Shmups/STGs/Shoot 'em ups

I think I was ill when I first saw this news, so I didn’t post it here, but I came across it again today. Over Horizon X Steel Empire is coming to consoles later this month, and even though it sounds like some mashup, it’s just a collection of NES/Famicom Over Horizon and both the MD and GBA versions of Steel Empire. If emulation didn’t exist, this would be great news, because all of these carts are eye wateringly expensive. As a complete dumbass but also the world’s biggest Steel Empire fan, absolutely yes I will buy this collection, and probably be promptly disappointed that I did so.

3 Likes

Does anyone here play shmups with a leverless/hitbox style controller?

I was wondering if something like this haute 42 could be nice and comfy for shmups?


I’m a little bit interested and was thinking through possible usecases and shmups came to mind!

4 Likes

I was actually considering something like this! I might pick one up for playing under night anyway so I’ll give it a shot and report when I do that. I know the WR holder for dodonpachi (and author of Full Extent Of The Jam) is a keyboard player: discrete directional controls are really nice for a shmup as they make it a little easier to conserve movement

3 Likes

I have this exact controller! I love it, it’s a remarkably solid controller for the price, but I don’t love using it for shooters. In the visual metaphor of fighting games, the thumb button being “jump” makes sense to me; it’s like pressing space to jump in an FPS. In a shooter, though, I just can’t wrap my head around the thumb button being “move up” lol. Though like all things I’m sure one could get used to it in time.

Worth noting this button here is also mapped to up, making for a WASD sorta layout:

It’s wonderful to have for occasional menu navigation, but I find that it’s placed too far above the “down” button to use in regular gameplay (and I have fairly big hands fwiw). W and S on a keyboard are much, much closer together.

2 Likes

I’ve always been a bit confused by those hitbox type controllers because it looks like using a keyboard to me and I thought people looked down on using keyboards for shmups or fighting games (though I’ve spent a lot of time playing emulated games with keyboards and don’t see the problem). Have I picked up a false impression from somewhere?

1 Like

Speaking from my own experience, as I’ve played more shoot-em-ups I have naturally gravitated towards keyboard over any kind of controller. Speaking purely for traditional auto-scrolling shooting games; obviously my beloved top-down run-and-guns will necessitate a different freedom of movement/aiming.

IMO the shooting game controller hierarchy goes:
Computer Keyboard
Arcade Board (Leverless)
Console Controller (D-Pad)
Arcade Board (Joystick)
Console Controller (Joystick)

For me it comes down to the discrete directional controls as @haunts_u mentions. The lowest action necessary for a consistent and immediate input is my highest priority (with heavy emphasis on “consistent”), which means any single button press is by default going to be better than swinging a joystick around. Once we get above three or four distinct actions beyond moving and shooting though (bombs, focus, dash, form shift, etc.) then the convenience of face buttons on an arcade board or a console controller starts to take higher priority over the more compact layout of a computer keyboard.

Of course, everyone’s mileage will vary; I understand many top-level STG players use arcade boards with joysticks, and most actual arcade games were designed with these in mind. In this way, joysticks are often “the right way” to play, though to me it never quite feels right. I only recently figured out this personal control hierarchy after a few years of testing things out with a variety of games, and even then the exact ordering is pretty situational (as mentioned, I can’t imagine playing a top-down run-and-gun on anything other than a console controller). It’s hard to put any kind of blanket statement on anything without it being colored by personal preference.

6 Likes

Wrt to fighting games, hitboxes/leverless controllers are actually having a bit of a moment right now. Costs have come way down on the necessary parts in the past couple years, so the market is huge. And it’s not even just a tournament player thing at this point; they see pretty wide use at basically all levels of play. (Keyboards and mixboxes are still pretty niche, though, which I don’t see changing.)

But as you say they definitely have detractors. People call them “cheatboxes,” insist tournaments ban them, etc. Some old people also say controllers should be banned. It’s all pretty silly imo! No one wins tournaments with execution alone anyhow.

4 Likes

I didn’t end up buying any shmups on sale because I realize I have so many that I own and want to play first. This morning I woke up and felt ready to jump back into a shmup after Novice 1-ALL-ing DFK and taking a break from shmups.

I went with V-V, the Japanese version of Grind Stormer.

Logo_V-Five_2x

Currently just playing a little bit before work each morning to chip away at it and start my day with a little fun. Working on A Difficulty, the easiest, with the rest of the settings the same.

I like the gameplay mechanic of the shot spread changing based on the direction the ship is moving (pulling back does a spread, pushing forward does a closer burst). The feeling of moving to get the proper spread for the level and then locking it in is a lot of fun.

I haven’t quite gotten to understand how the weapons/power ups work yet. Need to read a bit more and practice to understand.

The art and music are both quite nice so far. I like the visual look of it!

Shmups.Wiki has a good write up on the game, and Retro XP has a great essay on the game. (Highly recommend reading that newsletter, great shmup essays!

