RF Generation.  The Classic and Modern Gaming Databases.RF Generation.  The Classic and Modern Gaming Databases.

Posted on Mar 18th 2016 at 08:00:00 AM by (slackur)
Posted under shmups in the modern era, Pew! Pew!!


Now that, my friends, is box art.  If it can't scare the cat, get a new picture.  (Pic from mobygames.com)

From Space Invaders to Gradius V, the "little ship/guy/thingie dodging bullets and firing back" genre has been with us since the beginning and is just a hair younger than the "Avoid Missing Ball For High Score" genre.  And in the same way that Virtua Tennis is no longer king of the hill, the shoot-'em-up or 'shmup' has gone from expected staple to rare appearance.

Though they have never disappeared altogether, shmups are definitely now a fringe category.  No longer considered financially viable where less-than-an-hour gameplay is relegated to free or fleeting dollar distractions, new additions to the shmup genre are usually danmaku ("Bullet Hell") or indie homages.  Long gone are the glory days of new masterpieces like Axelay or Einhander.  Or are they?



Though easy-to-miss if you don't know where to look, several excellent shmups have consistently released on a near annual basis, from updated ports to original releases.  Few have much fanfare or a large budget, yet many of them are visibly labors of love and are well worth the investment for fans looking to revisit, or ignite, a passion for one of video games' classic genres.

Just as a side note, I've tried to keep this list rather specific; some folks consider twin-stick or other variations in the same boat as traditional 'shmups,' and as much as I enjoy those, this list is mainly covering 'traditional' entries loosely based on games like Galaxian (vertical) and Scramble (horizontal).  Some exceptions may apply.  See store for details.  Void where prohibited.  Also wik.

So come with me on a brief and very incomplete tour of a few shmups for the last couple gaming generations!


Xbox 360 Shmups
If you asked, "hey slackur, I'm only looking to buy one shmup for my 360 right now, and how come you never mention how incredible is Jim Henson's The Storyteller?"  I'd answer, "Well, of course it is incredible, but that doesn't have anything to do with 360 shmups, and I'd have to cheat and say go for the Ginga Force & Eschatos Wonder Pack."  It lives up to its name; both Ginga Force and Eschatos are fun, if a little understated, but what makes this truly worthwhile is that Eschatos also comes bundled with prequels Judgement Silversword and Cardinal Sins, two WonderSwan (previously) exclusives and classic shmups in their own right.  You can save some money and just get the standalone Eschatos, but Ginga Force is good enough to spring the extra twenty or so and just get The Wonder Pack, which also comes with a soundtrack CD.  All are region free and play just fine on any 360.  Considering Judgement Silversword routinely goes for over $500 and requires an obscure import portable, I'd say we're actually saving a ton of money, right?  Isn't that how this works?

But the 360 library is packed with excellent shmuppery, including but not limited to:


1942 Joint Strike (Somewhat underwhelming but still fun)
Aegis Wing (Multiplayer life-as-a-turret simulator)
Akai Katana (Excellent!)
Caladrius
Deathsmiles (Loli gothic cute-'em-up)
Galaga (Ever-present granddad with a ton of great-grandkids)
Galaga Legions and Galaga Legions DX (Interesting and worthwhile spin on the classic)
Guwange (Historically accurate, as far as I've read)
Gyruss (Dizzying arcade classic)
Ikaruga (Infamous racism instigator)
King of Fighters: Sky Stage (Ever-quirky take on a KoF shmup)
Omega Five (An R-Type-like that I found quite good)
Otomedius Excellent (Not a personal fan, didn't like the gameplay, hitboxes, or inability to play in front of the kids, but it has its fans here)
Otomedius Gorgeous
R-Type Dimensions (perfect ports, no complaints here!)
Raiden IV (One of my favorite shmups)
Raiden Fighters Aces (Superb for score-challenge buffs)
Radiant Silvergun (Cheaper to buy a 360 and download this than importing the original.  This looks much better, too.)
RayStorm HD (Another excellent HD buff of a classic)
Revolver360 (Supercool, only a buck, buy it and thank me later)
Scramble (An HD arcade port of the shmup grandfather)
Shoot 1Up (Oddball indie whose art makes my beloved look at me and frown)
Sine Mora (I really wanted to like this more)
Space Invaders Extreme and Space Invaders Infinity Gene (Both worth checking out, nifty ideas in here)
Strania: The Stella Machina
Time Pilot (Another HD arcade port of the twisty original)
Trigger Heart Exelica (An HD port of the great shmup with a fun 'swing' mechanic, recommended)
Under Defeat HD (One of my personal modern favorites)
WarTech: Senko no Ronde (A questionable and genre-defying entry)
Xevious (Easy cheat when having to come up with 'X' words in school)
Zeit 2 (Built around an interesting time manipulation mechanic)

There are a number of notable imports on the 360 as well, and many are all-region encoded so they can play without modding or buying another system.  Make sure to do a little research though; some of these have different editions that may be region-locked.

