Every genre needs to start somewhere, and in the top-down run-and-gun shooter’s case, it pretty much started with Taito’s Front Line.
By modern standards, Front Line might look a bit laughable — particularly when it comes to its animations. But give it a bit of time and you’ll find a thoroughly playable — and very hard! — game to enjoy in the mix here. Without this game, we likely wouldn’t have had SNK classics like TNK III and Ikari Warriors!
Supposedly, “pooyan” is a Japanese word that means “little pigs”, but I am yet to find a more authoritative source for this piece of information online than some random blog that said this was the case with no supporting evidence whatsoever.
Regardless, Pooyan is indeed a game about little pigs, and an unusual twist on the fixed shooter formula. It’s a game that I used to find oddly unsettling as a child, also — and as an adult, I find the more you play it and the more you think about it, the more unsettling it becomes once again. Fun, though!
Early ’80s arcade games were seriously tough to get to grips with — not necessarily from a mechanical perspective, but in terms of applying your knowledge of those mechanics effectively.
Namco’s Rally-X is a great example of this. The concept, on paper, is simple: drive a car around a maze and collect flags while not crashing into rocks or other cars. The execution, meanwhile, is the sort of thing that will have you flinging your controller out of a window before long — but you’ll still keep coming back for more.
There’s a lot of early arcade games out there that don’t get the love and attention they deserve — but Hamster’s Arcade Archives series has been going a long way to bring a lot of these forgotten classics back from the dead.
Traverse USA from Irem is a great example. I’d never heard of it before, but it’s actually a lot of fun. Combining top-down racing with some simplistic vanishing point dodge ’em up action, it’s a delight to play — and surprisingly addictive!
I love Moon Patrol, but it’s actually been quite a while since I played it seriously — and I’ve never spent that much time with the arcade original.
Still, all it took to get me interested in playing again was some discussion of the Atari 8-bit version (and its dodgy moon buggy sprite) on the 1200XL Podcast — after that, I was ready with my PayPal account to download the Arcade Archives version on Switch, marking what I suspect is the beginning of a worrying addiction. But oh well.
As I type this, one of my longstanding gaming prayers has just been answered: Jaleco’s Rod Land, one of my favourite games of all time, has just got an Arcade Archives release on Switch and PlayStation 4. This is, to my knowledge, the first time the original arcade game has ever been rereleased on any platform. It even lets you start straight at the “sequel” set of levels if you want to.
“The eight soldiers get to attack the wicked terrorists!!”
So ran the promotional blurb on the arcade flyer for SNK’s Shock Troopers, a well-regarded installment in the Neo Geo library developed by Saurus and originally released in 1997 to both home- and arcade-based Neo Geo systems.
This is not by any means a unique setup for a video game, particularly an arcade title from the era, but what makes Shock Troopers truly special is its execution. And its presentation. And, well, everything.