American Title: Wings of Wor
Developed by: Masaya
Released: January 25th 1991
This is a game I think a lot of people like, but I really couldn't get into it. The stages simply drag on way way too long to the point where I don't even care anymore. Mid bosses are placed where you'd normally expect an end boss. While the stages themselves are bland as could be, at least the game partially makes up for it with its unique bosses. They're interesting and certainly bizarre looking, and they shoot a hell of a lot of bullets out, but with your own attack being 50 million bullets as well, seeing all of the boss bullets coming at you isn't as easy as it should be.
The final stage of the game though, is a boss gauntlet with not only all of the bosses, but all of the mid bosses as well. Seriously when the fuck did this become an acceptable practice in video games? The last three games in a row now have pulled this shit! At the end of this nonsense, is one of the worst final bosses ever. Not quite the reward I'd hoped for.
But hey at least stage 5 has a penis for a boss. That's got to be worth something right?
American Title: Air Buster
Developed by: Kaneko
Released: January 31st 1991
Talk about your pointless name changes. Aero Blasters changed to Air Buster? Why? They're nearly the same damn thing, except Aero is way cooler. Even more confusing is that the TurboGrafx version of this game kept the Aero name in America. Anyways about the game, well, it's a pretty solid shooter. Probably the most notable thing is that you can do two player simultaneous play. I didn't get to try it out, but it looked really fun in the demo screen!
One very annoying thing this game attempted was a unique take on space stages. Stage 4 declares that there is no longer any gravity, which means that once you press in a direction, you keep moving in that direction until you hit the edge of the screen. It's incredibly annoying and the exact opposite of tight control that you want in a shooter. You can sort of get around this by hugging the left side of the screen, and tapping it when you want to stop moving up or down, but that doesn't work all of the time. Luckily the wacky gravity stops in stage 6, but it shouldn't have started to begin with.
Another very odd thing about this game is that it has loading screens, with a bunch of characters that have nothing to do with the game at all, as there is no storyline at all. But regardless, it's still a pretty fun game overall, if a bit forgetable. If you have a friend around though, definitely try this one out.
American Title: Twin Cobra
Developed by: GRC / Toaplan
Released: February 22nd 1991
Difficulty: A tad high
I'll let you know what I think of this game once I get past stage 1
Developed by: Opera House
Released: April 5th 1991
Difficulty: Low/Very High
Verytex is a bit of an odd game. It doesn't do anything new, but it does the same old routine of other games fairly well. The graphics here are acceptable, the music is one of the stronger points, and the bosses are all pretty interesting.
Well now that I've mentioned all the good stuff in the game, let's talk about the bad because that's more fun! Like other games, Verytex suffers from stages that simply drag on way too long. Add to this a gun that actually covers the entire screen, homing missiles, and for minutes at a time no enemies have a chance to even fire at you. Despite all this, I didn't actually find this the most boring game so far, which is really saying something.
The game doesn't really seem to try and kill you at all until stage 5, when suddenly you're being attacked by huge battleships firing hundreds of aimed shots all at once. Even these though are quickly dispatched of with careful use of your own bombs to clear the screen, and the fact that the game is pretty liberal for handing out shield powerups, which is odd for a 1 hit go back to checkpoint style game.
Things took a sharp turn for the worse in the last stage though. After a mini-marathon of the mid bosses of the first few stages, and a stupid as hell boss that is composed of a bunch of blocks, I arrived at the final boss. And died. And found myself back at the very start of the stage. Gaiares, eat your heart out, turns out there is a game with even more unfair checkpoints! Even without this hugely unfair play the entire stage over again bullshit, the last boss is basically impossible on his own, with 3 forms, the last being an insanely cheap motherfucker with tons of huge lasers and homing shots out the wazoo coming to kill you. In addition, theres no invincibility period when losing your shield, so even a shield that is supposed to take 3 hits is no match for a direct laser hit. How odd for the easiest game yet fall right on it's face at the end with the hardest boss ever.
Developed by: NMK
Released: May 31st 1991
Well, despite that this game has pretty much the worst graphics and music quality of any game so far, I actually felt this was a pretty fun game. It is extremely basic though, you've got one gun, that can be upgraded twice into a spread shot, and a downward arcing missile, and a clear the screen out bomb attack. The enemies mostly consist of tanks, planes, and bigger planes. The bosses are simply even bigger planes. Seriously, how the heck would that last boss even be able to fly?
The action gets surprisingly hectic later on, with countless ships bearing down on you. The bosses, while not unique looking, offer up a lot of challenge as they fly in formations designed to either blast you, or simply ram you out of the sky. With 7 fairly short stages, Fire Mustang has just enough variety to keep it interesting despite it's overall simplicity.
Japan / Europe Only
Developed by: Toaplan
Released: May 31st 1991
Time for another shooter by Toaplan, the most hit or miss company ever! Luckily, this game is one of their better ones, along with Truxton and Fire Shark.
