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.

Shmup Essentials: Cardinal Sins

As we’ve already established, Qute’s Eschatos is an absolutely fabulous shoot ’em up that every fan of the genre should have in their collection.

Its predecessors are still very worthwhile games in their own right, too; while technologically rather more primitive than the 60fps cinematic polygonal action of Eschatos, their 2D pixel art and chiptune soundtracks have a great deal of charm to them — and, most importantly, they’re damn fun to play.

Today I wanted to particularly look at Cardinal Sins, one of the two games that eventually begat Eschatos. Technically a freeware spinoff of Eschatos’ true predecessor Judgement SilverswordCardinal Sins is arguably the most interesting of the two games, for reasons that will become apparent.

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Shmup Essentials: Deathsmiles

Although it’s been rather quiet for a while, the Japanese company Cave has long been known as one of the best developers of modern shoot ’em ups out there.

With most of their titles falling into the danmaku (“bullet hell”) subgenre, their titles have a reputation for being challenging and punishing but highly polished, combining solid mechanics with absolutely beautiful presentation and a delightful blend of “old and new”.

Deathsmiles is one of the company’s most well-regarded recent works, and is a great example of what “frantic shooting” is all about — not to mention a fine showcase for Cave’s mastery of game mechanics that go far beyond simply “shoot everything and don’t die”.

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Shmup Essentials: Gundemonium Recollection

Any self-respecting gamer knows that if you really want to impress someone with your dexterity and prowess, you don’t fire up a Souls game, you fire up a bullet hell shmup.

Notorious for their screen-filling bullet patterns that seemingly demand superhuman reflexes to navigate, bullet hell (or, to give them their more “proper” name, danmaku) shoot ’em ups are a frightening prospect to get involved with. But you might be surprised at quite how approachable some of them are.

One such example of a danmaku shmup that is both accepting to genre newcomers and monstrously challenging to veterans is Gundemonium Recollection from Japanese doujin circle Platine Dispositif, originally localised for PS3 and PC by Rockin’ Android. It’s a game that isn’t afraid to slap you about a bit, but also a good place to familiarise yourself with some conventions of the genre.

And, well, it’s just a really good game to boot, too.

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Shmup Essentials: Astebreed

There’s an assumption among certain parts of the gaming community that you need a big budget and a massive team to make something that looks amazing.

This is nonsense, of course, and nowhere is this more apparent than in the output of Japanese doujin circle Edelweiss, who have, to date, put out three exceptional (and exceptionally beautiful) games, each of which demonstrates a clear understanding of how to produce something that both looks spectacular and plays incredibly fluidly, in the grand tradition of arcade games.

Edelweiss’ most recent release is Astebreed, a shoot ’em up that began its life on PC but was subsequently ported to (and enhanced for) PlayStation 4. And it’s one hell of a game that any shmup fan should be proud to have in their library.

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Shmup Essentials: Raiden IV: Overkill

The Raiden series is a venerable one in the world of video games, albeit one that is not quite as prolific as some series of similar age.

Originally appearing in arcades in 1990, the original Raiden followed the mould of vertically scrolling shoot ’em ups that had been established some eight years previously by Namco’s Xevious and later expanded on by other classics such as Capcom’s 1942 (1984), Nichibutsu’s Terra Cresta (1985) and Konami’s Twinbee (1985).

Raiden didn’t reinvent the wheel, in other words, and it could be argued that its subsequent installments haven’t, either — but the series remains nonetheless a distinctive, noteworthy entry in gaming history, with second-to-latest installment Raiden IV: Overkill being one of the best, most satisfying yet.

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Shmup Essentials: Dariusburst Chronicle Saviours

A common criticism of arcade-style shoot ’em ups by people who don’t understand that the main “point” of them is to replay them over and over for high scores is that they’re “too short” or “don’t have enough content”.

This is one criticism that most certainly cannot be levelled at Dariusburst Chronicle Saviours, the most recent installment in the long-running shmup series. Featuring a full port of the super-widescreen 32:9 arcade version of Dariusburst Another Chronicle EX — including its 3,000+ stage “Chronicle Mode”, which is communally unlocked by players from all over the world — as well as an all-original 200+ stage “Chronicle Saviours” (usually shortened to just “CS”) mode designed specifically for 16:9 displays and a single player, Dariusburst Chronicle Saviours most certainly isn’t a game you can accuse of being “over in 20 minutes”.

It’s also one of the most expensive shoot ’em ups available in the modern market, even compared to the relatively premium prices that Cave’s back catalogue has historically commanded. But is it worth splashing out on? Spoiler: yes; but read on if you’d like to know more.

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Shmup Essentials: Eschatos

Sometimes a game doesn’t need to do anything especially new to be a great experience. Sometimes it just has to do what it does really, really well.

Qute’s Eschatos, originally released only in Japan for Xbox 360, then subsequently ported to PC by Degica, very much falls into this category. On paper, it’s an incredibly conventional vertically scrolling shoot ’em up.

When you play it, however, you’ll realise that it’s something really rather special: a shoot ’em up that is both accessible to newcomers and challenging to veterans, and a game that manages to impart a strong sense of “narrative” and progression to its overall experience despite not really having a plot to speak of.

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