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DocHauser
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Shmups That Time Forgot

by DocHauser Tue Aug 06, 2013 7:19 am

I've been posting these on a different forum, but I thought I might as well share them here too. Racketboy already has its 'Hidden Gems' articles, but what about those games that, well, aren't exactly gems?

Ratings Guide:

* = Unplayable dreck (e.g. Divine Sealing)
** = Dull. Might be worth a credit or two, or for comedy value (Zero Wing)
*** = Decent enough to play to the end, but possibly not much replay value after that (M.U.S.H.A.)
**** = Quality game that you'll play again (Darius Gaiden)
***** = the chances of finding a 5-star game among this lot are vanishingly small, but let's assume it's a possibility (Armed Police Batrider)

STTF #1

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XX Mission (UPL, 1986)

http://youtu.be/RUP8NF_DZ6w

I played it in Standard 3:4 ratio but for some reason it recorded in Pixel Aspect 3:8 ratio. Yes, I'm incompetent (you'll probably need to expand it to fullscreen to see anything). Anyway, UPL have at least one good shmup to their name, but...XX Mission isn't it (it's Omega Fighter). It looks like something knocked up in a day by someone using the Shoot-Em-Up Construction Kit on the C64. You spend a full minute shooting nothing but ground targets, then another minute shooting nothing but air targets. That's what I call level design right there. The ground turrets are also liable to snipe you from behind, even after they've left the screen. Nice. Also, check out the invisible snipers in the trees and water at 5:40.

Another thing you'll notice after a while is that you can't move all over the screen. If you're trying to dodge the planes at 7:40 and move up, you'll hit an invisible wall about 3/5ths of the way up the screen. Awesome.

Rating: *
Last edited by DocHauser on Tue Aug 06, 2013 7:44 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Shmups That Time Forgot

by DocHauser Tue Aug 06, 2013 7:21 am

STTF #2

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U.N. Defense Force: Earth Joker (Visco, 1993)

http://youtu.be/VOp7PpqQXDQ

Why is it called 'Earth Joker' anyway? Judging by the awesomely bad character portraits on the select screen, they all look suicidally depressed...

Anyway, this is somewhat more playable than XX Mission, but it makes the mistake of having long, boring stages with minimal challenge. 9 minutes to get to the Stage 2 boss isn't going to encourage anyone to replay it, unless you're in an actual arcade and want your credits to last as long as possible. It doesn't look like your average arcade shmup either - the slightly cartoony graphics with chunky black outlines make it look more like an Amiga or PC game (Tyrian especially). Some people might like it, I suppose.

Rating: **
Last edited by DocHauser on Tue Aug 06, 2013 7:42 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Shmups That Time Forgot

by DocHauser Tue Aug 06, 2013 7:23 am

STTF # 3

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Sonic Boom (Sega, 1987)

http://youtu.be/a60D6zqA5jM

Not much footage of this on YouTube. Somewhat oddly for a Sega game, it only got ported to the Spectrum, Amstrad, C64, Amiga and Atari ST, and not the Mega Drive or Master System.

It's a fairly obvious clone of Flying Shark/Hishouzame (which was released earlier in 1987) and it plays pretty well, although the graphics aren't too detailed (check out the super-bland sand dunes of Stage 2).

I think you can have 4 'option' ships, except they're a bit feeble and get taken out with one hit. They do shoot backwards, though, which is always useful in old-school shmups like this where one of the main dangers is from things coming from the bottom of the screen. Oh, and those explosions at 3:40 - you die if you fly into those...

Not exactly original or amazing, but I kinda like it. I've made it to the Stage 4 boss in one credit, so it should be worth a few more credits to see if I can clear it.

Rating: ***
Last edited by DocHauser on Wed Aug 21, 2013 10:58 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Shmups That Time Forgot

by DocHauser Tue Aug 06, 2013 7:24 am

STTF #4

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Twin Action (Afega, 1995)

http://youtu.be/wo1x9VxJJ3Q

Horizontal-scrolling shmup that looks bright and colourful, though there's not actually much detail or animation in the graphics. It's pretty easy in one player, so I'm guessing it'd be ridiculously easy with two players. The Stage 1 boss lasts all of three seconds, while later bosses don't do much better (admittedly I died in Stage 2, but it was my first time playing the game). Stages are nice and short, at least, so it doesn't get too tedious. The orange bullets are a bit Psikyo-esque, so it comes across as a kiddie version of Sengoku Blade. The only thing that might stop you from beating it is the slightly mysterious position of your hit-box...

Rating: **
Last edited by DocHauser on Tue Aug 06, 2013 7:40 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Shmups That Time Forgot

by DocHauser Tue Aug 06, 2013 7:27 am

STTF #5

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S.S. Mission (Comad, 1992)

http://youtu.be/aOidOmCEdW0

First thing you notice about this is that you're controlling a helicopter that tilts left and right as you move, just like Under Defeat. Unlike Under Defeat, you keep firing straight up when you do this, which looks a bit silly.

Next thing you notice is that your ship and the enemy ships are too big. It's like they took Raiden and zoomed in on a small portion of the screen, making everything seem cramped and kinda annoying to play.

