Galaga is a shooting game distilled to its purest form; an arcade classic that still deserves the attention of all retro arcade shmup players. Yup, Cave strikes again with another classic shooter. Though all of the selectable aircraft from across the series sport some satisfying guns, your most potent weapon is always the standard-issue “reflect force”, which as its name suggests creates a temporary barrier around your ship to send unfriendly shots right back where they came from. The staging is exactly the same as three or more decades ago (move back and forth, aliens descend, shoot them, don’t get shot yourself), but with every single dial, knob and switch set to “illogical conclusion”: hoard enough powerups and your guns will rip through the enemy ranks (and those puny floating shields) like a hot knife through butter, but the merciless scads of bullets the descending hordes volley back will demand very precise dodging to weather on your end. So listen well, grasshopper: once you have amassed some measure of confidence, seek the ring. Once you’re ready to expand outward a bit from Twin Cobra there are plenty of options to keep you entertained: right in Toaplan’s own backyard there’s the aforementioned Fire Shark, itself an improved sequel to an older shooter, Flying Shark, which keeps Cobra’s military setting but replaces the helicopter with the ever-reliable (if equally vulnerable) propeller plane. Normal is a faithful recreation of the Japanese arcade classic. On “Shooting Love 200X” you’ve got Trizeal (specifically, a slightly “remixed” version from the original arcade/Dreamcast/PS2 edition), probably their best-known and most traditional release. You might have also heard, or experienced firsthand in some form or another, that this particular fandom’s fringe has gone rather off the rails; while it is true that the games’ casts are composed entirely of young girls with magic powers, and that some unaffiliated content creators have done various regrettable things to them over the years, rest easy. While Hydorah is a fair challenge (and you can’t argue with the price), be advised that it’s not aimed quite so squarely at new players: this one’s more for those who not only remember but relish the struggle for dominance embodied by the venerable shmups of days gone by. Blast an enemy with one of those and you’ll score special “star” coins, which are the key to keeping the score tally climbing. Sign up for What's New Now to get our top stories delivered to your inbox every morning. Another thing to like about the Sonic Wings series is that it’s a particularly fun romp for two players: not only does a wingman’s extra set of guns come in handy when things start to heat up, but between levels the two characters you’ve chosen will engage in a bit of unique (not to mention often-bizarre and/or Engrishy) dialogue, adding a dash of extra motivation to sample a variety of teams and get as far as you can with each, just to see what manner of entertaining inanity they might spout next. The only downside is that some areas exchange the game's flying freedom for maze-like obstacle courses that slow the pace. The game also has eight gameplay modes, multiple endings, and local co-op play. And here we are: the obligatory cross-section of the shooter sphere which newcomers  MIGHT want to put at the top of their “to-do” lists. This really makes me want to get back into that scene again after being out for so long. It has the coolest soundtrack of the four. Two important things you’ll want to look into before importing any unlocalized 360 release from Cave: first, of course, check which modes your game of choice includes, and second, see if the title you’re interested in is region-free, as some of Cave’s shmups will play on any Xbox 360, but others will only work on a Japanese system. You know what? Your cannon’s firing speed, however, has been upgraded, leaving you less vulnerable after a missed shot, and can be powered up further as you go. Now here’s a sector of shmupping that’s been sorely, and unfortunately, neglected in recent years. If you’ve heard of publisher/developer 5pb, you’re probably either a devotee of the visual novel genre (more specifically Steins;Gate, their best-known hit) or happened to catch the company’s anime-ized guest appearance in the Hyperdimension Neptunia fan-service RPG series. Once the brand hit the SNES with “Pop’n Twinbee” in 1993, not only were the onscreen shenanigans suitably jazzed up (colliding with your fellow player now sends him careening unstoppably around the playfield, knocking out enemies in his path), but a nifty why-didn’t-anyone-else-think-of-that “couple mode” option has been added, which causes enemies to focus most of their attacks on Player 1; if you know a friend who’s curious but apprehensive about stepping into the shmup arena, sign ’em up as Player 2 and do the heavy lifting until they’re more at ease. Retro-Bit rereleasing four Toaplan shmups If this is your first visit, be sure to check out the FAQ by clicking the link above. So, yeah, while Sonic Wings takes place in some iteration of “our world” and wears something of a pedestrian veneer, it won’t be long before you’re wondering just who allowed a pop idol, diaper-clad baby, or horn-helm’d Viking (among many, many others) near the controls of advanced fighter jets, or, for that matter, what manner of world