Bullet Soul
Deathsmiles IIX
DoDonPachi Resurrection
DoDonPachi Saidaioujou
Espgaluda II Black Label
Ketsui
Mamorukun Curse!
Muchi Muchi Pork / Pink Sweets
Mushihime-sama HD
Mushihimesama Futari (Personal pick, really colorful and fun)
Radirgy Noa Massive
Shooting Love. 10-Shuunen: XIIZeal & DeltaZeal (Recommended, favorite ports of these)
Shooting Love 200X

And sadly, no mention of shmups on the 360 would be complete without bringing up the closure of the 360 Game Room, where several awesome virtual arcade cabinets could be played.  The service was not only discontinued and the games no longer available, but there are also reports of gamers unable to play the games they already purchased, and the front-end is gone altogether.  This and the end of Xbox Live Arcade was about the time I started becoming a much greater Sony fan.


PS3 Shmups
Now if you were to similarly ask, "well, my 360 is in the shop after an Amazon delivery drone mid-air collision, so what about your top pick for my PS3, and isn't this one of the bestest song in like a hundred years?"  I'd say, you sound a lot like me for some reason, yes, if cranked to 11 this is easily one of the best song in at least a hundred years  and for PS3 I'd have to go with Soldner-X or Soldner-X 2 Final Prototype.  Nifty gems, download only (sadly) but cheap and often on sale to boot.  Caladrius Blaze would be another top pick from a short list. 

Also on said list:
1942 Joint Strike
Alpha Mission II (Perfect port of the Neo Geo shmup.  Still decidedly average IMO.)
Astro Tripper
Caladrius Blaze
The Flying Hamster
Gundemonium Recollection
Hitogata Happa
Ketsui (Pick ME!)
Luftrausers (Unusual gravity-based gameplay, but original and very addictive)
Mamoru-kun wa Norowarete Shimatta! Meikai Katsugeki Wide-Han (iffy if this fits IMO, but it is usually counted as a shmup and it's great fun)
Raiden IV: Overkill (An even better update of a modern classic)
Who's That Flying? (I'd guess...Ultraman after cleaning a chimney?)


PS4 Shmups

Aqua Kitty: Milk Mine Defender DX (I'm not even a cat person, and this Defender update rocks!)
Astebreed (Really, a modern Philosoma, not bad)
Jamestown (Excellent Co-op)
Project Root (Not personally impressed)
Resogun (Almost good enough to be a system seller near launch)


Wii Shmups
Yes, the Wii isn't exactly 'modern' anymore, but these play on the Wii U as well, and are getting tough to find, so we'll call this a public service announcement. Cheesy

BlastWorks: Build, Trade, Destroy (What makes this disc really great are the unlockables; Gunroar, Torus Trooper, the prequel Tumiki Fighter, and the awesome rRootage.  Sure, these are free on PC, but having them here on a console is a lot of fun.)
The Castle of Shikigami III (Fun, solid shooter)
Data East Arcade Classics (For Super Real Darwin)(As opposed to Weak Fake Darwin)(I just never got into this one)
Ultimate Shooting Collection (Despite the super-generic title, this is actually the Milestone Shooting Collection, and includes Karous, Radirgy, and Chaos Field.  A second collection is import only) 
The Monkey King: The Legend Begins (Ignore the cover art.  Remember Cloud Master on the Sega Master System?  Pretty much the same, just not as good.)
Namco Museum Remix (Y'know, for Galaxian, Gaplus, and Xevious)
Namco Museum Megamix (Might as well go for this one instead, since it also has Bosconian, Galaga, Grobda, and the ever-odd King & Balloon)
Saint (Remember The Monkey King? Of course not, and this pseudo-sequel still isn't better than Cloud Master)
SNK Arcade Classics Vol. 1 (for R-Type-like Last Resort)

And the WiiWare shop has a decent selection of shmups from the NES, SNES, TG16, and others, but the standout for me is Ironclad, an excellent and very rare Neo Geo cart.


