Shmups

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Stanshall
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Shmups

Post by Stanshall » February 19th, 2019, 9:03 pm

Spoilered to get straight to the point.
Spoiler: show
Having only really started with the genre in earnest about eighteen months ago, these games probably make up about 75% of what I play these days. Another 20% are probably fighting games, and the remainder is spread across many many many games which I usually abandon after a few hours or sometimes a few minutes. Little holds my attention or gives me as much enjoyment as a well-designed and well-balanced shmup. There's a 'purity' to the genre which really appeals to me. They're video games in concentrate, very few aspirations beyond the medium and its own heritage. That might well be why the genre is effectively dead as a major studio interest but there are plenty of doujin devs keeping the genre alive. I even enjoy the crap ones, to be honest, because they're so immediate, I can figure out what they're attempting and bin them (or complete them) without a significant time investment. I can't say that for many of the other SP games I've played over the last couple of years. Anyway, I searched and couldn't find a thread - and I think this forum could do with one! So here we go.
***

What are your favourite shmups and what have you been playing recently?


***

I've just completed Astebreed which was ported to the Switch towards the end of last year, and once it clicked I really had fun with it. It's a 2.5D thing, kind of reminiscent of the shmup sections in Nier: Automata (a topical reference, forum folk from the future) and it's got a very Dreamcasty polygon aesthetic, reminiscent of Zero Gunner 2 mixed with Rez, but with more mechs and a shitload more bullets. For an indie title, it's absolutely spectacular. I bounced off it a few times initially because it's quite complex and mechanically challenging to simply press all the buttons. Once you get into its rhythms, though, it's tremendously satisfying and it's almost like playing a rhythm game. It actually reminded me of when I used to play the sax and clarinet, all my fingers involved and functioning independently.

To give you an idea of the control scheme, R2 fires your bullets. R1 is a melee slashing attack which you can also use to protect yourself from certain bullets. L1 is a dash which you can also use as a weapon if you pass through enemies. L2 is a kind of bomb/super melee attack which you charge up. Left stick moves you around and the right stick is used to aim your missile lock on. Track an enemy or group of enemies and your cone-shaped locking mechanism will start to tick upwards in a circle around them. When it turns red, you know you will destroy them. Release the right stick (yep) and you will launch your homing missiles. For an easier lock on, click the right stick and hold and you will lock onto anything in a large circle around your ship. The disadvantage is that it locks on a little slower. Release the stick click to fire. The face buttons do nothing because you don't have enough fingers left!

Now, while that sounds absolutely absurd and a recipe for arthritic claws, once it becomes natural, it gives you an amazing array of options to take down and frankly overwhelm the avalanche of enemies. Outside of Cave games, I've played very little that's made me feel so powerful and so capable of turning the tables on what appear to be comically insurmountable odds. Give it half a chance and you'll be dashing, slashing, locking and blasting through the waves like the proverbial hot knife. The challenge is definitely still there, though, and you'll need to be very thorough and efficient to dispatch a high percentage of enemies to rack up the scores. As ever, once you start playing for score, the game shows its true depths. And despite the challenge of all the buttons, it's also a very beginner friendly game with generous checkpoints and health bars so there's no pressure to play perfectly.

It's outside my usual preference (for verts) but after a couple of brief and confusing attempts, I finally gave it time to seep into my consciousness and muscle memory and I've had a blast with it. I think it's currently on sale on the eShop and it's probably bugger all on other formats these days. Heartily recommended for both beginners and shmup veterans.

