Scrolling Shooters: SHMUP-All

I looked around, and couldn't see much love for the oft-neglected genre of SHMUPS/STGs/Shoot-'em-ups/Bullet-Hell/Shooty-shooty-big-explosions-games etc. I've got a huge soft-spot for them, and was hoping other GWJers would like to have a bit of a chat about the style.

Never played a SHMUP? Well let me start you down the rabbit-hole. I'll stick to titles available on Steam, just to keep things easy.

Jamestown

IMAGE(http://i.imgur.com/p8LokSe.jpg)

Likely the most accessible and "western" game on this list. Fantastic pixel-art graphics, and nice difficulty scaling. It's an interesting imitation of the classic style, and the perfect introduction to bullet-hell (it's not quite there, but it has similar stylings).

Crimzon CloveR: World Ignition
IMAGE(http://i.imgur.com/49cPiCo.jpg)

Take everything you know about good gamefeel, and crank it up to 11. This game is absurd. Far too many pickups and bullets for any reasonable game, but gosh, it works! You have an interesting mix of lock-on missiles and a hyper mode which will cancel enemy fire (you can even rake up double hypers and go for crazy high scores). This includes a novice and arcade mode, so it's a perfect entry-point. Though fair warning, even the novice mode will take you a lot of time to 1 credit clear (it took me 10 hours!). Regularly on sale for $2. If there's one game on this list you try, it should be Crimzon Clover.

Ikaruga
IMAGE(http://i.imgur.com/Wn7pq9X.jpg)

Ikaruga! You haven't heard of Ikaruga? Only one of the most notable SHMUPS in the history of shooting bad guys? As much a puzzle game as it is a shooter, you switch between 'polarities' to absorb enemy fire. Careful positioning, tight timing, and quick thinking are required for this one. Absolutely beautiful game. It may not be beginner friendly, but you're not going to be disappointed if it is your first.

Cave Games
IMAGE(http://i.imgur.com/FBh6L69.jpg)

Steam's Holy Trinity. SHMUP darling, Cave are the go-to guys for quality. You know big names like Valve, 90's Rare, Blizzard etc? Well Cave hold the same level of prestige among fans of the genre. Notably, the Steam re-releases of these games include about 5 different modes each. Some are rarer cabinets not often seen in the wild. If I recall correctly, the Mega Black Label mode in Deathsmiles derives from a arcade cabinet only available at certain corporate events. Nifty!

Going clockwise:

Mushihimesama
A little different from the rest, you are the bug princess (literal translation). The theme alone makes this game an enticing premise; getting away from spaceships and whatnot, it's pure joy seeing the enemy and background design in this game. It's likely the most straight-forward Cave game, but each of them have in-depth scoring mechanisms. You just don't have to worry as much with this one.

Bonus video: Things get a bit crazy (I believe this is from the Futari release)

Dodonpachi: Resurrection
Back to spaceships (and giant mecha anime girls). My personal favourite, for the shooting mechanics, I swear. 3 different ships to choose from, each with their own unique playstyle. Again, we see a bullet-cancelling hyper akin to Crimzon Clover, but this time the game will start to punish you based on the amount of bullets consumed. Rack up an absurdly high multiplier and be prepared to fight for it. The risk/reward is incredibly enticing.

Deathsmiles
Halloween-themed horizontal shooter with branching paths between levels. You are able to shoot infront and behind, making for some very interesting enemy patterns. Unlike the other games I've listed where the bottom of the screen is typically safe, you're constantly on your toes here. Very cool.

Blue Revolver
IMAGE(http://i.imgur.com/pKMwjrS.jpg)

A recent release, Blue Revolver condenses what a good SHMUP should be into a delightful little package. If I had to describe it in one word, I'd probably say it's "tight". Straight to the point, but it has a very elegant scoring mechanism. You build up a multiplier with regular fire, then "cash it in" using your alternate. It's very fast, very streamlined, and very, very good.

I hope that wasn't too wordy. But there you go! This is a passion of mine I'd love to share with you all. Do you play SHMUPS regularly? Did you used to down at the local arcade? Do you have any recommendations other than those I've listed? Chat away!

I believe Raptor: call of shadows got me into them, so far Ikaruga is probably my all time favorite for the genre, I could even pull a respectable performance in it once upon a time.