And for fun, here's my personal top three shmups released (or rereleased) in the last few years:


 Image from Senpaigamer.com

Did you know that a new entry in the storied series released this year?  Easy to overlook, considering it was (a) released as an exclusive on the Xbox One which is particularly bizarre since it is also currently (b) only in Japan, where the One is selling about as well as the N-Gage.  In fact, it's easy to wonder when Raiden III and IV came out, as relatively little impact as they made.  (Raiden III is exclusive to PlayStation 2 but considered the low-point in the series by many fans.  Raiden IV is on Xbox 360 and digitally on PS4, and is considered by many fans a return to greatness.)

So how is Raiden V?  In a word, divisive.  It isn't a danmaku, has unlimited continues, and a 'lifebar' instead of a lives counter.  On the other hand, Raiden has never been a true danmaku series.  After the first two stages the difficulty ramps up smoothly and the difficulty selections (so far) seem about right.  Though not complex, there is a decent scoring mechanic similar to IV. And instead of the generally negative 'euro-shmup' feel lifebars are known to give, Raiden V's lifebar replaces the Gradius/R-Type frustration of losing every power-up and being forced to battle late-game with a peashooter.
 
In fact, the game feels very balanced, and while never treading into full reboot territory, it does an admirable job of respecting its legacy while trying to freshen things up.  Not all changes are completely successful; the new 'cheer' community element feels broken and pointless, though novel, as does the added story elements.  And where are our walking tanks?  Oh, and no second-player whatsoever, which is a bummer all-round and the most glaring omission to me.   But Raiden V stands on its own merits as a fun, greatly paced and balanced shmup that overall does its legacy proud.  If IV was a modern refinement of the series, V is a brave and worthwhile experiment to chart new ground.

While there is enough English to the menus to make the experience import friendly, the game is likely to make it overseas eventually, albeit likely only as a download.  However the current import comes with an excellent OST, costs just over the price of a normal new game (Amazon, AmiAmi, eBay, and other import retailers are currently stocking it) and may be the only way to obtain a physical copy.  I went for it and don't regret it in the least.

Sadly, except for the offbeat indie Teslapnnk, that's about it for Xbox One shmups for the moment.  More are supposedly on the way! (See the end of the article.)



Something smells fishy. *dodges tomatos* (Image from gematsu.com)

With a name to match its clunky history (from PSP original to arcade update/sequel to another arcade update/sequel to current amalgamation) DCS is as strange a beast as the aquatic dreadnaughts it is famous for.  Only available as a download (save for the Vita import card) and a surprisingly pricey one at that, it was easy to miss DCS upon release, and even easier for sticker-shock to cause further dismissal.

Which is a shame, really, because DCS has so much to offer!  The original arcade mode has four-player support (though with a 32:9 aspect ratio to match the original dual monitor coin-op, so you need a pretty sizable screen to not get lost in the dots).  But the real meat is the Chronicle mode, which sets up a virtual cabinet to crowd-source completion of the 3000 (!!) stages to conquer.  True, the lion's share of that content is some form of remix, but if you were ever a kid like me who wanted a shmup you could play forever, well, someone took that dream and developed it and it is awesome!

Lots of ship variations with different and interesting mechanics, a huge amount of story legacy spanning the entire series, a notoriously (mostly good IMO) soundtrack, great graphics, and fluid, near-perfect shmup gameplay. 

If you are at all a fan of the series, DCS comes very highly recommended, with a few quirks.  It can be considered rather pricey.  Also as mentioned before, if you intend on playing the original Arcade mode you can't adjust the aspect ratio, so make sure you have a big screen.  The relatively-cheap-to-import Vita version may seem an obvious way to go (especially as it supports PSTV.)   However, the menus, of which there are many, are not translated and there is no multiplayer support even as the 'press start' for other players blinks at the top.

Much like Raiden V, I consider Dariusburst Chronicle Saviours to be the new bar set for modern shmup releases.  Not perfect, but plenty to delight fans. (Like me!)




Simply one of the greatest shmups of all time, sadly missed by the west and quite pricey to import.  But now, if you have a 3DS and five bucks, it can be yours!!  This eShop release seemed to come out of nowhere and was likely missed by many fans so I'm doing my civic duty to inform you, dear reader, to spread the love.

