Shmups/STGs/Shoot 'em ups

I‘ve been on a real shmup kick lately, going through MAME and the suprisingly robust console output over the last few years looking for new games to play. I’ve seen a lot of shmup talk in the music thread and figured this would be a good place to ask for shmup recommendations and just talk about STGs.

Some that have been on the recent rotation have been Dangun Feveron, which has the best arcade announcer this side of Street Fighter Alpha, and V - V, a late Toaplan entry that feels ahead of its time.

What have y'all been playing?

A few friends and I have been competing to see who can get the high score on Game Tengoku, mostly going in blind. It‘s a cute game but the backgrounds are pretty distracting in some of the later levels. I’ve always been fascinated with shmups and enjoy playing them but have never really had the patience to pull off a 1CC which is something I'm still meaning to do. Really wish the English version of the M2 Ketsui port would happen!

I… really love shooters! While I‘ve enjoyed a lot of more modern danmaku games, my real love is for older shooters like Forgotten Worlds, Gradius (III in particular), and Darius (Gaiden in particular). In terms of newer stuff (I say as I’m about to mention a 23 year old game) I really enjoyed Armed Police Batrider and Shippu Mahou Daisakusen!

There are also some really excellent newer shooters like Rolling Gunner!

Anyway! Those are my current favourites.

Been getting into Shmups recently while going through my ROMsets on my xbox, some favs:

Battle Mania Daiginjou. This game absolutely slaps. It's got such a good soundtrack and mechanics.

Gleylancer. Super hard. It's so hard the game has a small vocal sample at the start of the first level "Stick to it, and believe in your power"

Both these games have multi-directional shooting and pull off the mechanic in different ways, while also making the game playable and beatable with all different firing modes, something that was probably difficult to pull off!

Einhänder is the only one I return to with any regularity and it’s probably the one I got the best at (though I’m not a great player by any stretch). I was able to get about 2/3rds of the game on one credit, but there are a few sections with some pretty brutal difficulty spikes. The beginning of the flooded factory and the back half of the airport I think are the hardest parts of the entire game.

If you have never played it, the game is from the era where SquareSoft could get a game that isn’t a Final Fantasy approved and it’s pretty distinctive. It’s got a German language theme throughout the game which is unique in itself amongst console games.

The power up system is based on collecting enemy weapons and is reasonably flat as the game is designed around you running out of ammo and getting new gun pods as you play or your needs change.

If you are a new player, the first game isn’t very “real” because you don’t have anything unlocked on your save file. The game intends you to start with a primary weapon when you die, but you select this from the gun pods you have previously encountered when you start the game. So play the first level, or don’t continue when you first die, and then restart. There are hidden and secret gun pods to find that only show up in a few spots in the game, but they aren't mandatory. Though I sure do play with the flash cannon!

I’ve also been playing M2’s port of _Thunder Force 4_ on the Switch (which is a great way to play a great game) and the _Darius_ game on the Genesis Classic, but boy _Darius_ shows it’s design age. You die one time and you may as well start over.

These are all some super good examples! @marlfuchs2 I have been suuuuper into looking at multidirectional shooters for a bit for a project I've been working on! On older systems like the MD that have limited controller buttons switching direction feels a little awkward to me. Brandon mentioned a PCEngine game, Metamor Jupiter, that handles it pretty elegantly!

@antillese I really love Einhänder! It's a shame that it's one of those SquareSoft games that seems like it will never get a reissue because it was doing a lot of really interesting things, including its aesthetic!

Oh, and as for Darius, for sure the difficulty always feels off to me and completely designed to exploit an arcade audience. Still, Darius Gaiden has got some absolutely wild designs and visuals! Taito was really at the top of its game in the early to mid 90's!

Speaking of which, Metal Black is another shooter with amazing visuals, although I have to admit I've never cared for how it plays for some reason. It's super weird though!

@antillese#3357 M2 also just ported the Darius games to Switch. Darius 1 definitely shows its age like you say, but Darius Gaiden still slaps and I have a soft spot for the SNES entries too.

I :heart: shooters.

My favorite is Psyvariar 2.
I like the buzz system. I like the rocking back and forth motion you need to do to take advantage of the buzz system. I love the bullet patterns - they look like fireworks. I love how you have a brief window of invincibility every time you level up. You can get used to the rhythm of leveling up to take advantage of those brief invincibility windows.

