Overhead Run-and-Guns (without the guns)

Well, it‘s finally happened. A year and a half ago I asked for some games like Pocky & Rocky as my introduction to the forum. Since then, I’ve been able to pin down what exactly I thought was so appealing about the Kiki Kaikai series: compared to more standard shmups, the player-dictated screen scrolling allows for more unique level design layouts and a more personalized experience, and the contextualization of shmup-flavored gameplay without any use of real firearms or weaponry is frankly much more creative and appealing (to me) than games that are interested in projectiles but can‘t imagine anything other than guns. Don’t get me wrong – I always love an R-Type, I‘ll slurp up some Darius any day of the week, but once we get in the realm of Metal Slug or Shock Troopers it’s a little tough for me to enjoy myself. Those are undeniably incredible games and I respect them very much, but I just think playing as a dude with a gun kind of sucks!! So, I‘ve gone on a journey to hunt down as many games that fit this Kiki-Kraiteria as I possibly could, and now it’s time for me to give back and share my findings – and then for everyone else to offer their insights on these games or share games I haven't touched on yet!!

I've been compiling my findings on [this list](https://www.backloggd.com/u/Funbil/list/overhead-run-and-guns-without-the-guns/). Below I'll write about most of the games on this list, except for the few I don't really have much to say about. I recommend checking out that list for a more comprehensive catalogue of games in this style (that I've been able to find) or for a quick tl;dr of this thread introduction.


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**1984 – Itazura Tenshi** -

https://youtu.be/orbr0x_oODI

Whenever talking about the overhead run-and-gun, it seems like the conversation starts around 1985 with _Commando_. While it's clear that game did help establish the overhead run-and-gun as its own distinct genre, here's _Itazura Tenshi_ a full year earlier with that classic 80's creativity that doesn't feel beholden to any genre, but rather just does whatever it decides it needs. It's mostly about exploring the map and connecting the related stars to form a constellation, and incidentally there is some shooting involved to help clear out any enemies that can't be evaded. It's made by Nichibutsu, who shmup fans will recognize from the _Cresta_ games, which I found to be quite a surprise since it's not nearly as "exciting" or strategic as those, but it sure is a unique and creative game! What we'll find going forward is that a lot of these overhead run-and-guns without guns tend to be more relaxed affairs than their sisters, the shmups and overhead run-and-guns WITH guns, and we can see this starting all the way back even a full year before _Commando_ hit the scene.


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**1985 – Ninja Emaki** -

https://youtu.be/afm6-lz1wX8

Some of you may be thinking: "Hey, wait a minute! _Ninja Emaki_, 1985? Isn't this a lot like _[Mister Viking](https://youtu.be/eA9v4HFF75I)_, which released in 1984? Why is _Ninja Emaki_ here but not _Mister Viking_?" to which my immediate response would be: "Wow, you really do belong on the Insert Credit forums," and then I would go on to say: while _Mister Viking_ certainly is an overhead shooter that contextualizes its shooting without firearms, and the screen does scroll in more than a single direction, that scrolling is always automatic and never dictated by player movement. It's for this unfortunate reason _Mister Viking_ is relegated to only a footnote in this post. This is the first example of an adjacent game style that I think just barely misses the mark on being relevant to this thread. I'm sorry to all the _Mister Viking_ fans. **But enough about _Mister Viking_!!** That game **sucks** and _Ninja Emaki_ **rules!!** Aside from being [the game that acted as catalyst for this thread](https://forums.insertcredit.com/d/150-shmupsstgsshoot-em-ups/881) in the first place, it also seems to be the first instance of an overhead run-and-gun using traditional Japanese folklore and mythology as basis for its setting and characters (well, contested with _Ninja Princess_, the next game on this list... Release dates for arcade games beyond just their release year are tough to find). This is a trend that will only continue to grow as this subgenre flourishes, and while that's undoubtedly because of the _Kiki Kaikai_ games, it's interesting to note that at least two games to my knowledge had already experimented with this exact combination before _Kiki Kaikai_ popularized it.