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Re: Shmups

Post by Magical_Isopod » February 19th, 2019, 11:19 pm

Some of my favourite SHMUPs of all time, and definitely the ones I'd consider absolutely essential are:
- Einhander (ESPECIALLY if you are a massive nerd for sound design and music synced to actions like I am)
- Thunder Force IV (and probably III, though I'm not as high on that one)
- Every single game in the Raiden series that is not called III, V or Trad. (And I prefer the PSX versions of 1 and 2).
- Soldier Blade series
- R-Type 1, 2 and 3 (especially 3, just not the GBA port)
- Darius Gaiden

Some other really good ones worth an honourable mention:
- Raptor: Call of Shadows
- Hellfire
- Pretty much every other Darius game
- Pretty much every Gradius game
- DonPachi series, at least until they got into the moe bullet hell crap
- Gaia Seed
- Sonic Wings and Sonic Wings Special (released in US and Brazil as Aero Fighters I think?)
- Jamestown
- ZeroRanger
- Air Buster (aka, Aero Blasters)

And while they aren't "SHMUPs" in the typical sense, I feel like flight games like Ace Combat 4/5 and mech side scrollers like Ranger-X, Front Mission: Gun Hazard and Cybernator scratch a similar itch.

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Re: Shmups

Post by Joshihatsumitsu » February 20th, 2019, 1:36 am

To answer he question of what shmup I've been playing recently, it would be Esp.Ra.De, which price-wise is at the cheaper (ha!) end of the Cave PCB price-range.

It runs on 68000 hardware, which is super-reliable, and damn if it isn't a great little game! I mean, it's Cave, so it's solid through and through, and hopefully, later this year, they'll be the M2 Shottriggers release, which will the best opportunity outside of emulation to play it.

The game systems very much got refined in the Espgaluda games, so if you've played those games you'll feel right at home.

The most recent console title I've got yesterday, and am yet to play, is a Famicom (ha!) version of Legend of Goardic (aka Guardic Gaiden, aka The Guardian Legend). It's a boxed version, in pretty reasonable condition, for a reasonable price, and includes a little poster that is very kick-ass.

Honestly, it was worth getting for the cover art alone, which was done by Naoyuki Kato, who according the Wikipedia (so, taken with a grain of salt) also did the cover art for Super Aleste.

That is current. Deep well.

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Re: Shmups

Post by Stanshall » February 20th, 2019, 4:42 am

Esp.Ra.De is definitely one Cave game I've spent less time with, but I'm going to give it a proper shot at some stage. I have had a couple of runs on it over the past week, though. Coincidentally, I'm also playing Espgaluda at the moment and seeing whether a 1CC is possible. It feels like it's at the more accessible end for the first couple of stages, like Mushihimesama, whereas Esp.Ra.De feels a bit tougher to me. Interesting style to it, and seems like there's a fair bit more going on in terms of story and world building though I've not paid that much attention. I have to say I'm very envious of your setup and I've loved the updates on all your work and purchases and finds over the last few years. I've looked into getting my own cab but the PCB prices make me wince, to be honest. At least I feel a lot less guilty about my eShop indulgences! :D

I've never heard of Legend of Goardic but I see what you mean about the cover art. That's very cool and moreso than the EU edition. Again, by coincidence, I played Super Aleste for the first time this week after (I think) Leon mentioned it recently. I was surprised by how good that was, it was much more intense and varied than I'd expected from a SNES shmup.

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Re: Shmups

Post by Joshihatsumitsu » February 20th, 2019, 8:17 am

Thanks! PCB prices do make me wince too... spending money there means tightening the pulse-strings everywhere else :oops: I really hope my current pair of shoes last a while!

Legend of Goardic was a recent discovery for me too, and I'm glad there are so many corners of the gaming world that I'm unaware of, little gems just waiting to be discovered.

Leon mentioned Super Aleste, and that's a game I wish I had a physical copy of. Thank god for emulation! That's definitely one of the better SNES/SF shooters, along with R-Type 3, another game I wish I had a physical copy of.

It's been surprising how the Switch has become a home for so many good shmups. All eShop indulgences are good investments!

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Re: Shmups

Post by KSubzero1000 » February 20th, 2019, 10:05 am

I haven't been playing many shmups lately (or many other games apart from VC4 and RE2make, honestly). I think I have a very intense ebb and flow-type of relationship with these games in that I will obsessively focus on one for a very brief period of time but end up losing interest quickly afterwards. They're an occasional treat for me at this point, not a cornerstone of my regular gaming diet.

