Reviews Archive

4th Generation Shoot-em-ups


The 4th generation of consoles was the one where scrolling shmups really took off on consoles, the market was absolutely swamped with releases many of which really set the bar for the genre in general. This inundation however also caused such a saturation in the market that it played a major part in the genre losing favour among mainstream gamers.

  agony on amiga Agony
psygnosis agony
  1 player  
  Stand out versions - Amiga  
  Agony features some of the highest levels of presentation of the era, it has you playing as an owl flying through beautiful levels with fantastic music. Game play wise it is solid and fun, though fairly unoriginal, you get a main shot which is upgradeable with power-ups and some R-Type style "bits" which take the form of two daggers floating above and below you.  
  ai cho aniki on pc-engine Ai Cho Aniki
cho aniki on turbografx
  2 players  
  Stand out version - TG-CD  
  Ai Cho Aniki is a weird game, in fact it pretty much takes campness to amazing new levels! You fly through the levels controlling a butch muscle man as he does little spins and twirls whilst fighting an assortment of weird contraptions. Game play wise Ai Cho Aniki is actually quite original, it gives you access to a variety of different shooting attacks by incorporating a Street Fighter style command based set-up, which takes a bit of practice to get used to but works excellently when you are.  
  air buster Air Buster/Aero Blasters
aero blasters
  2 players  
  Stand out versions - Mega Drive/TG-16  
  Air Buster doesn't really stray too far from the formula apparent in most scrolling shooters, but it does do everything to a very nice level with good graphics, and big boss fights. It's notable feature in my opinion is the inclusion of 2 player co-op as every game improves when you have a friend along for the ride and Air Buster is no exception.  
  android assault Android Assault/Bari Arm
bari arm
  1 player  
  Stand out versions - Mega-CD  
  This is a really classy game, and is probably the most under-appreciated shmup on the Mega Drive, the graphics are fantastic, the weapons impressive, levels varied and with excellent set-pieces, your spaceship even transforms into a robot when you reach a certain power level, and who doesn't like transforming robots!  
  apidya Apidya apidya on amiga  
  2 players  
  Stand out versions - Amiga  
  For the most part Apidya is a Gradius clone, but the wildly different style and atmosphere give it a very distinctly unique feel of it's own. Made by Germans attempting to recreate the feel of Japanese shmups Apidya kind of comes across a hybrid of styles, the game play feels very Japanese whilst the music (which is easily some of the best to come out of any 16-bit machine I might add) is very European in it's sound.  
  last guardian ASO II: Last Guardian/Alpha Mission 2
alpha mission 2
  2 Players  
  Stand out versions - NEO GEO  
  Very nice Vertical scroller with awesome graphics for the time (as was pretty much standard for all Neo Geo games) The power-up system is a little unique in that it kinda' has you stockpiling add-ons for your ship until you decide to clamp them all on at once, when in this powered up mode you have a rapidly decreasing bar which, when depleted will revert you back to your previous form, the bar can however be recharged by collecting "E" items, this creates a bit of a mad dash for items.  
  axelay on snes Axelay
  1 Player  
  Stand out Versions - SNES  
  Originally hyped for it's weird looking mode 7 scrolling effect Axelay pushed itself into the 16-bit gamers consciousness. Graphical gimmicks aside Axelay is a truly fantastic game, with an elegant power-up system, equally well designed vertical and horizontal levels, and with a classic soundtrack permeating the experience.  
  trouble shooter 2 Battle Mania: Dai Gin Jou/Trouble Shooter 2
battle mania dai gin jou
  1 Player  
  Stand out Version - Mega Drive  
  The Japanese exclusive sequel to Trouble Shooter, Battle Mania 2 sported much better, and more refined game play and far superior graphics to it's earlier predecessor. Like the first game it has you controlling two women wearing jet packs simultaneously, one firing forwards and the other switchable between forward and rear firing, this is a little strange at first but works very well and gives a very unique feel to the game.  
  bio hazard battle Bio Hazard Battle
bio hazard battle
  2 Players  
  Stand out versions - Mega Drive  
  Another great two player shmup for the Mega Drive, Bio Hazard Battle is a cool shooter with a weird mutated biological style theme. The theme works well with the game and the power-up system is interesting and accessible but difficult to master, at the beginning of the game you get to choose from four creatures each of which have a different combination of weapons available to them, one thing which is constant between them however is a satellite which floats close by, this is the feature of the game play that requires the most time to master as the satellite takes practice to learn how to maneuver properly but when mastered can be used to not only shield bullets but to ram bosses killing them much faster.  
  bio metal Bio Metal
bio metal on snes
  1 Player  
  Stand out version - SNES  
  The most interesting thing about Bio Metal has to be it's weapon system, the game throws huge numbers of bullets at you but also gives you a shield from the outset to protect you, however the shield's energy decreases all the time while in use, if you turn it off then it starts to recharge. You can probably imagine that this lends a certain amount of strategy and "playing chicken" to the game play as you need to make sure you only use the shield when it's absolutely needed lest you be left with an impassable mass of bullets and depleted shield when you absolutely need it. One problem I do find with the game though is that it tends to be a little over reliant on it's weapon system to keep you interested, as many of the stages lack a proper level design.  
Atari ST
Atari VCS
Commodore 64
Game Boy
Master System
Mega Drive
Neo Geo
PC Engine
ZX Spectrum