Anyone who has played it can appreciate the absurdity of what this person is doing;

From the more modern era I hear good things about Mushihimesama but I couldn't even get it to load so I refunded it, not sure if it was ever fixed.

Raptor was probably the first SHMUP I ever played, I really need to re-purchase it on GoG for some good ol' nostalgia. I'd be interested to know if it still holds up.

And that video is honestly one of the most absurd things I've seen. I struggle enough with the first 2 levels with my full attention on one ship!

I've always been fascinated by shmups ever since I first saw Galaga in the arcade at Brussels International Airport when we had to spend the night there in the 80's. I've never been terribly good at them, but that hasn't stopped me from trying.

I would watch the attract screens of 1942 and 1943, UN Squadron and others with rapt attention and the hope that one day I could be that hero pilot. In fact, I rarely ever got to play any arcade game, and never got the home versions.

I did, however, play through several 8 and 16 bit titles (Tiger Heli, Dragon Spirit, Darius Twin, Blazing Lazers, Lightening Force and others), but then mostly forgot about shmups until I picked up a Dreamcast around 2001 and discovered importing. I had the pleasure of experiencing not only US releases such as Gunbird 2 and Bangai-O (which I never got the hang of), but also Border Down, Chaos Field, Ikaruga (awesome!), Zero Gunner 2 (great fun), Psyvariar 2, Under Defeat, and my most recent purchases, TriZeal and Neo XYX (I still haven't played either).
...I also paid for Sturmwind, but never received it

Retroactively, I grabbed several 32-bit titles, including the ever famous Radiant Silvergun, but never got into any of them very much.

Jamestown and Sine Mora on PC were recent releases which got some playtime by me. I particularly liked the latter and keep meaning to finish it.

Oh, and Gradius V is incredibly well done!

I feel in love back when the Raiden arcade machine was in every store, airport, arcade, etc.

Played many versions but it remains one of my first game loves as a kid. I would waste quarters in them non stop.

Wait, wait, wait... You had a Dreamcast and imported games, included shmups, and did not play Twinkle Star Sprites?
Shame. Shame. Shame.

I would love to own a Dreamcast for all those SHMUPS...Ahhh, maybe one day!

In the meantime, I'm hoping the Switch becomes a little SHMUP machine. I noticed Aero Fighters 2 and Strikers 1945 have been ported, with Danmaku Unlimited 3 on the way. The absolute best part? They each have the option to turn the Switch vertical and play in TATE mode.

HOW COOL IS THAT? I really want to see more SHMUPS on the Switch. It's honestly the perfect system for it with the rotatable screen and all! Now if only there was a vertical stand on the market...

A_Unicycle wrote:

I would love to own a Dreamcast for all those SHMUPS...Ahhh, maybe one day!

In the meantime, I'm hoping the Switch becomes a little SHMUP machine. I noticed Aero Fighters 2 and Strikers 1945 have been ported, with Danmaku Unlimited 3 on the way. The absolute best part? They each have the option to turn the Switch vertical and play in TATE mode.

HOW COOL IS THAT? I really want to see more SHMUPS on the Switch. It's honestly the perfect system for it with the rotatable screen and all! Now if only there was a vertical stand on the market... :)

Ooh. Color me interested.

Speaking of the Switch, I'm digging Graceful Explosion Machine....it feels like a modern-day Defender.

Makes me sad Final Form Games never made anything since Jamestown (and their website hasn't been updated since 2012). The premise and style and writing of that game (yes, top-down SHMUPS can have writing, or at least this one did) are so great.

IMAGE(https://68.media.tumblr.com/be06fe1967abf95f1949c4dc3047b56e/tumblr_outqusaaoa1qbkkdso1_540.jpg)

Put my little emulation setup to good use tonight. I tried out Super Aleste/Space Megaforce. It's a gem! The first thing I noticed was how fast it was. A lot of SNES SHMUPS seem a little too slow, but this is anything but! There's also a really cool upgrade system which constantly changes your weapons. Each bullet you take removes a chunk of your upgrade level, when it hits zero, you're gone. So upgrades act like a shield! While it seems pretty forgiving, I still died a lot!

I plan on putting some time into Axelay soon, but I'm enjoying this too much to move on just yet.

Makes me sad Final Form Games never made anything since Jamestown (and their website hasn't been updated since 2012). The premise and style and writing of that game (yes, top-down SHMUPS can have writing, or at least this one did) are so great.