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**1985 – Ninja Princess** -

https://youtu.be/zxS_deSaVXU

_(Also released in 1986 for the Sega Mega Drive; I will not be covering that release separately)_
_Ninja Princess_ is the best game in this subgenre until the 90's start coming along. I'm just going to say it. Obviously my heart lies with next year's _Kiki Kaikai_ for eventually spawning some of my favorite games of all time, but _Ninja Princess_ is so chock-full of unique ideas that I still have not seen developed on to this day. The key to its excellence is the game's weapon of choice both for its hero and its enemies: the kunai. This isn't any old shmup where the player and the enemies are shooting all sorts of different projectiles at each other; everyone's got the exact same equipment. What this means is that _Ninja Princess_ can go insanely hard on making this weapon as deep and versatile as possible. The most important feature of the kunai is that two will cancel each other out when colliding, which makes it both an offensive and defensive tactic for both sides to use at any time – well, "any time." The game's scoring system is founded on the number of shots fired versus the number of shots landed, meaning it's always in the player's best interest to only throw a kunai when it's certain to hit. This means players who choose to play more defensively will live longer but maintain a lower score, and the more aggressive player will have to be more strategic with their throws – not just in terms of lining up their shots with constantly moving enemies, but also watching their behaviors to predict when an enemy's kunai might come out as a deflection. All this, on top of the absolutely genius decision to have bosses chase the player *backwards through the stage* rather than just sitting at the end of it makes for one of the absolutely most uniquely engaging overhead shooters I've ever played, with or without guns. Too many people are sleeping on this one. An early masterpiece of the genre.


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**1986 – Kiki Kaikai** -

https://youtu.be/KhY0l2d5GOU

_(Also released in 1986 for MSX2, 1990 for PC Engine, and 2004 for Windows PC; I will not be covering these releases separately)_
Here we are baby... Where it all began (obviously a lie). Looking back at the games leading up to this, it's actually pretty easy to tell how a game like _Kiki Kaikai_ would come to be. Not to mention all the other influences outside of this incredibly specific subgenre, including the inescapable _Commando_ which released the year prior, along with the medium-wide omnipresent invisible hands of inspiration like _Xevious_. By 1986, we've got a rock-solid foundation of incredible shmups that have been released, the overhead shooter is coming into prominence, and several of those overhead shooters have already adopted the traditional Japanese mythos into gameplay systems. The workings are all here for someone to simply learn all the lessons these games have been teaching and wrap it up in a more appealing package than anyone else has done so far; enter, of course, _Kiki Kaikai_. Maybe this sounds cynical, but it's true that the game's presentation, and particularly the charm of the main character Sayo-chan, is historically what dominated the conversation around the original _Kiki Kaikai_. Games like _Twinbee_ started introducing cuter elements to shmups, and _Kiki Kaikai_ was quick to get on the "cute-em-up" trend at the ground floor. Enemies like the [Puka Puka](https://kikikaikai.fandom.com/wiki/Puka_Puka) could be [front-and-center mascots for any other game](https://youtu.be/m28k2AyNYc8), but in _Kiki Kaikai_ they hardly even stand out against all the delightfully charming depictions on Japan's mythological yōkai. The game itself may not be especially impressive compared to the magnificently thoughtful _Ninja Princess_ or the abstract, dreamy _Itazura Tenshi_, but it made up for its simple gameplay systems with exceptional character designs and an addicting level of self-imposed difficulty. This success allowed _Kiki Kaikai_ to venture onward as a beloved series of games; the only game on this entire list to get such an opportunity.


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**1987 – Kiki Kaikai: Dotou Hen** -

https://youtu.be/ZvX7m3CT82E

You would not believe how often I see people refer to _Dotou Hen_ as a Famicom Disk System port of the arcade game, like what would later release on the PC Engine. This is 100% a completely new game with wildly different systems!! I have no idea why people keep saying it's a port when watching just a single second of gameplay would obviously indicate that's not true!! And as far as we're concerned, it's easily the single biggest development on the overhead run-and-gun we've seen up to this point, and will remain as such for a couple decades: we've got _an open world_ where all locations are open from the start and any boss can be fought in any order, we've got a _day/night cycle_, we've got a limited supply of [ofuda](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ofuda) to shoot which means more strategic reliance on the [ōnusa](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C5%8Cnusa) for offense, we've got shops where ofuda can be exchanged for items and power-ups, it's the first Kiki _Kaikai_ game to **introduce the ability to play with two players**, and all the bosses require paying an ofuda toll before entering the arena which requires players to consider if they should charge right in with low ammunition or to grind some more before entering. This game... Is wildly ahead of its time!! It's more open world than the contemporary _Zelda_ games!! How could anyone in their right mind call this a port?? **What is the world coming to where nobody knows the difference between _Kiki Kaikai_ (1986) and _Kiki Kaikai: Dotou Hen_ (1987)???** Well, lucky for you, Insert Credit Forum Reader, you will never make this mistake ever again. Now you know that _Kiki Kaikai: Dotou Hen_ is actually one of the coolest games in the world. This was the secret purpose of this thread all along. I have never seen a single overhead run-and-gun innovate so much in a single entry, and I have no idea why we're not seeing more open world overhead run-and-guns.