In a lot of the ways, Zero Wing almost feels like a companion to Gaiares, as they share a lot of features. Both have fairly long animated intro sequences, both of which have no impact later on the actual game. Also in both, you're piloting a special one of a kind ship against an entire army of enemies (actually, that's every shooter). But both ships have a fairly unique system to them, in Gaiares you could steal enemy weapons, in Zero Wing, you simply steal enemies. Zero Wing lets you fire a small tractor beam, which will capture any nearby small enemy, and have them stick to the front of your ship until you fire the tractor again which will send it flying as a projectile, doing a lot of damage to anything it hits. However you can also keep your captured enemy with you and use its body as a shield, which is my favorite tactic. The tractor beam while neat, kind of gets forgotten in the game as it's not terribly useful. There are two bosses that utilize it, I kind of wish there were more though.
The final thing Gaiares and Zero Wing have in common, is their extreme difficulty, artificially created by checkpoints being ages apart. Just like every other Toaplan game, Zero wing is a 1 hit and you go back to the checkpoint style game, and the checkpoints here seem farther apart than ever. This can make a lot of the later stages very frustrating. Another flaw is that while most of the games with speed powerups tend to make you way too fast once you get all of them, Zero Wing overdoes it even more making you nearly uncontrollable with how fast your little ship can become.
Overall though Zero Wing is a pretty decent game, and surprisingly creative coming from Toaplan.
American Title: Raiden Trad
Developed by: Micronet
Released: July 6th 1991
Difficulty: Very High
This game manages to feel exactly like a Toaplan overhead shooter, despite not actually being one. Repetitive and bland backgrounds, forgettable music, limited weapons, and of course, unforgiving deaths. Raiden seems to set the bar at a new level though by being seemingly unbeatable unless you're playing on easy mode, thanks to a combination of insane bosses who litter the field with bullets, and checkpoints several agonizing minutes apart. The first few levels were ok, but soon feels like a case of been there, seen that. For those who like the Raiden series, avoid this terible port.
Kuhga: Operation Code 'Vapor Trail'
American Title: Vapor Trail: Hyper Offence Formation
Developed by: Data East
Released: August 2nd 1991
Finally, a top down shooter done... decently. While it's certainly better than the last few, Vapor Trail is still strictly average. On the plus side, there are some pretty nice perks, like having three playable ships, and two player mode. You also take three hits before dying, and health power-ups are surprisingly common. On the downside though, the weapon selection is dismal, nearly every weapon seemed to have a huge downside that left me using a basic spread shot nearly the entire game.
The graphics are better than the Toaplan top downs at least, each stage manages to look unique while maintaining the games realistic style. It's a good thing the stages look different though, because every single stage has the same music. I consider this a huge huge flaw, reusing boss music is one thing (and go figure this game does that a lot too) but every stage music being the same is unacceptable. It makes the game feel a lot more repetitive that it actually is, and the music, while good, doesn't even fit the mood of the later stages at all.
In the end Vapor Trail just seems like a lot more of the same old. The first three stages are good, then it really starts to drag out until the end.
Master of Weapon
Developed by: Taito
Released: September 27th 1991
Well... this was an odd one. A fairly generic, yet decent shooter, with one GIGANTIC flaw that I'll get to later. Like Darwin 4081, you have two main weapons, a forward beam, and bombs that attack ground targets. There are also special attacks like full screen nukes, ground lasers, and homing shots, but all of those are limited use specials. The game is fairly short, with only "about" four stages. The game is really broken into 9 acts that flow seemlessly into another, but I'm counting major bosses, which there are four of. Overall the action can get pretty fast, particularly in act 4 which was a high point for the game, racing over elevated highways.
This game is easy, as long as you don't die. Now that may sound a bit weird, but it's entirely true with this game. Once you die, you are completely and utterly fucked. The game gives you about 1 second of invincibility upon reappearing, and with your default movement being reset to SLOW AS FUCKING HELL, it won't be long at all until you're dead again. and again. and again. Here's a special video just to show you how completely bullshit the bosses become once you die to them:
The amazing part about this game though, is that if you play on easy, you don't move nearly as slowly after a death. It's like the only way they could make this game hard was to pound your face into the ground after every small mistake. A game shouldn't make you play on easy just to be playable, and even then, this game still has issues with shoddy hit detection and undodgeable attacks.
Also Known as: Uchu Senkan Gomora
Developed by: UPL / Aisystem
Released: September 30th 1991
Wow, what a terrible game. Choppy framerate, extreme slowdown at parts, and the worst idea for a weapon system in a shooter ever. Paladin's main gimmick is that you have two main weapons. The first fires straight foward like the gun in any other shooter. The second one involves you moving a target around the screen and all your shots will head towards it. While this is a pretty unique idea for the genre, it just doesn't work at all in this game, as moving the target stops your ship completely, leaving you wide open to attack. The controls are sluggish, and so is your ship, which has frustratingly slow movement speed.