It's all fairly generic stuff and seems like an obvious 2-star game, but what really kills it stone dead is the fact that your blue-laser power-up obscures enemy bullets. It doesn't get really noticeable until you reach the Stage 1 boss, which fires blue bullets. Blue lasers clashing with blue bullets - it's the kind of bad game design flaw that should be weeded out with basic play-testing. Or maybe it's a message that you should have picked the red power-up. Hit detection also seems a bit suspect. Verdict: kill it with fire.

Oh yeah, that flyer. Armed with Super Fuzzy-Gun Power!

Rating: *
Last edited by DocHauser on Tue Aug 06, 2013 7:46 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Shmups That Time Forgot

by DocHauser Tue Aug 06, 2013 7:29 am

STTF #6

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Scramble Spirits (Sega, 1988)

http://youtu.be/z2_6cABxQjo

Some people might remember this, as it got ported to quite a few different systems back in the day. It doesn't get mentioned much by shmup fans these days, so I assumed it was held in much the same regard as something like Ghost Pilots (i.e. not high).

Turns out, it's a lot better than I was expecting, and it's actually a pretty neat game. It's another Hishouzame clone; I'm guessing that some of the Sega devs who worked on Sonic Boom also worked on this. They liked those bland Stage 2 sand dunes so much that they brought them back for this game. On the other hand, there's a lot more detail to the graphics in general and it looks pretty slick on the whole.

You have your typical air-to-air shot and air-to-ground shot. It's a bit frustrating to start with, because ground targets seem annoyingly hard to hit. That's until you realise what buttons B and C are for; your option ships can be sent to ground-level by pressing B, where they can pick off ground enemies with ease. Button C makes them perform a bomb attack, which can be used twice before they explode.

One downside is playing for score - it seems that a big chunk of your score is dependent on you getting 100% in the bonus stages, which gives an extra 100k. The bonus stages are a bit pointless and probably shouldn't be there, so...meh.

Also slightly irritating is the fact that you can't shoot down homing missiles, you just have to dodge them until they veer off the screen (check out some sweet dodging skills at 4:05).

Rating: ***
Last edited by DocHauser on Tue Aug 06, 2013 7:38 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Shmups That Time Forgot

by DocHauser Tue Aug 06, 2013 7:31 am

STTF #7

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Turtle Ship (Philko, 1988)

http://youtu.be/2XP6qvDf-ok

Now, you might think that a late 1980s game with 'Turtle' in the title was just trying to cash in on the success of Ninja Turtles at that time. In fact, Philko were a Korean developer and the Turtle Ship was a famous 16th Century Korean warship, so they were just updating the idea in a futuristic setting. And possibly trying to cash in on the whole turtle craze as well...

The game is pretty damn average. It does the Salamander thing of having both vertical and horizontal scrolling stages. Like Salamander, the horizontal stages are better. Your tolerance for playing this might depend on how long you can keep replaying it before the terrible Stage 1 music drives you crazy.

Best bit: the blatant plagiarism of the Stage 2 boss from R-Type, which appears as the Stage 4 boss in Turtle Ship. Maybe they thought that no-one would recognise it because they rotated it by 90 degrees...

Rating: **
Last edited by DocHauser on Tue Aug 06, 2013 7:38 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Shmups That Time Forgot

by DocHauser Tue Aug 06, 2013 7:32 am

STTF #8

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Double Wings (Mitchell, 1993)

http://youtu.be/vpk6O7Nb7g4

Double Wings has long been tagged as 'Not Working' in MAME. However, if you download it and fire it up, you'll find that it's perfectly playable, albeit with a few issues. The music glitched out on me a couple of times; there are enemy shadows on the water but no enemy ship on screen; I've collected the red power-up only for it to switch me to the blue shot (which you don't want); plus, the game reportedly hangs if you take too long with certain bosses. The solution to that last one is to use autofire and pointblank the boss, which tends to finish it off in no time...

It's a Raiden clone, and it's a good one. Ship movement is nice and fast, plus you get three different ships to choose from. It shouldn't be too hard to clear the first loop (I've already made it to the Stage 5 boss), but there are still good reasons to keep playing. Each character has a different version of Stage 1, and if you go through the 2nd loop without dying, you'll access secret areas of certain stages.

Even better news is that the emulation issues have been fixed...

http://mamedev.emulab.it/haze/2013/07/3 ... -no-fries/

...so if you wait for the upcoming MAME 0.149u2, then you should be able to play a proper working version of Double Wings. I reckon it's one of the best old-school vertical shmups around.

Rating: ****
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Re: Shmups That Time Forgot

by noiseredux Tue Aug 06, 2013 7:57 am

this is awesome, doc. Keep it up! :D
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Re: Shmups That Time Forgot

by Gunstar Green Tue Aug 06, 2013 8:34 am

Cool, haven't ever played some of these (except for Turtleship which was worth it in its own special way).

I'd like to see Wolf Fang/Rohga since it didn't make the gems list. It's not quite a "pure" shmup though I guess.
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