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**1987 – Ku Gyoku Den** -

https://youtu.be/YyHMYxlLsY0

Hilariously, _Ku Gyoku Den_ does a lot of the same things _Kiki Kaikai: Dotou Hen_ does, and in the same year! It clearly apes the protagonist-monk-fighting-spirits shtick from _Kiki Kaikai_, but given its proximity to the release of _Dotou Hen_, I don't believe they had enough time to copy the innovations that title introduced. The similarities between those two particular titles must be a coincidence then; _Dotou Hen_ simply got to the punch quicker and more effectively. Despite _Ku Gyoku Den_ sporting a similar open world and item shops, it had the unfortunate fate of only releasing on personal computers that simply couldn't scroll the screen smoothly enough to make the game manageable to play. I truly believe that if this game released on something like the Genesis or PC Engine it would have had some guy like me out there singing its praises, but in our reality it's just kind of a nauseating mess. Interestingly, it did somehow spawn a single sequel, [Shin Ku Gyoku Den](https://youtu.be/FfwOY_Iir4s), which foregoes its overhead run-and-gun roots in favor of more traditional RPG gameplay. I guess I lied earlier when I said _Kiki Kaikai_ was the only game on this list to get sequels. Surely you'll forgive me for forgetting about _Ku Gyoku Den_...


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Speaking of personal computers, at this time I should probably address another game style I'm omitting from this thread: dungeon-crawlers. Someone could make a case for games like _[Gauntlet](https://youtu.be/cn3j5-e9W5o)_ or _[The Binding of Isaac](https://youtu.be/LtVKALflhic)_ being overhead run-and-guns, but I think the focus is too different and the gameplay isn't shmup-like enough to qualify – and in the case of _The Binding of Isaac_, let's also just go ahead and discount all the indies that procedurally generate their level design. Let's not forget that one of the reasons I loved _Pocky & Rocky_ was the thoughtful level layouts – it's hard to get that when a computer is just putting stuff down wherever it wants!

This dungeon-crawler rule also includes games like _[Toy Pop](https://youtu.be/ie6PDLTFUhs)_, which feature overhead shooting but no screen scrolling at all. I'd like to apologize exclusively to _Toy Pop_ for this. That game also rules but I will not be talking about it here (anymore than I just did).


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**1988 – Märchen Maze** -

https://youtu.be/TXk_rpM3Dss

It's hard to believe this only came out a single year after _Kiki Kaikai: Dotou Hen_ and _Ku Gyoku Den_! _Märchen Maze_ feels so much more colorful and refined compared to those games, and is the first on our list to introduce two notable qualities: an isometric perspective, and a complimentary jump. It also loosely follows the _Ninja Princess_ shooting philosophy of "less is more," rewarding more deliberate charged shots rather than spamming tons of small uncharged ones. This game feels a little fiddly in its imprecise preciseness compared to its forebearers, but its place in the overhead run-and-gun canon is significant for two heavy-hitters we'll see very soon. I'm also just noticing this now, but _Märchen Maze_ is the only game we've seen since _Itazura Tenshi_ that hasn't used a traditional Japanese setting for its gameplay, being loosely based on Alice in Wonderland. That's interesting!


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**1989 – Valkyrie no Densetsu** -

https://youtu.be/mIB1rnpVIsg

Well, would you look at that! Finally, [a game the Insert Credit forum goers have already extensively explored](https://forums.insertcredit.com/d/1448-tell-me-about-legend-of-valkyrie). Looks like I get a break for this one and can simply direct you to the conversation that's already going on in that thread, and I don't have to be the one to tell you that this is actually the second game in the _Valkyrie_ series, or how [Valkyrie is a playable character in Card Sagas Wars](https://youtu.be/wSQ0Wx18LqI), or anything like that. What I _will_ say is that _Valkyrie no Densetsu_ took the jump out of _Märchen Maze_ and started actually using it to incorporate verticality into its level designs – another first for our humble little subgenre!! How wonderful is it that each new entry gives us some new aspect to appreciate? People tend to call this game a Zelda clone for some reason, but I think anyone familiar with its gameplay at all will agree it plays much more like _Kiki Kaikai_ than any Zelda game. I guess they just say that because the game is top-down and she has a sword...? Maybe after the whole _Kiki Kaikai: Dotou Hen_ debacle it's best to stop trusting someone trying to compare these games to something else.