On PS4 alone, I have (excluding twin-stick western stuff, of course):

- Ikaruga: I had a fantastic time going back and forth with you on this, but honestly, I don't think I'm good enough to tackle the later stages. Maybe one day.

- Shikhondo: Soul Eater: Character design is a bit icky and the mechanics are nothing spectacular as far as I can tell. Nice visuals, but I don't feel motivated to revisit it whatsoever.

- Raiden V: Director's Cut: I once cheesed through it with unlimited CCs (I know, I know...). I thought it was a bit dull, to be perfectly honest. But I'm also well aware that this is not a very fair assessment considering the circumstances.

- Jamestown+: Played up until the final FINAL boss a few years ago. I remember struggling with the game's readability at times, but I'm not sure if that was the game's fault or my own for not keeping up.

- DARIUSBURST Chronicles Saviours: Bought it after Michiel was swearing up and down that it cured polio and brought breakfast in bed. I think it's fantastic from what little I've played of it, but also really intimidating due to the sheer amount of content alone. If I'm going to dedicate another month on learning and mastering another shmup any time soon, it's probably going to be this one.

- R-Type Dimensions EX: Only spent a couple hours on the first few stages. I really liked it, will go back to it eventually.

- Sine Mora EX: Banged my head against it on the 360 when it first came out. Bought it again recently out of sheer curiosity. But... I dunno, something about the core gameplay loop rubs me the wrong way. Story gets weird.

- ASTEBREED: Another one bought in a sale based on Michiel's recommendation. Never played it, but will definitely move it towards the top of the to-do list after reading your post. Sounds interesting.


So yeah, I kinda have one foot in and one foot out of the genre at the moment. I'm still on the lookout for Psyvariar Delta, too. Would I need to set up a japanese account in order to play all the cool niche stuff on Switch?

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Re: Shmups

Post by Magical_Isopod » February 20th, 2019, 10:12 am

KSubzero1000 wrote:
February 20th, 2019, 10:05 am

- Raiden V: Director's Cut: I once cheesed through it with unlimited CCs (I know, I know...). I thought it was a bit dull, to be perfectly honest. But I'm also well aware that this is not a very fair assessment considering the circumstances.
Dull is an understatement. It's easily the worst title in the series, and after the surprisingly decent Raiden IV, that's really disappointing. Moss is one of those "new wave" SHMUP devs that thinks filling the screen with shit is good game design. All it means is that I can't see what's shooting at me.

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Re: Shmups

Post by ratsoalbion » February 20th, 2019, 10:28 am

It’s fairly straightforward to buy stuff from Japan (or wherever) on Switch, PS4 and Xbox One.

There are numerous guides (written and video) for all services if you have a quick search online.

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Re: Shmups

Post by Michiel K » February 20th, 2019, 10:54 am

Magical_Isopod wrote:
February 20th, 2019, 10:12 am
Dull is an understatement. It's easily the worst title in the series, and after the surprisingly decent Raiden IV, that's really disappointing. Moss is one of those "new wave" SHMUP devs that thinks filling the screen with shit is good game design. All it means is that I can't see what's shooting at me.
If I'm not mistaken, Moss is largely made up of people of Seibu Kaihatsu, the original developers of the Raiden series. Haven't played V yet, by the way.

My favourite shoot 'em ups of all time are Gradius 1, 2 and 5, R-Type, Battle Garegga, Mushihimesama Futari and Akai Katana (Shin), I think. Also have massive soft spots for Batsugun and Gigawing.
KSubzero1000 wrote:
February 20th, 2019, 10:05 am
- DARIUSBURST Chronicles Saviours: Bought it after Michiel was swearing up and down that it cured polio and brought breakfast in bed. I think it's fantastic from what little I've played of it, but also really intimidating due to the sheer amount of content alone. If I'm going to dedicate another month on learning and mastering another shmup any time soon, it's probably going to be this one.
Good call, can't forget that one and can't underestimate the value of a polio-free breakfast in bed.

Recently I've been trying to peel apart Battle Garegga, how to play the rank system to a point where I can get as far as possible in the game on a single credit. Such an endlessly fascinating game.

