I can recall a few years back reading in more than one place that the arcade shooter was dead as last week’s formerly fresh fish, but this was really never true. Between numerous indie developers and fans keeping the genre alive through making and publishing and distributing games via digital and retail formats, the good ol’ shmup lives on pretty much anything that can play them. Two of the more recent ones go for the gold and succeed when by being well-made games with excellent price points destined to hang out in your game library for a spell. Let’s take a peek at both, shall we?
First up is Fast Striker ($6.99), a 2010 NEO·GEO MVS/AES vertical shooter getting a new life on current gen systems thanks to German developer NGDEV and publisher Eastasiasoft. Six levels of frantic, gorgeous bullet hell bliss await with four difficulty settings to challenge. Yes, six levels may seem short to some of you out there, but this game makes you earn those high scores and like a solid shmup, you’re going to keep coming back to beat your previous runs or die trying.
There are some basic screen resizing and wallpaper options, but I personally prefer sticking to the more arcade accurate default window than going full screen. Er, not that it helps much given my awful reflexes when the going gets too tough (or okay, a little tough. Hey, I’m getting old!). For example (yipes):
Yes, I’m THAT bad at this game, but I managed to get through the Novice difficulty and messed with the others (Omake mode is SUPER nuts). I’ll be a saint here and link you to the official trailer just so you can see how a far better player does:
In addition to the digital release, Online retailer Play-Asia has a very limited edition physical version ($34.99) for both the PS4 and Vita set for a November release. Each is limited to 2200 copies worldwide and will include the region free game, a manual, collector’s box, soundtrack CD and a numbered certificate you can show off if you please. The price difference is yes, because of all that stuff inside the box, but if you’re into packaged games and have the shelf space, it’s a fair enough price point.
Overall, a pretty solid shmup that’s a trip down memory lane to my former glory days and perhaps yours as well (but I hope you can play better than I can).
Score: B (80%)
-Review code provided by the publisher
FullBlast ($5.99, Cross-Buy, PS4/Vita) sweeps in from developer UFO Crash and publisher Ratalaika Games (which handled the port as well). This one’s also a vertical scrolling slice of goodness, but a tad easier unless you crank the difficulty up. Although it has more modern visuals, it’s also a nostalgic trip back to the Raiden days, although not as memorable as that classic.
This one goes for more of a “story” that’s basic as all get out, but the overall goal of shmupping and not getting shmupped is exactly the same as in the previous game. Map and enemy designs are pretty straightforward, but this is a game that’s not trying to break any new ground so all is forgiven because it’s just fun to blow those aliens out of the sky or anywhere else they appear from.
Like many of (well, nearly all) Rataklaika games, this one’s a trophy dropper’s dream with rewards coming at you like so many tiny laser bullets. As noted in the video above, I’m don’t play games for trophies, but it does feel cool to hear that chime whenever a new one appears. The game isn’t as rough as Fast Striker tends to be, but as with other shmups, blink and you’re doomed when things get busy on screen. This one isn’t on a disc or game card yet, but with the trend for some indies to get singled out by one of a few companies that produce limited physical editions, it’s easy to see this getting some sort of collector’s edition treatment or at least, something that can sit on a shelf along with one’s other games.
Oh, here’s the trailer to wash my crummy gameplay from your eyeballs:
Overall, FullBlast is not bad at all, especially if you’re a fan of old school shmups with a sort of rustic cartoon look, pretty fun music and gameplay that’s going to scratch that alien blasting itch you have just fine.
Score: B- (75%)
-Review code provided by the publisher