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**1990 – Fray in Magical Adventure** -

https://youtu.be/FOzwAwNlnTc

(Remade in 1994 for the PC Engine CD; I will not be covering that release separately, but it is strictly the better version of this game, and have linked its longplay here instead of the original MSX version)
If _Kiki Kaikai: Dotou Hen_ introduced run-and-guns to RPGs, _Fray in Magical Adventure_ is the beautiful marriage that eventually came out of it. Fray herself is a character from [Xak](https://youtu.be/HlgCSZ1mkUc), an RPG by Microcabin, so it stands to reason that her spinoff game would retain some of what the dev team is already familiar with. It features a more fully-developed plotline than any game on this list has ever attempted by miles, complete with towns to stock up on equipment and lots of dialogue, even during combat encounters. Don't tell this to Sayo, but Fray is actually my favorite protagonist in any of the games on this list... She's an incredibly expressive and charming character!! As a run-and-gun on its own, this game isn't especially impressive, but as an exhibition of some cute character designs and silly dialogue, Fray more than carves out its own lovable niche in this already hyper-niche subgenre. I have no idea why Microcabin decided to make a spinoff game in this style, but I'm glad they did so it had some way of wiggling its way into my radar.


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**1992 – Twinkle Tale** -

https://youtu.be/deNg9UMlFkM

In stark contrast to _Fray_, _Twinkle Tale_ flips the growing adorableness of the genre on its head by maintaining a chibi art style, but putting them through the most grim, self-serious scenario we'll see on this list. The color palette of the game squeezes out some of the muddiest grime the Genesis can output, and all the bosses and enemies are fairly realistic depictions of Western mythological creatures, complete with a chimera on the first stage which requires each head to be defeated individually, leaving behind a bloody stump where the neck used to be. I'll never forget a [patch for the game](https://www.romhacking.net/hacks/2869/) I found which changes its colors to be brighter, since its current palette "does not match with a Cute 'Em Up game." _Twinkle Tale_ is supposed to be a Cute 'Em Up...? This kind of feels like telling a woman unprompted that she should smile more.


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**1992 – Penta Dragon** -

https://youtu.be/Uh_keTYPJ3A

Heheh... I wonder how long we can stall in 1992 without getting to _Pocky & Rocky_? I guess something was in the air for devs to start pumping out overhead run-and-guns without guns!! Or maybe that's too specific for something that can be in the air. I'd like if it could be in the air again, though. Anyway, _Penta Dragon_ kinda sucks. Despite being very similar to a dungeon-crawler, it narrowly avoids the ax by having just enough shmup-adjacent gameplay gimmicks to satisfy me, personally, for its inclusion on the list. There's some neat shot types the player is capable of, but constantly being closed in by walls makes the game feel extra-claustrophobic on the Gameboy's already-tiny screen real estate, and makes choosing a shot type feel less significant since there's only so much room to utilize them anyways. I guess it's still better than _Ku Gyoku Den_, at least.


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**1992 – POCKY & ROCKY!!!!!!!** -

https://youtu.be/8WuOClruvLE

**_POCKY & ROCKY_!!!!!! YES!!!!!! THE BEST GAME!!!!!**
_Pocky & Rocky_ is the best overhead run-and-gun game ever made. This is because the diving is fun and the shot upgrades feel great and the level layouts are creative and the music rules and the enemies are cute and Pocky and Rocky are my best friends. Thank you.


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**1993 – Étoile Princesse** -

https://youtu.be/ejUN15fYgYs

Interestingly, here we have a game that seems to find its lineage not in _Kiki Kaikai_, but in _Fray in Magical Adventure_. It sits somewhere between _Fray in Magical Adventure_ and _Twinkle Tale_ with how interested it is in its own narrative, but it does borrow the RPG-like structure from _Fray in Magical Adventure_, and the main character is about as shameless a copy of Fray as the monk in _Ku Gyoku Den_ is of Sayo. I haven't played as much of this as I'd like to yet on account of the X68000 being a bit tricky to emulate, but what I have played was thoroughly enjoyable. It really does feel so god damn much like _Fray in Magical Adventure_ though – which if I had to choose one game off this list to get such a blatant imitator, I would not have guessed that one!!


