Shoot ’em ups arguably didn’t really enjoy their golden age until the 16-bit home consoles, but that didn’t stop game developers for home computer platforms having a damn good crack at the genre.
The Extirpator for Atari 8-bit is an impressive example, featuring some slick parallax scrolling, some interesting enemy formations and a decent sense of structure. While there are areas that the genre refined considerably as the years went on, this is definitely a valiant effort for 1988.
An all-time classic of old-school Atari gaming, Imagic’s Atlantis is a simple but fun shoot ’em up in which death is inevitable — there’s a cheery thought for you!
Originally coming to prominence on Atari 2600, Atlantis was subsequently ported to a variety of other platforms, including Atari 8-bit. Gameplay-wise, the Atari 8-bit version isn’t all that different from the Atari 2600 original — it just looks a bit nicer.
Do you like to shoot, but also to think? Then you should give Namco’s Galaxian a shot (no pun intended) — it’s a game where attempting to go in all guns blazing will quickly end in failure.
The Famicom version, seen here as part of the Namco Museum Collection 1cartridge for the Evercade, is a great adaptation of the arcade classic with pretty authentic sound and visuals — and a very authentic challenge factor!
Witness my intergalactic incompetence in the video below, and don’t forget to subscribe on YouTube for more!
Helicopters are cool. At least they used to be in the ’80s and early ’90s. I’m not sure we’d get a TV show where the helicopter was the star today.
Anyway, with how fashionable helicopters were in this time period, it’s not surprising that we got a fair few video games where helicopters played a leading role. And one such example was FireHawk, developed by the Oliver Twins and published by Codemasters and Camerica in 1991 as an unlicensed cartridge for the Nintendo Entertainment System.
River Raid is probably my favourite game on the Atari 8-bit. The Atari 2600 version is arguably more well-known, but the Atari 2600 version — which also appeared on the ill-fated Atari 5200 — is superior in pretty much every way.
For the unfamiliar, River Raid is one of the original vertically scrolling shoot ’em ups, and made use of some clever programming techniques to squeeze the entire game into a tiny amount of space. It’s one of Activision’s finest games of the 8-bit era, and a game I still enjoy on a regular basis today.
One of the most delightful things about the modern video game scene is the fact that a lot of developers are willing to go back to classic hardware and make new games.
In doing so, they can create games that feel authentic thanks to their working within the limitations of the original host platform, but which perhaps incorporate some more modern design sensibilities that the gaming community as a whole has figured out over the years.
Xeno Crisis is an unapologetically old-school arcade-style shooter, designed specifically for the Mega Drive and ported to a variety of platforms. That original Mega Drive version is also available as part of a double-game cartridge (alongside the excellent but very different Tanglewood) for the Evercade retro gaming system, and it’s that version specifically that we’re looking at today.
Microdeal offered the Atari ST some solid support in its early days, with the software they published covering a wide variety of genres — and not just games.
Probably one of the most “traditional” games they published was Jupiter Probe, one of many games by the prolific Steve Bak, and a solid shoot ’em up in its own right — even if its concept and setting is based on… somewhat shaky scientific foundation, to say the least. Music by the legendary Rob Hubbard, though!
It’s fun times four with Quadrun, which is one of the rarer Atari 2600 games thanks to its original status as a mail order-only game for Atari Club members.
It’s a shame this didn’t get a wider release, because it’s an intriguing, unusual, experimental and rather fun game once you get your head around its core mechanics, which see you moving around four distinct quadrants of a playfield to dispatch enemies and rescue “Runts” from the dreaded electric toaster grids.
For quite some time — particularly during the crossover from the 8-bit to 16-bit home computer and console eras — shoot ’em ups were regarded as the “dumb” side of gaming; critics often thought we could “do better”.
These days, of course, the more discerning gamers among us will, of course, be able to recognise that 1) there are a wide variety of different types of shoot ’em up out there, many of which are intricately designed works of mechanical artistry, and 2) they’re absolutely not as mindless as some people might like to make them out to be. And, moreover, they haven’t been for a long time.
Not sure about that? Look back on Namco’s Galaxian, originally released to arcades in 1979 and ported to a wide variety of platforms over the following years. The version we’re primarily concerned with today is the Famicom version from 1984, which you can now enjoy worldwide as part of the Namco Museum Collection 1cartridge for the Evercade retro gaming system.
With how long the Atari 2600 stuck around — and its position in the early days of the games business — it’s no surprise that games from its latter days bear little to no resemblance to its launch titles.
There are few games in which this is more apparent than Solaris, the official follow-up to Star Raiders on the 2600. But not the sequel to Star Raiders on the Atari 8-bit; that was just called Star Raiders II. Also, just to confuse matters, both Star Raiders II and Solaris were originally intended to be licensed games based on the movie The Last Starfighter, but for one (mostly Tramiel-shaped) reason or another, neither ever happened.