I also regularly fire up Samurai Aces for a single credit session, as it sits conveniently on my Switch menu. Lovely daft game, but certainly not Psikyo's finest.

As usual I also encourage anyone to look up G.rev's output, for how creatively they play with the conventions of the genre, with interesting and accomplished games like Kokuga and Senko no Ronde as a result.

Thanks for this thread, Stanshall. Reminds me to write my long planned shmup introduction article for the site.

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Re: Shmups

Post by Magical_Isopod » February 20th, 2019, 12:06 pm

Special K wrote:
February 20th, 2019, 12:05 pm
Magical_Isopod wrote:
February 20th, 2019, 10:12 am
Dull is an understatement. It's easily the worst title in the series, and after the surprisingly decent Raiden IV, that's really disappointing. Moss is one of those "new wave" SHMUP devs that thinks filling the screen with shit is good game design. All it means is that I can't see what's shooting at me.
If I'm not mistaken, Moss is largely made up of people of Seibu Kaihatsu, the original developers of the Raiden series. Haven't played V yet, by the way.

My favourite shoot 'em ups of all time are Gradius 1, 2 and 5, R-Type, Battle Garegga, Mushihimesama Futari and Akai Katana (Shin), I think. Also have massive soft spots for Batsugun and Gigawing.
Interesting that it's Seibu guys, because Raiden V feels very derivative of newer shooters - Crimson Clover, Touhou stuff, games where the screen is filled with coins and bullets and it's more about score combos than just beating the levels. Never was a big fan of that.

True story about R-Type, I once lost a job, and had happened to buy R-Type Dimensions the night before... I probably sat there for like 10 hours in just this state of dismay, but it oddly kept me pushing on through this brutally hard game... I wound up at the second-last boss before I started to nod off from sleep. But it sure was therapeutic in an odd way. (I played the "classic" version, which, if I recall correctly, is based on a PC-CD port of the arcade original?).

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Re: Shmups

Post by ratsoalbion » February 20th, 2019, 12:09 pm

No, that’s not correct. Dimensions is based on the coin-ops. The PC Engine CD version is markedly different.

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Re: Shmups

Post by Magical_Isopod » February 20th, 2019, 12:19 pm

You know better than I. :P All I know it, it sure felt designed to steal quarters. But I liked getting an inch further after every death.

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Re: Shmups

Post by Joshihatsumitsu » February 20th, 2019, 8:26 pm

I agree that Raiden V is quite dull. But I do like this interview regarding the origins of the series, in that the first Raiden was made mainly because Dynamite Duke did not do very well! Raiden turned everything around for them.

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Re: Shmups

Post by Stanshall » February 20th, 2019, 10:11 pm

Well, I've decided to get a 360 and get on board with Akai Katana, Mushihimesama Futari, Muchi Muchi Pork, Pink Sweets, Deathsmiles, Espgaluda 2, Echatos, Dodonpachi SaiDaiOuJou and Daifukkatsu and a load of other stuff I've longed for...for...long. Ugh. Can't wait!

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Re: Shmups

Post by Joshihatsumitsu » February 20th, 2019, 11:00 pm

It's a shame that the XBone doesn't support those titles... Microsoft are sitting on a goldmine of great games, and it goes to waste! I assume the licensing is too complicated to sort for them to bother with?

But I've very much hung onto my 360 for precisely those games. It is currently plugged into a BenQ 24" monitor, with rotatable stand that makes it easy to switch between yoko/tate.

I'm curious about whether anyone else bothers with using an arcade-stick, or traditional controllers when playing? I prefer the wired fightstick because there zero lag, and it's a bit easier on the fingers, cuz I'm old!

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Re: Shmups

Post by Magical_Isopod » February 21st, 2019, 1:34 am

Stanshall wrote:
February 20th, 2019, 10:11 pm
Well, I've decided to get a 360 and get on board with Akai Katana, Mushihimesama Futari, Muchi Muchi Pork, Pink Sweets, Deathsmiles, Espgaluda 2, Echatos, Dodonpachi SaiDaiOuJou and Daifukkatsu and a load of other stuff I've longed for...for...long. Ugh. Can't wait!
This reminds me, I really need to look into 360 softmodding. I've done the WiiU, PS2 is just waiting on network adapter... I need a way to "play my 100% legitimate import copies".