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**1994 - Pocky & Rocky 2** -

https://youtu.be/720yIZlWV0Y

Maybe you can tell by the lack of exclamation marks that I'm less interested in this game compared to the original. It just kind of muddies the waters too much with all kinds of new systems... AI buddies that can be swapped out, it brings back the shops from _Dotou Hen_ but without nearly as much consideration into how they're implemented, a lot of the upgrades come in the form of visible equipment on Sayo which ruins her design, and every time she fires a shot she lets out this raucous yawp that gets horribly annoying very quickly... There's no denying that this game is absolutely drop-dead gorgeous, even compared to the already-beautiful entry two years ago, and [the new somber tone in the soundtrack](https://forums.insertcredit.com/d/9-lets-share-some-game-music/752) is delicious... But for my money, _Pocky & Rocky 2_ is too interested in **building more** on top of the Kiki Kaikai framework instead of continuing to perfect what _Pocky & Rocky_ started perfecting. It doesn't feel like it has a clear vision of where it wants its focus to be and just isn't nearly as good of a game as the first one.


___

From here on out, there's only three games where I have anything especially interesting to say (this is a lie), and I've said them around the forum already: those three games are [Deae Tono-sama Appare Ichiban](https://forums.insertcredit.com/d/150-shmupsstgsshoot-em-ups/884), [Purikura Daisakusen](https://forums.insertcredit.com/d/506-the-thread-in-which-we-talk-about-the-videogames-we-are-currently-playing/3024), and [Pocky & Rocky Reshrined](https://forums.insertcredit.com/d/150-shmupsstgsshoot-em-ups/495), which you can read my thoughts on by following those links. I gotta stop talking to myself eventually though, so other people can start sharing their thoughts, too!! Surely this is enough to get a conversation rolling. I'm sure I'll share my thoughts on the other games on this list once they start becoming relevant, but now it's your turn!! What do you think of these games, and are you aware of any that I haven't found yet?

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[“Overhead Run-and-Guns”,“Overhead Run-and-Guns (without the guns)”]

Well, my brain finally started working to produce information! I started adding this before you changed the title, but the genre itself goes back just a tiny bit further, probably to Taito‘s Front Line in 1982 (although it is a game that includes guns, just most of the early ones). Also, I’m not positive if Commando/Senjō no Ōkami or Gun.Smoke should be considered the first of the Capcom run and guns now that I think about it, since they are both dated at 1985 (as is SNK‘s TNK III). I’m pretty certain all of these games were inspired directly by Front Line, which isn‘t much fun but has a very distinct look to it. There’s also Synapse‘s Dough Boy, which came out for C64 in 1984 (and Famicom in 1985, coincidentally covered by Jeremy Parish's Video Works this week), and which isn’t very fun at all, but basically covers some of the same ground.

Speaking of ground, there's also Gain Ground for arcade/Genesis from 1988 (and which had a great Sega Ages rerelease recently):
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=na94rrvmJNI

And I'd also argue that Atari's Gauntlet (also from 1985) is a sort of sideways branch of this same tree:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7mMJio2MO6w

OH! And I mentioned Ikki before, by Sunsoft in (also also) 1985. It's gotten released on Arcade Archives and is worth checking out, if only for the surprisingly fun sprite work:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KDsUPWjzKjw

Anyways! I hope I'm not souring the discussion by bringing up run and guns WITH guns a tiny bit to try and figure out the earliest ancestors!

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Fun stuff!! The PC engine is perhaps unsurprisingly a haven for these - many of the games you‘ve mentioned have ports there, and there are a few more besides. I’ll make a few suggestions when I have the time, but first a question - if the basic operation is basically shooting, but you move the screen yourself, and the vehicle for shots is magic, that counts for you, right? So, for example, the excellent Arcus Odyssey would count? And about half of Gain Ground? What of Gauntlet, Dungeon Explorer, and games of that ilk? Just curious!!

[edit] crossed streams with karasu with some of my questions here, ha ha.

