comes in the form of 1996’s Sol Divide, an unusual and underappreciated game that does things very differently from many other shooters out there — particularly its contemporaries from its time of original release.

Does “experimental” equate to “worth checking out for more than five minutes out of curiosity”, though? Let’s take a closer look, since like many of its stablemates, you can enjoy it as part of the Psikyo Shooting Stars Alpha collection on Nintendo Switch.

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Strikers 1945 III: Leaving on a Jet Plane

Strikers 1945 III, also known as Strikers 1999, does things a little bit differently to its two predecessors. Not a lot differently, mind, but enough to make it a distinctive experience.

For starters, we’ve shot 54 years into the “future” — well, more accurately, what was the “present day”, since this game actually released for the first time in 1999 — and are now taking on mechanical monsters that have been possessed by nanites. We’re flying modern jet fighters. And we’re dealing with a seriously escalated difficulty level.

Sounds like fun, right? Let’s strap in and get supersonic with this next installment — which, like its predecessors, is included in the Psikyo Shooting Stars Alpha bundle for Nintendo Switch.

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Strikers 1945 II: If It Ain’t Broke…

Strikers 1945 II is the sequel to Strikers 1945, unsurprisingly. And, to cut a long story short, if you enjoyed Strikers 1945, you will definitely enjoy Strikers 1945 II.

On the surface, the two games appear very similar to one another. And… well, to be perfectly honest, they are very similar to one another, but Strikers 1945 II adds a few little tweaks and refinements to the mix as well as providing a new lineup of aircraft to pilot, new enemy superweapons to blow to smithereens and, once again, some of the most satisfying shooting action you’ll ever enjoy.

Let’s take a closer look at this classic blaster from Psikyo, now readily available as part of the Psikyo Shooting Stars Alpha collection for Nintendo Switch.

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Strikers 1945: Not Quite How the History Books Told It

You know a game’s on to a winner when you think “ah, I’ll just sit down and have a quick play on this to take some screenshots” and then suddenly it’s over an hour later. Such was the case with Strikers 1945 for me today.

Part of the excellent value (and beautifully packaged) Psikyo Shooting Stars Alpha compilation from NIS America and City Connection, Strikers 1945 originally hails from 1995, and was the fourth game that shoot ’em up specialists Psikyo put out for the world to enjoy.

Blending real-world aircraft with ridiculous, fantastic elements, Strikers 1945 is a straightforward but extremely solid and accessible shooter that remains well worth playing even today. Let’s take a closer look.

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