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Talking about shoot 'em ups, shmups, STGs, scrolling shooters, etc.


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Here's a topic for discussing shmups, old and new.  Although there's no single definition for what a shmup is, these games generally have the following qualities (summarized from wikipedia):

  • Usually viewed from a top-down or side-view scrolling perspective
  • A large number of enemies to shoot while dodging their fire
  • Stage-based progression, usually with a boss character at the end of each stage

When one thinks of "shmups" these days, some examples that come to mind include horizontal scrollers like Gradius and R-Type, vertical scrollers like Raiden and Gunbird, and so-called "bullet hell" games like Mushihimesama and Dodonpachi.  Of course, there are earlier games that don't play much like these games, but are definitely shmups, such as Asteroids and Centipede.

 

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Anyway, with that out of the way, feel free to discuss general stuff about shmups here.  What are you playing now?  Have any strategies to share?  Have you finally got the 1CC (one-credit-clear) or even 1LC (one-life-clear) for that one difficult game you've been playing and practicing for weeks or months?  Talk about it here!

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I found arcade V-V (Grind Stormer) to be unexpectedly frustrating. There are so many bullet sponges that it makes it feel like you're underpowered all the time.

 

IMG_2506.thumb.jpeg.ea4c8ac156eab956d7b651a059387820.jpeg

Given its pedigree and association with Slap Fight I expected to like it more. My recollection of the Genesis port is that it's a lot more fun.

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Shoot 'em ups (sorry, I can't do the shorthand because thinking of people actually pronouncing it like it's a word makes me shudder) are some of my favorite games. Am I particularly good at them? No. Definitely no one credit clears. 😂 But, I enjoy playing them for some quick gaming sessions. It's always fun to see how long I can last before I run out of lives. I have no real preference for top down or side scrolling, I like (and suck at) both.

 

For classics, here are some of my favorites:

1942

1943

Aero Fighters 2

R-Type (any of them)

Darius

 

Those are some of the classics I enjoy. There are plenty more, but those are some I can think of off the top of my head or remember by looking at my Switch library. I also enjoy some newer shoot 'em ups. Wolflame is a great one, and Satazius/Satazius Next is a good one too.

 

Then there are the ground shoot 'em ups. Those are fun too. Gunslugs and Gunslugs 2 are fun, I like to play those on my VCS. And, of course, you can't leave out the legendary ones like the Contra series.

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Posted (edited)

Nice to see there are some other fans here!  I recently started really getting into these games (I mostly only play RPGs), and I'm having a blast.  There are some fantastic collections available on Switch/PS4 developed by M2.  So far they've put out:

  • Ketsui
  • Dodonpachi Daioujo
  • ESP Ra.De.
  • Darius Cozmic Collection (Darius, Darius II, and Darius Gaiden)
  • Zero Fire (Zero Wing and Hellfire)
  • Aleste Collection (the 8-bit console/handheld games)
  • Hishou Same! Same! Same! (Flying Shark and Fire Shark [both arcade and console releases!])
  • Kyuukyoku Tiger Heli (Tiger-Heli and Twin Cobra [both arcade and console releases!])

Plus some digital only releases.  Each release contains multiple versions of the game or games, no noticeable input delay, and tons of training and display options.  Highly recommended!

 

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I picked up an 8BitDo M30 Bluetooth controller, and it works great with the Switch.  It feels great to hold, and the dpad is among the best I've ever used.  Very solid BT connection, and it connects immediately after turning the controller on.  A great pad for shooters (or any 2D games, really).

 

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Finally, here's what I've been playing:

 

Jamestown (PC)

I picked this up for next to nothing long ago in one of those bundles, but never really gave it much time.  That changed last week, and I became quite addicted to the game.  This is a "bullet hell" shooter, but it's nowhere near as difficult as stuff like Ketsui or Dodonpachi.  The game takes place in a steampunk version of colonial America, and has you fighting off an invading force of Martians who have teamed up with some dastardly Spaniards.  It looks fantastic, very similar in style to Metal Slug.