I’m no export on ports and emulation, so maybe there are issues with this version, but I’ve been playing the Bitwave Games version on Steam. I like that it runs on macOS, so I can play it on my work computer, as well as on Steam Deck and Windows. Seems to run well for me!

Have you played V-V or Grind Stormer before? Do you prefer a version? I’m looking forward to continue to dig into it.

5 Likes

I’ve continued to chip away at V-V and am finding it really challenging even on the easiest difficulty. I can’t even credit feed my way past the Stage 2 boss. :sweat_smile: I don’t love how dying goes back to a checkpoint losing all upgrades instead of continuing the fight with minor penalty. It really changes the dynamic of dying compared to the more modern CAVE games I’ve played. Death in V-V is more brutal and a bit discouraging for me.

One aspect of the upgrade bar that’s been really fun is developing a bit of an upgrade path. I tend to instantly use the Speed Up so that I can more easily dodge. Then go to Search or Missile. Then save up for a shield. I’d like to experiment a bit with using the Power instead of the Shield to see if that makes it a bit easier.

Something kind of neat with the Steam version is that it tracks runs and deaths (I guess up until the achievement is reached?):

I’m not sure I’ll continue to stick with for the 1CC, but I’ll give it a little more time. I’ll keep practicing Stage 2 and its boss. Maybe even use the slowdown option to practice. I’m glad to have played it for a few hours though, and it’s been a nice little break throughout my day. I could see myself returning to it when I improve as a shmup player, as it currently seems like I’m in over my head a bit.

It’s really interesting to me how a shmup clicks or doesn’t. I’ve noticed that with DFK and Espgaluda, when it came time to practice or make an attempt at a run, I didn’t mind and enjoyed the experience. But with V-V, when I die, I sort of groan and am less interested in the music and patterns and such. I don’t hate V-V, but it’s just not connecting with me as much.

Yesterday evening I had a solid run though—made it through Stage 1 without a death and progressed pretty far into Stage 2 maintaining my power ups. That feeling rules.

I can certainly see how V-V leads into Batsugun and then CAVE games. This bit from that essay I shared in my last post is interesting:

While most Toaplan shoot ‘em ups were programmed by composers Tatsuya Uemura or Masahiro Yuge, V-V was the domain of a pair of newer employees, Seiji Iwakura and Tsuneki Ikeda. It was the first game credit for either programmer, and while Iwakura would end up with just a few more credits post-Toaplan, Ikeda is a household name. Well, in niche households, anyway. Ikeda would work on V-V and Batsugun for Toaplan, then join Takano at Cave, where he’d be the programmer for DonPachi, DoDonPachi, ESP Ra.De, Guwange, Progear, DoDonPachi: Dai-Ou-Jou, Ketsui Deathtiny, Mushihimesama… I could keep going, but the point is that Ikeda programmed practically everything Cave produced from the moment he joined, and Cave’s output is as meaningful to the history of the genre as Toaplan’s own, or that of any other studio. He also served as director for quite a few of the games he programmed, beginning in 2002, and has continued in both roles for the modern re-releases, as well, with a few supervisor credits thrown in.

V-V seems like quite a debut for Tsuneki Ikeda who would go on to be a powerhouse shmup programmer. Interesting from a historical aspect at least.

I watched a little bit of this STG weekly episode too on the game. The commentary from expert players helped me a lot, like knowing to make use of Missles more so than Search.

5 Likes

I was browsing through V-V’s emulator menu, and there’s an Assist section with a handful of options like increasing health before dying, making the game “easier,” and making the hitbox smaller:

The smaller hitbox + health has helped alleviate some of my problems, and I’m enjoying the game a bit more with them turned on, but I noticed something a bit odd… with the Easier Assist being turned on, the game actually seemed much more difficult! Certain bullet patterns were faster and more intense. :scream:

I browsed the Steam reviews, and I see this confirmed by someone with a thorough review of the port:

Try using the “Easier” assist on the easiest DIP switch settings and it will roll the rank over to its highest value.

Turns out that the Easier assist makes the game more difficult. :man_facepalming: So maybe the move here is 2 Health, small hitbox, and don’t turn on the Easier setting.

Anyway! I think this goes to show there’s a bit of sloppiness in the Bitwave ports (the menu in Tate has text cut off, also some machine settings don’t save when restarting the game). Makes sense since they were pushing out a handful of Toaplan ones every few months. Definitely not the same level of polish as an M2 port, but I wouldn’t expect that at the much lower price of the Bitwave ports. Even with some of the slop, I’m still appreciative that it exists and seems worth the non-sale price of US$7.99. It’s worth knowing about these rough edges going into it.

(sorry for all the posting about V-V, but figured this stuff might be interesting to others!)

4 Likes

Mushihimesama is being delisted from Switch but not PC on August 10th

3 Likes