It’s amazing what comes into your mind when you just stop and think, huh? For instance, just a few nights ago I was thinking about Akai Katana, the bullet hell shoot ‘em up I’d been playing on the Xbox 360. I first dabbled with it back in September, after thrilling sessions with Mars Matrix caused me to reevaluate the intimidating subgenre of shoot ‘em ups. That first session was a euphoric experience, full of lights, sounds, and unconscious reflexes, and I wasn’t even doing very well. It was a lot like losing my virginity! And like that pivotal event, once it was over, I knew I wanted to experience it again.Continue reading Akai Katana [Xbox 360] – Review
I think it’s safe to say that when Metal Slug launched in 1996 it put recently minted developer Nazca Corporation on the map in a big way. It wasn’t their first effort as a team though, more like their major label debut. And like your favorite band’s major label debut, it was an effort produced after years of honing their craft. In their case, that was with games developed for Irem like Undercover Cops, GunForce II, and In the Hunt.Continue reading In the Hunt [PlayStation] – Review
Who else but Housemarque could’ve perfectly melded arcade-inspired twin-stick shoot ‘em up gameplay with class-based multiplayer, RPG character progression, and an addictive loot system? The Helsinki-based developers are after all, in their own words, the torchbearers of the classic arcade game ethos. They’ve been riffing on Asteroids since the early 1990s with their Stardust series, paid homage to Defender with Resogun, the best title to play on the PlayStation 4 at launch, and even collaborated with Eugene Jarvis, the man behind Defender and a few more of the most iconic arcade games of all time, on 2017’s Nex Machina. Fast-paced, responsive, good feeling gameplay is at the core of their best works, some of which represent my favorite games of the last couple of console generations. And now, after a few dozen hours with it, I can add Alienation to that list.Continue reading Alienation [PlayStation 4] – Review
After beating Suikoden, the thought of jumping right into Suikoden II left me salivating. That game’s status as the best in the series, and one of the best JRPGs of all time is pretty much universally agreed upon . But, I slowed my roll. Typically, I sandwich a few shorter games in between playthroughs of role-playing games, considering they generally take thirty hours to complete, at a minimum. After all, I’m a grown-ass adult, with grown-ass adult responsibilities, so I don’t have the time to just sit around playing video games all day. Rest assured though, they do occupy way too much of my thoughts.
Anyways, collecting myself, I laid out the three games I’d be playing. The futuristic, yet mechanically ancient first-person shooter Codename: Tenka wasn’t a total bust, but after a couple of hours, I couldn’t justify playing it anymore. In contrast, the one-of-a-kind insect simulation Mister Mosquito only took a few hours, and was right up my alley. Finally, there was Mars Matrix. Spurred on by intriguing compliments delivered by Brandon Sheffield on Twitter (that I can’t seem to find now…), and the realization of how much the Dreamcast version sells for in the secondary market, I figured I ought to give it a shot, or a second one, since it turns out I played it back in 2011, an experience I’d all but forgotten about.Continue reading Mars Matrix [Dreamcast] – Review
Astro Warrior is, ostensibly, a ten minute game. After devoting multiple hours to it these last couple of days, I finally completed it last night. Understandably, I was over the moon. Developed and published by Sega in 1986, it’s a shoot ‘em up where success was predicated on quick reflexes and memorization. With each session I hoped to reach deeper into space, witness another wave of enemies and figure out how to overcome them, eventually doing well enough to complete the game. While the game was only three stages long the impressive enemy variety kept me on my toes. Inevitably, as failures mounted, I grew frustrated. Power-ups were generated by shooting tiles and I had my preferred arrangement. So, when I prematurely lost a life and reverted back to basics, I angrily hit the reset button. My experiences ultimately resulted in a magical final playthrough and an adrenaline rush that postponed my bedtime considerably. So much for a ten minute game.
Looking forward to playing a traditional shoot ‘em up, my hopes were dashed soon after starting Global Defense. It falls squarely within the genre but is anything but traditional. Originally released as SDI – Strategic Defense Initiative in arcades in 1987, the Master System port followed a year later with a less obtuse moniker. Gameplay remained unchanged but proved complex for the simple control options of the platform. Playing solo was a cumbersome affair that yielded little enjoyment. With a partner, it was much more fun but still lackluster.
Although I’ve long been aware of Space Harrier, playing through the Master System version provided my first hands-on impressions of it, for better or worse. Originally released by Sega as an arcade game in late 1985, it was one of the first games designed by the now legendary Yu Suzuki. The following years saw a multitude of ports to popular home computers but it wasn’t until the 1987 Master System port that one of them had the distinction of being handled internally at Sega, helmed in part by the similarly iconic Yuji Naka. The resulting version faithfully adapted the fast-paced shoot ‘em up gameplay, vibrant stages, and varied enemies of the original release, despite the technically inferior Master System hardware that could’ve been a devastating drag on quality. Continue reading Space Harrier [Sega Master System] – Review and Let’s Play
Of all the games I’ll play on the Sega Master System, Choplifter will likely be the only one that originated on the Apple II. Designed by Dan Gorlin and originally released in 1982, it’s a side-scrolling shoot ‘em up that emphasizes hostage rescue and accordingly, draws comparison to Defender. In truth, the version I played has more in common with the games I’ve previously written about since it’s actually based on Sega’s 1985 arcade release of Choplifter. Like most of what I’ve played thus far, I found it both enjoyable and challenging. Continue reading Choplifter [Sega Master System] – Review and Let’s Play
Debuting on the Master System in late 1986, just after the console launched in North America, The Ninja is a fantastic port of Ninja Princess, a little-known arcade game Sega released the year prior. Gameplay is of the run and gun shoot ‘em up variety, akin to subgenre classics like Commando and Ikari Warriors, although Ninja Princess predates both; as does its setting, the main differentiating factor between this and many early entries within the subgenre. Despite a run time of about ten minutes, it took me hours and days to complete, resulting in a very rewarding finish! More importantly, I thought it was well designed, enjoyable, and worth my time. It’s the first game I’ve played on the Master System whose quality surprised me, a true hidden gem. Continue reading The Ninja [Sega Master System] – Review and Let’s Play
Just as the Sega Master System’s version of After Burner was disappointing, so too was its port of Thunder Blade, Sega’s 1987 arcade shoot ‘em up. Having not played any version of Thunder Blade beforehand, I lack a reference point for the game although I feel confident in asserting this was an underwhelming port. Its portrayal of two separate styles of gameplay was competent but bland. After encountering early difficulties, I decided against devoting too much time towards the game’s completion.