The best thing about this one is how it's structured.  Instead of being forced to play the whole thing from start to end, you just select a single stage and try to complete it with two continues.  If you do, you unlock the next stage -- up to a point.  Only the first three stages are available on the lowest difficulty level ("Normal"), so you then need to go back and clear of the stages on a higher difficulty to unlock the final two stages... the whole game is only available if you've completed everything on the middle difficulty level ("Legendary").  From there, you have two more (much more difficult) difficulty levels you can try, or you can play the "Gauntlet" mode, which plays like your typical arcade game and requires you to clear all the stages with two continues total.

This means that you feel like you're making progress as you play, and the game sort of trains you how to play shmups as you go through the difficulty levels.  A very nice game that can be had for cheap.  On PC, I would recommend disabling VSync as I found it to add noticeable input lag.

 

Ketsui Deathtiny: Kizuna Jigoku Tachi (PS4)

Another bullet hell game, but much more difficult than Jamestown.  This is a fantastic port of the game, and is full of features and extra modes.  You can add optional "gadgets" to the sides of the screen that provide you with gauges and counters that track the game state in real time... a LOT of useful information there.  There's also a "Super Easy" mode that reduces the number of bullets shot by enemies, and also enables an "auto bomb" feature that sacrifices a bomb instead of a life if you get hit.  A very good place to start, and even a shmup novice like myself was able to clear this mode on a single credit.

However, the most amazing feature is "Bonds of Growth."  Each time you die, the game saves the state five seconds before you died to this mode, so you can then go back and practice all your trouble areas until you can pass them without a problem.  Simply amazing, and I wish every shmup would do something like this.

Edited by newtmonkey
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Well there is this one game I like to occasionally go through, you know, just casually, without much fanfare. I believe it's for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System called....Ax-illy? Axually? Oh well, it's good.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Axelay! That's the one!

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Deathsmiles (PC)

Note that this is the release published by KOMODO, which is quite inexpensive but only includes the first game, and not the release by CITY CONNECTION, which is more expensive but is bundled with the (very shitty looking) sequel.

 

I have no idea when or how I got this game, but it was sitting in my Steam library untouched for some time.  I have no idea what possessed me to buy it, because I didn't care about shmups at all until recently, and I have zero interest in this cringeworthy Japanese maid stuff.  I must have got it in a bundle.

 

Anyway, it turns out the game is pretty cool.  It's not really that cringeworthy (it has as endearing friendly Halloween vibe, sort of like The Nightmare Before Christmas), and it's a solid horizontal scroller with plenty of replay value.  You have multiple characters who all play differently, and instead of a linear set of stages you get to select from one of three locations for each stage.  The most unique thing about the game is that you have separate buttons for shooting left and right, and the game really forces you to use these, with enemies flying in from both sides of the screen.  It does, however, give you a warning when enemies will be flying in from the opposite side of the screen, so it seems very fair.

 

Pretty fun so far!  This seems so far to be on the easier side of bullet hell shooters, and the Halloween theme is fun.

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Posted (edited)

Retroarch, Final Burn, and Run Ahead Latency

Retroarch is an emulator front-end, and I think anyone familiar with this stuff knows about it.  It's clunky and unintuitive, but once you figure it out it works fine.  Final Burn is an arcade game emulator that supports less games than MAME.  So why even bother with it?  Because it supports save states, and that's crucial for...

 

Run Ahead latency.  It basically eliminates input lag.  It works by constantly saving your game state and going BACK IN TIME to roll back the game to your input.  This is amazing black magic.  Not only does it eliminate input lag introduced by the emulator, but you can even reduce lag to the point where you have even less input lag than playing on the actual arcade board or an FPGA or whatever.  It's easy to use (simply enable it), but you should fine tune it.  Be default, Run Ahead reduces input lag by one frame.  This will be fine for a lot of games, but it's not as good as it can get, and can actually cause problems with more demanding games.