*Special thanks to our own Crabmaster 2000 for introducing me to this great game, and Shadow Kisuragi for pointing out it was on the eShop. 


Well, that wraps up an initial tour, although I know I'm missing probably quite a few.  But more are on the way!  For the PS4, announced titles include Caladrius Blaze, Revolver360 Re:Actor, and from the makers of Radiant Silvergun/Ikaruga, something called Ubusana.

And even the Xbox One is getting some shooting love, literally, in Shooting Love Trilogy as well as Natsuki Chronicle, by the makers of Eschatos and Ginga Force.


Like a TLB (True Last Boss), shmups have kept coming long after their supposed death.  Indeed, one of the most enduring genres of gaming is still around, with some great games just waiting to be played.  Please feel free to weigh in with some newer favorites, titles I missed (I didn't even cover PC or much of handhelds) or just share some good times over a few thousand glowy Corn Pop bullets.

Smiley


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Comments
 
Great article!  I have always been a fan of shmups, but I have not had a ton of experience with them either.  I definitely appreciate this as it gives me more direction for them on newer systems which tends to be cheaper.
 
As a shump fan, it's always disheartening that the heavy majority of the modern titles don't have physical releases. However, I understand since shmups aren't as popular over here as they are in Japan, and I am happy that we still get them at all.

I'd add Under Defeat to the PS3 list.

EDIT: I see you have it under 360. There is a physical, Deluxe Edition for the PS3 as well. Smiley
 
@Gamer4Lyfe:Thanks! I'm hoping this serves as a sort of primer to folks who are interested in shmups but have no idea what's out there.  Many of these are very easy to miss (I've tried to keep up and I know I miss some.)

@singlebanana:I'm of the exact same thought; sad to see so few physical copies, but delighted that they even still get made.

And the fact that I missed the PS3 version of Under Defeat is particularly egregious, seeing as how my oldest sun, my beloved, and I all enjoy playing that one together every now and then.  I hadn't realized how much the price had gone up since release (I had reserved it when it was new.)
Thanks for the embarrassing catch. Wink
 
*lol* son. He's bright, but not that bright.  I also apparently typed 'Teslapnnk' instead of Teslapunk, but the former is now going to be my metal cover-band name.
 
I enjoyed the read. I like shmups. Most of what you listed, I already knew about, but there were quite a few I will be adding to my wantlist. I especially got a kick, out of how much praise you gave Cloud Master, over some modern titles. I just got Cloud Master, a couple days ago, but haven't tried it out yet.
 
You had me at Salamander. Great list here, and might I add Zanac X Zanac on PS3. Much cheaper than importing the Japanese PS exclusive, and it's freakin' Zanac.
 
@Duke.Togo:Thanks!  More I actually own and missed when compiling this.  Zanac X Zanac, and also Gaia Seed, both expensive imports that are super cheap to buy digitally on PS3.
 
Great read, man.  That Salamander art is one of my favorite all time covers.  I remember really enjoying shmups in the 8 bit and early arcade days but then being frustrated by them as they got more hell-y.  Still, they are one of the best genres to couch coop so this is a great list to pull up when friends are over.
 
Deathsmiles IIX is available on Microsoft Games on Demand in the US, but it's the import version. Microsoft ran an experiment where they allowed import titles to be available on the US marketplace, and it was part of that experiment.

It's still in Japanese, so it's still technically import, but you don't have to purchase the physical and import it if you don't want to.

Glad you mentioned Recca. It's fantastic.
 
PS Vita has a pretty epic amount of shumps as well Smiley
 
Awesome article!  Most of you guys know I'm a shmup fan by now, so I was already aware of most of what was on the list, but I didn't know that Astebreed was on PS4, nor did I realize it was similar to Philosoma.  I have that one in my Steam wish-list, but hadn't really looked into it much.  I played all the way through Philosoma years ago, and despite its flaws, and the a few of the somewhat hackneyed design choices the development team made with that game, it was a fun and unique experience.  It's become more pricey of late because it only ever received the longbox treatment, as far as I'm aware, and never got a later jewel case PS1 release like In The Hunt did.  Still, worth tracking down if you can get it cheap, if for no other reason than to see all the various perspectives and play through them.
 
@MetalFRO:Yeah, I compared the two because of the constant perspective change as a gameplay design; plenty of differences in tone and design, but it feels like a modern spiritual successor to me.

My experiences with Philosoma is pretty similar; odd and unrefined, but fun and unique.

Glad you enjoyed the article. Smiley

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