Recca is a very close second. It looks great. it sounds great. The game allows for very different play-styles.
The ranking mechanic adds layers of depth to it, and it's just all around really beautifully crafted. I think Yagawa is a master of the genre, and this is my favorite of his games.

Some lesser known titles, I like include Air Gallet, Biometal, and Ai Cho Aniki (which I talked about already in a PC Engine thread).

Air Gallet was made by Gazelle who were a post Toaplan company.
They went bankrupt and their staff ended up moving to Cave and Raizing.
It's an extremely polished shooter, with no gimmick or hook.
It plays well, has great sound design, great art design, and that's it.

Biometal has enemies bullet patterns that were pretty dense for the 16 bit era, and the bullets travel fast.
The reason the enemy bullets are so intense is that you aren't intended to dodge them. The gimmick is a shield mechanic. You have a tight cluster of little shield orbs. Your shield can regenerate with time. You are expected to manage the turning on and off of your shield so you have it when you need it. You also have a few offensive moves with your shield which can leave you vulnerable if you use them carelessly. You always have your shield which is one of the strongest weapons in the game. Your shield doesn't make you 100% invincible, even though it often feels like it does.
If you want an extra challenge, you can try playing without using the shield.

@Geoff#3362 I love Yagawa's games. I think Armed Police Batrider is my favorite but Recca is just unbelievable for a Famicom game.

Xexex and X-Multiply are my two favorite shooters based on R-Type that start with the letter X.

Xexex is the more interesting one.
X-Multiply is the better game.

Your Force is a little ball that can be upgraded to have more tentacles.
If you fire off your Force, things get interesting. It seems intelligent. Sometimes it'll stick around and defend you, sometimes it'll go on the attack. Firing it in different areas produces different results. It seems like they gave it an AI and maybe some area specific scripting.
The Japanese version of Xexex is the good version.

X-Multiply is just a really good R-Type style shooter with a ship that has tentacle arms.

I will second Darius Gaiden, and shoot 'em ups are very much not my genre. On the level of spectacles of sound and vision(nerz) its in a class of its own.

I know there's some Zuntata love on this forum so,

@Geoff#3365 I wish these games weren't so god darned expensive on the saturn!!!

I have played so many of these dang things it's hard to know where to start. I'll just periodically some back and make suggestions I guess. I'll start with some horizontally-scrolling PC Engine games I think are under appreciated.

_Gate of Thunder_ - people tend to talk about lords of thunder, but Gate of Thunder is SO MUCH BETTER, and is a fun exercise in seeing what happens when you really put work into your difficulty settings (it's not just that enemy ships take more damage or shoot more bullets, it's new enemy patterns, enemies that never shot before shooting at you, etc - it's really neat!). The scenery rules, the music rules, and in general it's one of my favorite side scrolling shooters. Just an uncomplicated but well-designed shooter that you can get better at by replaying.

_P-47_ - anyone who loves video game sunsets has got to make it to stage 2. the game itself is not going to blow your mind, but has some fun special weapons you won't see in other games, and is generally solid.

_Rayxanber III_ - There's a stage that is just you flying around one gigantic continuous ship and trying to blow bits off it. The sprites are just so visually complex and detailed compared to almost any of its contemporaries. On the other hand, it has the most piercing/annoying shot sounds in the world. Why!!!!!!!!!

_Bouken Danshaken Don - the lost sunheart_ - a mythical feeling shooter with odd enemies, really feels like it's taking place within a universe of something larger, though it doesn't appear to be tied to an anime or anything!?

_Legion_ - this game sucks, but also: it rules. The title screen music is amazing, and the english language VO (on this japan-only game) is in that weird spot between "a non-native speaker probably wrote this" and "the native speaker speaking it did their best to correct it." The very first monologue has him saying "I arrived at the appointed point" which is something I've adopted into my regular speech at this point. oh also because they thought it was important to put this VO in, they went with chiptunes for the rest of the music, and it's pedestrian at best.

_Aero Blasters_ - some might say the genesis version is better. Many would say the arcade version is better. but look how smooth this game is! and the downsized graphics hold up much better than the arcade original, in my view.

compare the three versions:
Arcade - scrolling/animation is very rough, as you can see.

Genesis - smoothed, but for my money the higher level of detail winds up making it look older, because it's not as detailed as its contemporaries.

PC Engine - smooth as heck, better animation transitions, and look how they did those explosions! and the simplified artwork winds up looking more like a choice, in 2020, rather than something that tried to be cutting edge and aged out of it. And there's something satisfying with how those popcorn enemies really pop that you don't get in the other versions.