 

The first thing to check is if it causes any problems.  Simply turn it on with the default settings.  If the game starts stuttering or slowing down when you move or shoot, turn it off and forget about it.  Otherwise, continue below:

  1. Turn Run Ahead off.
  2. Go back to the game and pause it ("P").  While holding a direction on your pad/joystick/keyboard, press "K" to advance one frame.  Press it until your ship moves.  The number of times you press "K" until you move is the number of frames of lag.
  3. Go into the menu, and enable Run Ahead.
  4. Set the number of frames to the number you counted in Step2, *minus one*.
  5. Go back to the game and test to make sure that no stuttering or slowdown has been added.

For example, if you press "P" and then have to press "K" 5 times until your ship moves, you want to set the Run Ahead frames to "4".

 

Once you've set this correctly, the game will react instantaneously to your input.  It's an amazing feeling once you dial it in, like you're playing a native PC port.  You can even keep VSync on to eliminate tearing, and it will more than make up for the input lag that it adds.

Edited by newtmonkey
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I had to fire up my PS5 to take a look at my game library because I have some real beauties on there, but the names were eluding me. But, I found them.

 

Crisis Wing - This is a fun one. It's from 2021 but it's done in the 90s style. Top down vertical scrolling shooter. It's available on multiple platforms.

 

Full Blast - Another fun one from 2018. This one has more of a modern look to it with some nice 3D graphics. There are lots of enemy types, various power ups and some fun boss fights. Also a top down vertical shooter. Apparently buying the PS4 version also entitles you to the PS Vita version, though I don't own a PS Vita. But, it's also on Steam, XBOX, etc.

 

Gleylancer - A re-release of a side scrolling space shooter from 1992. I find this one more challenging but also fun.

 

Soldner-X 2: Final Prototype - I love this game. It's another side scrolling space shooter, with lots of enemies, cool power ups and some nice 3D graphics. It's from 2020 and is made by EastAsiaSoft, who also made Crisis Wing.

 

Blazing Chrome - A run and gun shooter similar to Contra. This one is from 2019 and has a great 1990s look to it. It's challenging but fun.

 

And finally:

 

Resogun - This is by Sony Computer Entertainment, so it's a PlayStation exclusive (PS3, PS4, Vita) from 2013. I have the PS4 version. It's a shoot 'em up with sort of Defender vibes. The levels go around in a circle, so you can constantly fly past the same spot. There are also humans to save, which adds to the Defender vibes. And, of course, hordes of enemies to kill, as you expect in a shoot 'em up.

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This may be a bit of a polarizing opinion within the STG community, but I generally don't find Euroshmups to be that horrible.
I get where people are coming from though whenever player sprites has pixel perfect collisions or whenever there's some obnoxious ship momentum, but overall my experience with them has been pretty great.

I'm sure growing up with Tyrian as one of my few PC games might've left me a bit biased in that regard and when I picked up the tech demo for Jets N Guns on a demo disc around 2001 I was an imediate fan.
When the full release of Jets N Guns did come out I played through it multiple times and the soundtrack by Machinae Supremacy remains one of my favourite shmup OSTs to this day.

The bottom line is that Jets N Guns 2 cranked all of that to 11 and I think it's an amazing game

 

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On 1/8/2024 at 12:25 AM, jgkspsx said:

Given its pedigree and association with Slap Fight I expected to like it more. My recollection of the Genesis port is that it's a lot more fun.

Nah. The Genesis version is extremely irritating as well. It's a hardcore "memorizer" and the enemies are still crazy bullet sponges. The smaller screen size also makes it feel like you have less room to move, and so bosses are kind of ridiculous as a result. I still like the game but it'll never be a favorite because of those things.

  

On 1/8/2024 at 1:41 PM, newtmonkey said:

Deathsmiles (PC)

Note that this is the release published by KOMODO, which is quite inexpensive but only includes the first game, and not the release by CITY CONNECTION, which is more expensive but is bundled with the (very shitty looking) sequel.