A shame indeed. I immediately followed them on Facebook after completing Jamestown, and there's been no word of them since. I don't believe the game bombed, so I'm a bit surprised they haven't done anything else.

They did put out an enhanced version on PSN called Jamestown+ which sadly hasn't been backported to the PC version At least the guy who did the music went on to create a number of tracks for Gunpoint and I think has contributed to other games since then.

Today I sat down in an attempt to learn Ikaruga. I've always liked it, but usually preferred the SHMUPS with lots of upgrades and powerful shots. Going from the feeling of overpowered gunship in DoDonPachi, to Ikaruga's single firing mode makes the latter feel a little dull.

But gee, wow. After 2 hours of actual learning and practice, Ikaruga is elegance in form and function. The chaining system is easy to learn, but brutally hard to master, and trying to maximise bullets absorbed for critical moments where you need your missile attack is amazing. At the moment, I'm just playing for survival, so there are distinct moments where firing makes the game more difficult. A few of the guides I've read even suggested learning entire sections with your finger off the trigger! That's a far cry from the other SHMUPS I've played where you never let up. The more I play, the more I see why this is considered one of the best games in the genre.

Minor complaint about the Steam version, though. You can only practice entire stages, you can't break them up into sections. Due to this, I had to download Dolphin and play the Gamecube version; it has a practice mode which lets you tackle each sub-section or boss separately, it even has a slow motion mode to really learn the patterns.

For reference, here's what I've been following. It's nice to get a tutorial that really dissects each stage and tactic.

Huh, I searched and found nothing. I wonder why.

Oh well, sorry for doubling up!

No prob at all, just surfacing some relevant posts

This might be of interest:

h/t: RPS

I actually love everything about that trailer. The slow, pulsating bosses look incredible.

looks fun!

meanwhile got curious about ikaruga scoring, chains are built in groups of 3s, just to add another layer of absurdity to things.
if you're curious what S++ on hard looks like.. well;

That's well past the line between inspiring and holy crap I'll never ever be able to do that.

Sounds like Mushihimesama has fixed the issue I mentioned earlier in the thread so it's on my list for next sale, the aesthetic looks like a great change of pace for the genre.

I wish I had enough time in the day to get even a fraction close to that level of play. Holy crap.

So many suicide bullets ;_;

Yeesh. Furthest I've gotten on normal in Ikaruga was to the end boss of chapter 3. That was with my emphasis purely on survival.

Shoot 1UP

IMAGE(http://www.split-screen.net/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/shoot1up-2.jpg)

I really dig this schmup because of its clever (and forgiving) mechanic whereby every 1UP you collect manifests as another ship on the screen. You can expand and contract your armada of ships and change to dodge enemies, sacrificing a few ships here or there, as well as changing the firing pattern.

I wrote in my 2011 review of Shoot1UP that it used the swarm mechanic better than Swarm, a game about controlling a swarm. Or you can listen to a 2010 Drunken Gamer's Radio where they interview the developer Nathan Fouts of Mommy's Best Games.

It's now on Steam if you're keen for only £2.79

Looks intriguing...And delightfully bizarre. For a few bucks, I'll definitely be giving it a play!

Super Hydorah launched earlier this week. It's an expanded version of the freeware title Hydorah.

Reminds me a whole lot of R-Type, looks like lots of fun! Will be keeping me eye on that.

Raiden V: Director's Cut just dropped on Steam

IMAGE(http://cdn.edgecast.steamstatic.com/steam/apps/570050/ss_df21a1382e9f7beffa7ee701b94252c4eead105d.600x338.jpg?t=1508027299)

It looks great! I've barely played any Raiden games, but I've got my eye on this. Price is a bit too high for me to jump in on a whim, so I plan to snap it up during a sale.

For those who know more about the series, would you recommend any of the other games over the others for a beginner? I think I've got a copy of Raiden IV somewhere; good starting point?

A_Unicycle wrote:

For those who know more about the series, would you recommend any of the other games over the others for a beginner? I think I've got a copy of Raiden IV somewhere; good starting point?

Yeah, Raiden IV is bloody great. Get on it.

Just a quick heads up, there are a few solid SHMUPS discounted with the Steam Halloween sale.

Ikaruga is $5, the Raiden games have various price drops, and Deathsmiles is $10.

Huge Degica sale going on right now. Go pick up Crimzon Clover or some CAVE Shmups!