WELL! that's my stuff for today, I'll come back another day with a specific list of saturn games? or something!!!

Something that I think is critical to my enjoyment of a SHMUP is what the hit VFX/SFX feedback is like. It‘s important to know when you’re hitting something and doing damage vs. putting bullets into something that can‘t be destroyed. The games are hard enough and I don’t feel that determining if I am doing the right thing is part of the fun. What to be shooting should always be clearly understood by the player.

_Einhänder_ has a big loud "HONK" SFX when you are damaging an enemy's weak spot which is very satisfying because you know you're doing something right. _Thunder Force_ has a different hit effect for damage vs. no damage - red vs. blue. _Darius_ follows that convention too I think.

_R-Type Final_ (which I've been playing a bit after the PS2cular) does a B- grade job of that in my opinion, but I think it's a product of its time. The hit indicators need to be more clear when you're hitting an optional part. Though to _R-Type Final's_ credit, you sure do know where the boss' weak spots are what with those big glowing gems.

Something else that I think is fun is the ability to change the speed of your ship standard, vs getting a speed upgrade. It makes the game be able to be more dynamic with how bullet hell sequences are designed.

P.S. in this house we either say STG or Shooter, not shmup, unless you are also content to call beat em ups/belt scrollers bmups, in which case it's fine

:sweat_smile: I looked at the thread title for guidance!

I usually say shooter but followed the thread title’s precedent! :sweat_smile:

Shmup is just fun to say. STG sounds like STD and Shooter is begging to be followed up with “third or first person?”


@exodus#3384 I wish these games weren’t so god darned expensive on the saturn!!!

Not just Saturn anymore.
I remember seeing a boxed copy of Biometal for 30,000 yen.
Famicom, Super Famicom, and ps2 shooters have all had their prices steadily climbing higher too.

Thankfully whatever it is that keeps the prices of used Dezaemon titles low, also applies on the Saturn.
Dezaemon 2 was the most expensive Dezaemon game I bought. I think it was around 2,000 yen.
Biometal sort of, kind of, has a sequel hidden inside Dezaemon 2, but not really.

I had to try the _not good at all_ Biometal Gust for myself.
Biometal Gust is a 'sample' game. It's a game for you to dissect so that you have an idea of what you can do with the game maker, but it's full length! It's twenty minutes long, and full of Biometal sprite-work, much of it new!
It's also really bad, and plays nothing like Biometal. It's not even the best Dezaemon sample game,
Daioh Gale is way better.

I'd like to check out the Dezaemon fan community someday. I had a pretty good time with the 100 game bonus disc that came with Dezaemon Kids. They do get pretty samey, but I imagine later efforts got more interesting. I loved how each game had a a scanned sheet of paper the designer had submitted, and that there didn't seem to be any consistent theme to what the paper had on it. Design documents, artwork, stories, resumes, game instructions, anything seemed to go.


Super Nova (aka Darius Force) is one of my favorite Darius games. The other being G-Darius.
Super Nova feels meditative.
The bosses are all big behemoths that barely move. There are the klaks and pops that the enemies make when your weapons hit them. The background music is an odd mix of short upbeat militaristic fanfare and soothing slow music, and the stage designs tend to be calming, and tranquil.
Zone C has you flying past a mossy hillside on an overcast day, flying either just above or just below the water, with a little splash animation anytime you choose to transition between the two.

They‘ve hardly come up (the M2-ported PS4 Ketsui aside), so I’m curious what everyone thinks of Cave games. Personally, while I used to love them, I‘ve come to find them a little boring in the last few years, not because they aren’t really well done and flashy etc. but because I've just gotten a little tired of danmaku stuff in general.

@exodus thanks for bringing up Aero Blasters/Air Buster! It was one of my first purchases for the TurboGrafx years ago, so I've got a particular love for it. I've always wondered why the name change had happened for the MD version though!


@Karasu#3404 what everyone thinks of Cave games

Big Cave fan. Been mostly playing _ESP Ra.De_ on the Switch and having a ball. I kinda think of them as in-between danmaku and not? Like bullet-hell usually bores me, but I love Cave games.

(Also in Cave-ish news just saw _Crimzon Clover_ is getting a Switch port, which is !!!)

Got the Psikyo collections this week 'cause they were half-price. I'm not a massive Psikyo fan, so haven't played them much.