 

I have no idea when or how I got this game, but it was sitting in my Steam library untouched for some time.  I have no idea what possessed me to buy it, because I didn't care about shmups at all until recently, and I have zero interest in this cringeworthy Japanese maid stuff.  I must have got it in a bundle.

 

Anyway, it turns out the game is pretty cool.  It's not really that cringeworthy (it has as endearing friendly Halloween vibe, sort of like The Nightmare Before Christmas), and it's a solid horizontal scroller with plenty of replay value.  You have multiple characters who all play differently, and instead of a linear set of stages you get to select from one of three locations for each stage.  The most unique thing about the game is that you have separate buttons for shooting left and right, and the game really forces you to use these, with enemies flying in from both sides of the screen.  It does, however, give you a warning when enemies will be flying in from the opposite side of the screen, so it seems very fair.

 

Pretty fun so far!  This seems so far to be on the easier side of bullet hell shooters, and the Halloween theme is fun.

Glad you are enjoying it! This is probably one of my favorites from Cave. I love the spooky theme (most the bosses look pretty wicked!) and the gameplay is very smooth. Like you said, it is also one of the easier bullet hells and only one of three of Cave's games I've 1CC'd (the others being Mushihimesama and Espgaluda). However, the final boss is still brutal and the optional "Level 999" stage is ridiculously crazy. 😆

 

When you get more comfortable with the game itself, study up on how the scoring system works. It's fun to play for survival, but these Cave games really open up to another level when you understand their nuanced scoring system/rules!

On 1/8/2024 at 11:51 PM, robotwo said:

This may be a bit of a polarizing opinion within the STG community, but I generally don't find Euroshmups to be that horrible.
I get where people are coming from though whenever player sprites has pixel perfect collisions or whenever there's some obnoxious ship momentum, but overall my experience with them has been pretty great.

There are a lot that are.. pretty bad. That said, I have a major soft spot for the popular PC titles from back in the day. Tyrian, Raptor: Call of the Shadows and Stargunner get regular runs from me once every other year or so. All time classics, IMO. They just have this unique feel (when played with a mouse in particular), and they are all fun and very aesthetically pleasing. But, they aren't games where you are dodging tons of bullets. It's more about positioning instead of weaving between tons of objects and whatnot. Upgrades are key and the grind for resources/money is a part of what makes the gameplay loop in them enjoyable. They are examples of "euro" shmupping done right. There are lots of other examples though where it's not done right--say, a fast arcade-like experience, paired with inertia, repetitive enemy patterns with even the tiniest enemies acting as bullet sponges, is generally not a good time.

 

I recall putting a tiny bit of time into Jets 'n Guns probably a decade ago and remember enjoying it, it being similar to those shareware greats of the early '90s. I'll have to go back to it and finish it, then check out the second one.

Edited by Austin
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44 minutes ago, Austin said:

Glad you are enjoying it! This is probably one of my favorites from Cave. I love the spooky theme (most the bosses look pretty wicked!) and the gameplay is very smooth. Like you said, it is also one of the easier bullet hells and only one of three of Cave's games I've 1CC'd (the others being Mushihimesama and Espgaluda). However, the final boss is still brutal and the optional "Level 999" stage is ridiculously crazy. 😆

 

When you get more comfortable with the game itself, study up on how the scoring system works. It's fun to play for survival, but these Cave games really open up to another level when you understand their nuanced scoring system/rules!

Thanks!  I'm glad I gave it a chance.  I've been playing the "arcade" mode here and there over the past few days, and it's a lot of fun!  I'm mostly just playing around and getting a feel for the stages, but am keeping in mind which stages annoy me so that I can select lower ranks for those (this stage/rank selection system is pretty cool).