@“Karasu”#p96602 The history of run-and-guns is indeed laden with guns, as the name would imply… Gain Ground is a unique case, kind of like Toy Pop, where it‘s definitely overhead and definitely a run-and-gun and definitely doesn’t use guns (as we understand them for the purpose of the list/thread), but I think that‘s one of those muddy ones where it’s not quite “shmup-y” enough? I feel like there‘s this intangible quality that determines how much shooting needs to be in a game for it to feel like a shooter…There definitely is a lot of weird little grey zones like this!! I say it’s better to talk about too many games than too few.

>

@“exodus”#p96604 if the basic operation is basically shooting, but you move the screen yourself, and the vehicle for shots is magic, that counts

It sure does!!

>

@“exodus”#p96604 crossed streams with karasu with some of my questions here

Re: _Gauntlet_, yeah, for me it's about the priorities of the game. If it's dungeon-crawler that incidentally happens to be kind of run-and-gun-ish, that's a no-go. A run-and-gun that happens to be dungeon-crawler-ish would be fine!

@“Funbil”#p96608 hmm that‘s a tough distinction for me! I get the nuance, but it’s a tough line to draw in some cases. anyway I will consider as I make my further recs.

Hall of fame post honestly

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@“TracyDMcGrath”#p96616 It'd deserve the hall of fame if I had the stamina to write something up for every game on the list so far… Unfortunately for now I am too weak

I love this thread. Thank you!

I was browsing the “Top-Down Shooter” tag on Steam today (an often fruitless passtime) and found this, which I find hilarious in its shamelessness:

https://store.steampowered.com/app/1428680/Abiko_The_Miko_2/

Though it does beg the question: why are overhead run-and-guns relegated almost exclusively to roguelites and arena shooters now? When did everyone decide level design and having an end goal was overrated? Along with the game posted above, I also managed to find these, which are not roguelites or arena shooters:

https://store.steampowered.com/app/895860/WitchAction/

https://store.steampowered.com/app/1821110/Seasons_of_the_Sorcerer/

but their quality seems dubious at best. I did play some of _WitchAction_ and it's about as bland as the store page implies. _Seasons of the Sorcerer_ at least seems like it's attempting some kind of narrative, and the _Golden Sun_-esque interaction with environments could be promising, but it sure does look disgustingly cheap. It'd be a shame to be deterred just by a game's presentation though; I'll report back once I give it a try.


___

In light of these games, I'd like to shout out _Vacant Kingdom_ for being a deliciously competent game in this style. Its world exploration and puzzles are a little more _Zelda_-flavored, but the enemy patterns and especially bosses are gorgeously tight and always satisfying to figure out. The only thing I didn't love about it was how distinctly "indie-game-y" its dialogue is, but it was never so annoying as to spoil the mood. It wound up being a highlight in this year's releases for me.

https://store.steampowered.com/app/1704730/Vacant_Kingdom/

I‘m so glad you took the time to write this up, @“Funbil”#714 – I’m super into checking out Fray and Twinkle Tale

Valkyrie no Densetsu and Ninja Emaki would be at the top of my list to share, but of course they're covered. This is a great thread to have for those times when you rediscover a title that you favorited from some romset that'll you'll never remember without looking at it (not that this happens to me) -- excellent to have a place to share and learn about these

The second-best game in this sub-subgenre on SFC: THE FIREMEN

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zd0IJuGWIDk

There's a PS sequel, which I remember being not nearly as interesting, but I couldn't tell you why offhand.

Oddly enough, Jaleco put out their own overhead shooty firemen game for SNES/SFC around the same time, The Ignition Factor/Fire Fighting—it's been reissued a few times, including Switch's NSO app, and it's... fine.

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502's Arcade has released a demo for two of the games in its collection today, one of which being the reason this has been on my radar:

https://store.steampowered.com/app/1781730/502s_Arcade/

[upl-image-preview url=https://i.imgur.com/G72EQCT.gif]

It looks a little familiar, doesn't it?
After playing the demo, the limited projectile ammo makes it wind up playing more like a standard roguelike hack-and-slash than an overhead shooter – and somehow, I don't get the impression that the shift in priority is supposed to be an homage to _Kiki Kaikai: Dotou Hen_.

Such is the way of things, though... [A recent look into the most popular genres on Steam](https://twitter.com/AdventureMtn/status/1619343425110949889?s=20) revealed run-and-guns to be one of the five **least** popular genres, while both "roguelike" _and_ "action roguelike" are within the top 11.

