Hi, NPCs, and welcome back for Day Five of our ongoing Elemental Challenge!
Today we’re trading out fists for big honkin’ guns. Shoot ’em ups, sometimes endearingly referred to as shmups, are somewhat difficult to pin down, though. Some similarities this sub-genre of shooters shares are lone ships fighting against tons of enemies. “Bullet hell” is a sub-sub-genre that fills the screen with all sorts of projectiles to outmaneuver. There’s also some over lap with other kinds of shooters like run n’ guns and rail shooters, though we’re not being sticklers with these lists. Debuting in space, shmups have since graduated to other settings, as some of the games below illustrate, but they’re generally always as engaging as any arcade style game.
This way to the gun show…
The Green Screen Mage
Final Fantasy VII: Dirge of Cerberus. Okay, so this is arguably not the best game, but I love it. Maybe it’s Vincent’s whole vampire aesthetic, maybe it’s the backstory added to Final Fantasy VII, maybe it was the gameplay. No, it definitely wasn’t the gameplay. I remember enjoying it immensely, but I honestly don’t remember how great the gameplay was. I was good at it, so it was probably easy.
The Black Humor Mage
The classic Galaga is a proto shoot ‘em up, but I still love it. It’s not as intense as some of these shoot ‘em ups that have lasers and bullets covering every inch of the screen, but Galaga still takes some skill. Like I mentioned in the arcade category, I’ve always loved arcade games and I’ve basically trained with Galaga to try and beat my high scores. I hold the high score in a few arcade cabinets around town.
The Midnight Mystic Mage (Sublime Reviews)
Metal Slug. I’ll admit I was a little hazy on what the true definition of a Shmup was, but after a bit of cursory research when I saw that games like Metal Slug were also classified in this category I had to go with it. This is another roller rink arcade classic for me that had me spending endless nights and quarters on the game. (Honorable Mentions – Raiden, Space Invaders, Galaga)
The Spoony Bard Mage (Nerd Speaker)
SHMUP is not my genre of choice, but I have fond memories of Fantasy Zone for SEGA Master System. So cute, so colourful, so much fun. I haven’t played it since I was 5 or so, so I may not be remembering it right.
The Final Fourteenth Mage (Cilla vs. Games)
Invasion of the Mutant Space Bats of Doom – This DOS game sure holds a place in my heart as not only my favourite shoot ‘em up genre but also one of my favourite video game titles. As a child I spent many hours at the PC weaving my way in and out of the onslaught of mutant space bats that hurtled towards my space ship using whatever power ups I had available to survive
The Hopeful Handheld Mage (Retro Redress)
I’m awful at shoot ’em ups, but I’ve been obsessed with R-Type ever since I saw it’s (3 minutes long) loading screen on my Atari ST. I love the charge mechanic for shooting and the game design is fabulous.
The Rage Mage
Phalanx. Not the game. The NA cover art. They didn’t capture Sir Ian Mckellen’s good side. Nothing says shmup like “Dueling Banjos” from Deliverance.
The Well-Red Mage
So clearly Galaga has had a huge impact on a lot of us in this genre but I can’t believe nobody named any entry in the Raiden series as their favorite choice. Well, I’m not going to either, much as I love some Raiden II. I’d rather talk about one of my favorite recent personal discoveries which illuminates why I think delving backward into gaming history is so valuable. I’m talking about Black Widow. This dual stick arcade shooter puts you into the exoskeleton of a black widow defending her web against hordes of insects. There’s nothing quite like vector graphics anymore. If you haven’t heard of it, you need to check out the review to learn how you can get a hold of it for yourself. It’s addictive and enchanting. Other favorites of mine include the R-Type, Metal Slug, and Raiden series, of course Galaga, Space Invaders, Asteroids, and the first Star Fox, as well as some more runney and gunney type games like Sunset Riders or Zombies Ate My Neighbors (which I’m saving for another day’s challenge).
Think of this closing paragraph as the textual equivalent of me blowing a whiff of smoke from the barrel of a gun. We’ve done beat ’em ups and shoot ’em ups, come back again tomorrow for our write ’em up. Who knows what the next genre may be. Not you, dear reader, but you can let the world know what your favorite shmup is in the comments below! Thanks for reading!