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I just hit the Holiday Sale in the PlayStation store. I wasn't specifically looking for shoot 'em ups, but I sure found some. Lots of Darius on sale. I have the Arcade Archives version of the original Darius for the Switch, but none of the other games. Well, I found two collections of Darius games, both 70% off for PlayStation. Darius Cozmic Collection Arcade and Darius Cozmic Collection Console. Basically, all of the versions of the older Darius games that came out for different Arcade machines and Consoles. Both collections are highly rated in the PS store. And I also got G-Darius HD on sale. I love getting these retro collections for modern systems. Not only do I love being able to play multiple games or versions of games in one spot, but I also love that you get region specific versions of games that maybe weren't available in your area. A lot of the earlier Arcade Darius games were Japan only, the ROMs even say so when you load them. So, being able to play them on the PS5 in the US is a big deal. So, I'm really happy to have gotten a lot of Darius games at a discount.

 

And, for some non Darius action, I also got Eschatos. It's a cool retro style vertical shooter where you're fighting off an alien invasion. It's a fast paced hardcore shooter, which is right up my alley. There are different game modes and difficulty levels to customize the game. And, it's also highly rated, 4.73 out of 5 stars in the PS store.

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27 minutes ago, jgkspsx said:

All awesome pickups. Darius is probably my favorite shooter series aesthetically, even if I suck too much to do well without assistance. 

Yeah, the artwork is gorgeous. I really like the older Arcade two monitor ultra wide games. The artwork looks great on the ultra wide aspect ratio. It's a shame they only did the first two that way, then they went more mainstream with 1 monitor for internal distribution.

 

As for the games themselves, yeah, I die a lot. 🤣

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Once I began proxy shopping in Yahoo Japan for some Super Famicom games, I decided to mostly stick to titles that are somewhat language independent. And Shoot 'em Ups mostly are. But well, most of the time it is clear why they never left Japan.

Take Acrobat Mission for example. It is just your bog-standard shooter, that doesn't do anything clever to be noticed, short as well with only 5 stages. I have gotten some enjoyment out of it at least.

 

 

On 1/8/2024 at 4:43 PM, newtmonkey said:

Jamestown (PC)

I just finished watching a documentary about the Peoples Temple so my mind naturally first read this as Jonestown. Boy, talk about a morbidly grim theme for your shmup. What would be the goal, to get 909 points? =/

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Raiden (Arcade)

I actually had this on the Jaguar back in the day, and actually played it a lot and got quite decent at it.  It was probably my favorite game on the Jaguar.

Anyway, the arcade version is damned hard.  From the first level, you're constantly bombarded from all angles, and your slow ship is ill-equipped to dodge the extremely fast bullets.  Even so, the second level is a massive jump in difficulty, and if you're not powered up enough it seems kind of impossible.

It's a vert shooter, but you can scroll quite a bit to the left and right; you seem to be able to scroll enemies off the screen, so maybe this is part of the strategy.  I need to investigate it more.

It's a great looking and sounding game, and I'd like to put more time into it, but so far it's extremely frustrating.

 

Jamestown (PC)

I don't think I have it in me to 1CC this game, but I'm still working on clearing the Gauntlet mode on Legendary (normal) difficulty (which gives you two continues).  I was able to get to the last stage on my last life, so this will just be a matter of getting through the earlier stages with less deaths.  One thing I'm struggling a bit with is the hitbox of the ships.  Although the game does show you your hitbox on the ship selection screen, I find it difficult to visualize it on the ship while playing.

I also don't care for the Vault system; instead of super bombs, the game gives you a shield which is powered by little doodads dropped by enemies.  The annoying thing is that you have to build up your Vault meter to use it, and dying drops the meter to 0.  It's easy to get into a situation where you die during a hectic spot, and then cannot use Vault to get yourself out of the mess, possibly leading to yet another death.

 

Touhou Koymakyou - The Embodiment of Scarlet Devil (PC)

I decided to give this series a shot, with the first entry released for Windows PCs.  This is actually still sold brand new on Amazon.co.jp by the developer's official reseller.  This is an "indie" bullet hell shmup created by just one guy.  It runs mostly fine as is in Windows 10, which was surprising.  The framerate is unlocked in full-screen mode, which makes the game unplayable, but there are several ways to get around it.  I just run the game in a window, and use the awesome "Lossless Scaling" tool to run it cleanly scaled up 1280x960 with black borders... no problem at all.  The game also uses MIDI for music, so I can pump the audio out to my Roland Sound Canvas (apparently the soundtrack was composed with this device in mind).