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Re: Shmups

Post by Michiel K » February 21st, 2019, 9:07 am

Stanshall wrote:
February 20th, 2019, 10:11 pm
Well, I've decided to get a 360 and get on board with Akai Katana, Mushihimesama Futari, Muchi Muchi Pork, Pink Sweets, Deathsmiles, Espgaluda 2, Echatos, Dodonpachi SaiDaiOuJou and Daifukkatsu and a load of other stuff I've longed for...for...long. Ugh. Can't wait!
Good man. Just be wary that some of these games may have rocketed up in price by now.

Since the system's 2D shooter library seems to be what you're after, it might also be worth considering to get an NTSC-J 360. You'll have access to much more of that goodness.

EDIT: Was just casually looking up on what the Ginga Force & Eschatos Wonder Pack goes for, since that's still on my list and... just 300 bucks and up, total steal!

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Re: Shmups

Post by Stanshall » February 21st, 2019, 9:33 am

Michiel K wrote:
February 21st, 2019, 9:07 am
Good man. Just be wary that some of these games may have rocketed up in price by now.

Since the system's 2D shooter library seems to be what you're after, it might also be worth considering to get an NTSC-J 360. You'll have access to much more of that goodness.
Cheers, I am really looking forward to it. So many big names that I know I'll love but have no other way to play. I definitely went back and forth on the NTSC-J console. There are a couple up on eBay for less than £200, one for around £130 but without a power supply. Ultimately, though, it's come down to what games I'd be missing out on for the extra cost, and whether I can live with that. I've decided I can due to a few other factors.

There are definitely some big names I won't have access to on an EU 360. Mushihimesama HD, Ketsui and Dodonpachi DaiOuJou BL are all region locked, for example. Fortunately, I have played a lot of DOJ and Ketsui emulated via FBA and they seem to run pretty much as well as whenever I've played them at Arcade Club in Bury. I know that might be sacrilegious but I do feel I've had the full experience there and I can rest easy that I still have emulated options (as well as a proper cab just down the road!). Mushihimesama HD is a loss but I have the Steam version (if I decide to ever replace my PC/laptop) and Futari should be a great substitute, as well as being a 'better' sequel, from what I hear.

The physical copies are out of my price range, to be honest. £150 for Muchi Muchi Pork & Pink Sweets? £65 for Futari? I'm not really much of a collector and I'm happy enough with digital (space and convenience) but the bonus is that all of the stuff I'm buying this for is available in one digital marketplace or another, hopefully without too much VPN trickery. I found a good thread at the shmups forum which is a kind of buyer's guide. Pretty much everything I want is either available via the EU XB store or the JPN store, at a much much lower price. Anyway, that's the plan. Fingers crossed. I'll hopefully have it tomorrow and I'll report back on how I get on!

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Re: Shmups

Post by Michiel K » February 21st, 2019, 9:47 am

^^^^Ah yes, good call. I still have a JPN account from claiming the free DLC that came with Muchi Muchi Pork! & Pink Sweets. Maybe I can get Ginga Force & Eschatos that way. Other than that, I've got all these games in the physical form and they're now worth a small fortune! :shock: Better put some extra locks on the doors!

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Re: Shmups

Post by Stanshall » February 21st, 2019, 10:31 am

Yikes, you're sitting on a goldmine! :D

Here's that shmups forum thread, by the way:

https://shmups.system11.org/viewtopic.php?t=58787

It looks like you can get Ginga Force via the JPN store no worries. Eschatos (and Espgaluda 2) is available via the HK store but requires a bit of VPN trickery. They're region free but IP locked. That will definitely be on my list at some point so I'll certainly share my notes and feedback on how that goes.

And I'll look forward to the shmups guide for the website!

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