[upl-image-preview url=https://i.imgur.com/GZYecy5.png]

It's just what the culture wants right now... They all love their _Hyper Light Drifters_ and their _Hades_... My friends, it's a cold world out there for fans of overhead run-and-guns without any guns. I wonder what percentage of those run-and-guns at the bottom of the poll are top-down, and then what percentage of those top-down ones don't use guns? I'll continue to post about any new ones I find here in a desperate attempt to bring any attention whatsoever to the few developers out there fighting the good fight.

@“Funbil”#p102046 Its surprising (and a bit confusing) that “open world” is in the bottom 5. Could some small part of this be less of culture demand and more what smaller steam developers/teams are able to create?

@“tomjonjon”#p102214 I‘m sure it’s some combination of the two. Down towards the bottom are other pretty popular subgenres too, like RTS and 3D platformers. There‘s also, of course, the unfortunate reality that all Steam games almost certainly don’t use every single tag that is accurate to their game – or worse, use tags that don‘t actually reflect their game accurately at all. How many “sandbox” games are leaving out the “physics sandbox” part, leaving that genre down towards the bottom when in reality it might be much more common than this graph would make it seem? How many run-and-guns are calling themselves SHMUPs and leaving out the run-and-gun part? It’s all too gray – and of course, this is only surveying the 500 “top” games released in 2022 (“top” must mean “most sales?”), not the entirety of the Steam landscape. I‘m certain there must be tons of open world games a 17 year old cobbled together in a couple days with Unity that aren’t being accounted for here. But one thing is certain – there really aren't that many run-and-guns!!

I mean, a lot of people can‘t perceive a meaningful difference between Binding of Isaac and Ikaruga and Undertale and Cuphead and Vampire Survivors, so I don’t worry too much about which elements of each game rise to the forefront of peoples‘ attention, or whether people are getting the “authentic” experience or whatever—it’s clear that the average player sees traditional shooty-dodgy gameplay as a garnish for other genres, and whatever small desire they may have to engage with that style of play can be easily sublimated in other ways, so the lesson to take from all this is that the elements that attract outside players are almost entirely divorced from genre standards or conventions, or difficulty or any other aspect of how the games actually play.

@“gsk”#p102236

Well for starters other than Undertale all of those games are bad.

Good Game Port Alert https://store.steampowered.com/app/2200580/Pocky__Rocky_Reshrined/

The hunt still continues! I've found a couple more arcade games from around the time of Kiki Kaikai's release, as well as some fangames of different properties that loudly display their Kiki Kaikai inspiration:

**1985 – Ikki** ---

https://youtu.be/1MGAl9hDTDI

This game feels more like _Itazura Tenshi_ than any others, since it's about obtaining all the collectibles scattered around a stage rather than reaching a destination or defeating a boss. What's really unique about this is how the shots automatically fire in the direction of the nearest enemy, completely independent of any player aiming. At first it felt strange not having any control over the direction of my shots, but the auto-targeting is surprisingly effective and quickly felt perfectly natural. This decision winds up placing more priority in maneuvering the character and dodging other projectiles than aiming shots, which makes the game feel more defensive than offensive. It's a neat contrast to the other games around this time like _Ninja Princess_, which are much more interested in offensive play. The concept of a shooting game that isn't interested at all in having the player aim their shots seems absurd now, but it turns out to be not that bad of an idea! _Ikki_ just has its priorities elsewhere, and they're perfectly valid and engaging priorities to have. I'd love to see more shooting games try this kind of dynamic, I think there's a lot of potential in it.

**1986 – Heroic Episode** ---

https://youtu.be/wNU5OevJ8kI

I know we've got a lot of Irem heads here – were any of you familiar with this game? It feels a bit like _Commando_ mixed with _Xevious_ and exceedingly few other influences. To my knowledge this is the first top-down run-and-gun game to feature Greek mythology, which to me is the only truly interesting insight to take away from it. I appreciate the idea of taking the two different shot types from _Xevious_ – a long-ranged, rapid-fire shot for most enemies, then a short-ranged, slower shot that only shoots in a single direction for more bespoke enemies – but the game never especially develops on these ideas in any meaningful ways. It is unique to see the weapon system from _Xevious_ applied in a different style of shooting game, though. I'd like to see a game try something like this with a little more heart put in.