Anyway, it's a lot of fun!  It has a slightly different control scheme from the typical CAVE bullet hell, as there's a dedicated button to move slower for dodging bullets.  There's a story going on, but I have no clue what's going on due to lack of context (this is actually the sixth game in the series).

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@newtmonkey That experience you're having with Raiden arcade is the same issues I see Ghost Pilots on Neo-Geo called out for exactly.  Get lots going on, bullets are faster, you are slower.  Vertical yet scrolls a little, the difficulty jump from 1 to 2 in stages is yikes as well, and it has less power ups than Raiden does.  Think of it like as Raiden arcade meets 1942 in art style/genre of it.  It's good, but very frustrating, so it helps having free play mode on. :P

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6 hours ago, jgkspsx said:

Awesome game.

But hard to find at a decent price. 😔

 

I played a few shmups recently to test my Analogue Duo. Unfortunately I suck at Gate of Thunder; I can't beat the first level, even after several tries. I beat the first level of Winds of Thunder though, and I found it strangely easier than when I played it on Wii Virtual Console. Super Darius I is awfully hard, while Super Darius II's first level is (probably willingly) very easy, even though the second one is way harder. 😰 And Daisenpu is weird. Like most Toaplan's shmups, it's rather hard, but if you use your formation from the get-go, it's way easier and then you can power up before your formation gets destroyed, which makes the game even easier. And you get new formations quite often, so it's probably doable.

 

I must admit I always play on easy difficulty with the max amount of lives and credits, because I suck at these games unfortunately.

Edited by roots.genoa
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IMG_2849.thumb.jpeg.491206b8ca69f2b50043eb52db644da7.jpeg

GG Aleste 3 is such a blast. If you can import the Aleste collection from Japan or sign up for an eShop account and buy it digitally, I'd highly recommend it. It has all of the usual Shottriggers excellence, including hugely useful section trainers.

They are easy shmups on normal difficulty but they are incredible for the hardware and a real thrill even if you are good (especially if you turn up the difficulty).

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Rayforce is probably my favourite top-down shooter. It's got a really cool vibe, great storytelling through gameplay, and the mechanics are perfectly tight. Incredible graphics and bonkers Zuntata soundtrack as well. It's interesting to see a shooter that early buck so many tropes, as well. There are no speed power ups or option satellite, you just have your straight shot and air-to-ground lasers. I think it really works toward the tightness of the level design because the designers know what you have at all times, so it always stays tough but fair.

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17 minutes ago, WavyGravy said:

Rayforce is probably my favourite top-down shooter. It's got a really cool vibe, great storytelling through gameplay, and the mechanics are perfectly tight. Incredible graphics and bonkers Zuntata soundtrack as well. It's interesting to see a shooter that early buck so many tropes, as well. There are no speed power ups or option satellite, you just have your straight shot and air-to-ground lasers. I think it really works toward the tightness of the level design because the designers know what you have at all times, so it always stays tough but fair.

Totally agreed! This game single-handedly sold me on a Saturn back in the day and it's still one of my favorites to this day.

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Einhänder - I feel like this game needs no introduction, but it still needs to be mentioned.

This is easily one of the best PS1 games in my book and my favourite Square game ever. An absolutely outstanding STG with seamless levels, intricate and varied bosses and a pretty damn amazing techno soundtrack pumping throughout. The game is a horizontal scrolling shooter with 3D graphics and it uses that to great effect to give us some great camera angles during the boss fights. If I were to pinpoint one issue I have with the game I'd say it's the fact that on some levels the enemy bullets can be a bit tricky to spot against the busy background.

 

Edited by robotwo
Wrote vertical instead of horizontal
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