domination plan involves spot-welding a butt-load of guns onto an old Mayan ziggurat. Here’s our first opportunity to recommend a series rather than an individual game, and with ample reason: while later Sonic Wings (aka Aero Fighters) entries stretched their proverbial legs a bit more than their ancestors, for the most part all of the games play alike, and more importantly are well-tailored for somewhat more “casual” shmup fans. Nowhere is their affection for old-fashioned shmupping more evident than their aptly-named “Shooting Love” and “Game Center Love” compilations for the 360, which feature various home-grown tributes to the PCB-based watering holes of days gone by, the highlight of which is a quick-fire series of challenges known as the “Shooter Skill Test”. (Xona Games – 2010 – XBLA – US) Ikaruga blends shoot 'em up and puzzle play by utilizing a unique color-switching mechanic that lets you absorb black bullets when your ship is black and white bullets when your ship is white. And that’s it. You want more of that, right? Suggested Followup: Basically an infinite boss rush, your fighter craft, carrying only a basic spread shot that can be fired in any direction, goes up against a multi-sectioned boss in a closed arena, and every time the big guy bites the dust he quickly reappears packing more firepower than before, specifically equipped to make it tougher to attack him the same way twice; you don’t have a life stock to worry about, but are limited by a timer, which will increase as you win battles but ticks down faster if you get plugged. – JP/US/PAL) He also collects vinyl and greatly enjoys a craft brew. Believe it or not, many Western Gamestop-goers have likely found themselves within inches of a Kenta Cho product without knowing it: “Blast Works: Build, Trade, Destroy”, a side-scrolling shooter released for the Wii in 2008, is actually a reworked version of ABA’s Tumiki Fighters, and includes several of his weird and wonderful freeware originals as unlockables on the disc. Shmups 101 | Beginner Shmups | Defining Shmups | Hidden Gem Shmups, Shmup Libraries: TG16/PC Engine | Genesis/Megadrive | PS1 | Saturn | Dreamcast | PS2 | Gamecube | GBA. Make the most of your games and hardware with some creative ideas. Shoot 'em ups, a video game genre that's unfortunately also known by the linguistically repugnant term "shmups," is a category that's graced the industry for decades. Almost. Oh, and before I forget…an upgraded/remixed version was released for the Nesica digital arcade format in Japan, and this “World Ignition” edition recently arrived in the West via both Steam and GOG, so, well, what in heaven’s name are you waiting for? Moreover, Gaiden adopts another feature rarely seen elsewhere in the series: simultaneous 2-player co-op, which makes it easier than ever to get a willing pal in on the action (and also happens to negate the semi-annoyance of being sent back to a checkpoint after losing a ship). The “Neo” version of the game improves the graphics, adds extra characters (only one of which is paid DLC), and tweaks the aspect ratio to fill up widescreen displays, not to mention tacks on a few extra modes and local co-op (oh, and some hilariously awful English voice acting too, though you can switch to the original Japanese if/when it becomes too much). If you’re at least a little bit up on the indie gaming scene, you might have heard of a Spanish developer who calls himself Locomalito: for some time now he’s been crafting winning digital tributes to his favorite video games of old, and uploading them free of charge for his fellow retro fans to enjoy. are all here to stay. Especially as a newcomer to the genre. Mushihimesama has three game modes: Novice, Normal, and Arrange. Fear not, though: as the years have progressed, fictional extraterrestrial-repulsion technology has made impressive leaps forward, and the upshot is a succession of increasingly fun and forgiving Space Invaders titles, culminating with the two-game (so far) “Extreme” series. Whether it was the little ice cream shop that we would walk to when visiting my grandparents in Southside Virginia, or it was eating my great-uncle’s old-fashioned homemade peach ice cream on the back porch, ice cream is one of the best memories of my childhood. (Warashi – 2003 – PS2 – JP/PAL) Novice is for newcomers who may not be ready to dive into the full-on madness; it's a more-balanced take on the bullet-hell experience. There’s also eight varied and customisable weapons which can all be powered-up, twelve long, well-designed stages, but best of all it has the most perfectly-pitched difficulty curve of any shmup I’ve played. – JP/PAL) A majority of Cave’s app-store offerings are also built around conversions (albeit solid ones, for the most part) of their arcade hits, but a couple of brand-new, mobile-exclusive releases also managed to break into the burgeoning touchscreen realm; DoDonPachi Maximum is perhaps the best-suited name for curious finger-tapping types to enter into the search bar. – made it to the end of the list without “cheating” too badly when it comes to each section’s declared theme, but while this last game unfortunately doesn’t feature a two-player mode, it’s still an iconic PC shoot-em-up that newcomers ought to try, and I just couldn’t find anyplace else to sneak it in. 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