**[2009 – Raki Kaikai](https://www.dlsite.com/home/work/=/product_id/RJ052440.html/?utm_medium=affiliate&utm_campaign=work_link&utm_content=RJ052440&utm_source=dlsite.biz%2F%3Fp%3D67379&locale=en_US)** ---

[img]https://img.dlsite.jp/modpub/images2/work/doujin/RJ053000/RJ052440_img_main.webp[/img]

Obviously, this is a _Lucky Star_ fangame in the style of _Kiki Kaikai_. Well, "in the style of"... For the most part it's a one-to-one recreation, but with _Lucky Star_'s Kagami and Tsukasa as the playable characters instead of Sayo. But even then, "one-to-one recreation" isn't entirely true either... Many identical enemy behaviors and stage layouts are present here, but they're all thrown together pretty sloppily, and the enemies spawn seemingly randomly rather than in specifically designed configurations as in _Kiki Kaikai_. It's incredibly strange to play a game that clearly is just _Kiki Kaikai_ with extremely few deviations, but everything is so wrong that it winds up being an entirely new game. The bosses are at least entirely new, being characters that I'm assuming are original since I don't recognize them from the show and they're certainly not the ones from _Kiki Kaikai_, but the two I've fought against use the exact same bullet patterns and even have and exact same second phase. I've only ever gotten past the first two bosses since the third stage for no apparent reason turn all the stages into one big open world? Even my muscle-memorized familiarity with the original _Kiki Kaikai_ can't guide me to the next boss, so past this point I have to assume everything is so scrambled that it doesn't resemble the original game's layout at all anymore. Even if they weren't so strictly linear, _Kiki Kaikai_'s different stages always introduced some new landmarks to the environments like bridges or Jizo statues, along with constantly introducing new enemies with striking visual designs, which made every stage feel unique. It's not ridiculous to imagine _Kiki Kaikai_ as a properly navigable open world with how considerately distinct each of its stages are. _Raki Kaikai_ is only working with a handful of stone, grass, and building tiles, and seems to add additional paths leading back to previous areas which don't exist in the original _Kiki Kaikai_, which on top of the randomly spawning enemies that have no relation to the stage makes it basically impossible to get through this completely pointless third stage. _Raki Kaikai_ is a bit of a failure as a fangame, but maybe the most tragic thing of all is how the pun in the title doesn't translate to English at all.

**[2016 - Touhou Ki Kai Roku](https://www.freem.ne.jp/win/game/11023)** ---

[img]https://i.imgur.com/QAsOgyC.png[/img]

You can see on its Freem page that _Touhou Ki Kai Roku_ was made as a joke and only has a single stage, so it's a surprise that it winds up being considerably better than _Raki Kaikai_. I wouldn't go so far as to call it a "good" game, but it's certainly better. This too borrows some of the iconic _Kiki Kaikai_ enemies and behavior patterns, but its stage is completely original, and also throws in some original enemies in the way of _Touhou_ characters. My biggest issue is that the newly introduced _Touhou_ characters don't feel like they were built around the player's control options at all. They take several hits to go down, but move around so quickly and the player's shots are so slow that they're hardly ever worth defeating. Situations like this are what Sayo's iconic gohei in _Kiki Kaikai_ would be perfect for, but this is inexplicably missing from _Touhou Ki Kai Record_ (despite Reimu also possessing one in many _Touhou_ games). As such, what's supposed to be a run-and-gun game winds up basically just being a run game. The bosses aren't much better, consisting of single repeating attack patterns that can be easily defeated by simply standing in the right spot where no projectiles will ever be. The fact that it's this playable at all puts it leagues above _Raki Kaikai_, along with its surprisingly competent presentation, but despite _Touhou Ki Kai Roku_'s obvious reverence for _Kiki Kaikai_, it doesn't seem to understand what makes that game so good. Which, to be fair, it doesn't necessarily have to – it says right there on the download page it's not a project to take too seriously! I just think with a little more conscious effort, this dev could have squeezed out something better, even if it is a joke. At least it has the decency to be free as opposed to, say, [charging ¥550 for a much worse game.](https://www.dlsite.com/home/work/=/product_id/RJ052440.html/?utm_medium=affiliate&utm_campaign=work_link&utm_content=RJ052440&utm_source=dlsite.biz%2F%3Fp%3D67379&locale=en_US)

(Yes, my search is getting so desperate that I'm even analyzing freeware _Touhou_ fangames...)