Other bad ideas in this game include the health powerups, which stop the game to play a short animation of your ship getting bigger. Yeah that's right, bigger, awesome powerup. As soon as you get hit again, the game stops to allow your ship to shrink. Another annoyance is that while you have a life bar, certain attacks and hitting enemies will kill you instantly.
While I have been trying to complete every game before passing judgement on them, this one pushed my patience by the second stage, and only by miracle of the boss dying just in time did I trudge onto the third, but I just couldn't bother going further. The only way this game might be any good would be to play either of the two player modes, either letting player two control the targetted gun, or having two ships entirely, so you can at least suffer together.
Platform: Sega CD
Developed by: Wolf Team
Released: December 12th 1991
The Sega CD, known in Japan and Europe as Mega CD, was first released towards the end of 1991. Sol-Feace is the first of several great shooters released for it. There seems to be a lot of confusion about the history of this game, so I'll do my best to hopefully clear it up. According to Gamefaqs, Sol-Feace was only released on Japan and Europe. This however, isn't entirely true, as the game did hit America, but in the form of one of the pack ins with the Sega CD, it never had it's own seperate retail release. However, a Genesis version of the game, Sol-Deace, was released in America later in the year. A lot of sites online seem to claim that Sol-Feace is a port of the Genesis Sol-Deace, but I don't exactly see how that is possible given that Sol-Feace came out the previous year. Anyways, the two versions of the game are actually nearly identical, except for the introduction and endings, which are fully animated and voiced on the Sega CD version.
The other major difference between versions is the music, which is a real treat to listen to after playing 30 Genesis games in a row. Sega CDs biggest improvement over the Genesis is that it was no longer entirely bound by the Genny's less than amazing sound chip, and could simply stream CD quality music off the disc itself. Sol-Feace does this wonderly with its upbeat and catchy techno soundtrack. Too bad the sound effects don't get the same attention the music did, they seem a bit crackly and quite bad at times.
Graphically, the game is quite good. One heavily used gimmick is rotation of sprites, from metal arms reaching out to try and grab your ship, to large bosses walking around. I had thought these effects were at first only possible because of the Sega CD, but they're all present on the Genesis version as well. The rotation isn't as smooth as some effects in later games would be, but for this time period, it's an impressive effort, and makes many of the bosses much more animated and lively compared to other shoot em ups.
The final uniqueness of Sol-Feace is that you can equip three guns at once, and moving your ship around will tilt the secondary guns so that you can fire them in several directions at once, or all straight forward. Overall Sol-Feace is a very solid shooter, and a breath of fresh air into what has been a fairly stale year for the genre.
Task Force Harrier EX
Developed by: UPL / Treco
Released: December 20th 1991
This is a bit of an odd game. The first few stages are downright horrible. They're bland, simple, and GREY. Seriously, the first 4 and a half stages of this game are almost the exact same color, grey, as you fly over exciting locals like mountains, and snowy fields.
But then something odd happens about halfway through the game, it becomes fun. It's almost like the design team got replaced by a better one. The backgrounds become more diverse, there is actually color in them, and most importantly, the action picks up a ton and the game becomes challenging.
This is a very long game, with 12 stages then a final boss. The stages are grouped into pairs, each of the six areas comes with an aerial stage, then after that is a ground stage. There really isn't any difference between them, except that the ground stages take away your two small option ships, and are often shoter than the aerial stage. The problem with the pairing idea is that since each stage is supposed to take place in the same general area, the backgrounds become very repetitive. The music is the same for each pair as well.
The two options you have (during the aerial stages) can be positioned around your ship, including placing them directly infront of you to make a nice shield, as they block enemy bullets and can't be destroyed. The weapon powerups are decent, with V shots and homing missiles being some of the stand outs.
It's hard to judge this game, the first few stages are terrible, but the rest of the game is surprisingly good. I guess I'll be nice this once.
Developed by: T&E
Released: December 20th 1991
This is the hardest game ever made. Avoid it.
Ok ok... I'll do a real review. This is, quite possibly, one of the hardest games ever made, if not the hardest. It combines every kind of difficulty, and rolls it into a little package of pain and tortue. Which is a shame really, because this game, despite being insanely difficult, is otherwise quite good, with a decent level variety, some clever stage design, good music, and huge bosses. But to me, the difficulty trumped all and made it nearly unplayable.
The primary gimmick in the game is that your little knight guy has a shield, which can block nearly all enemy attacks from the front. To counter this, enemies both spit tons of bullets that would otherwise be undodgable in other games, and appear from basically every direction possible, from the sides, behind you, and even underneath you from the ground. While your guy can take three hits, the delay between them is about a quarter of a second, screw up in heavy enemy fire and its all over quickly. You also can't shoot with your shield up, so being too defensive will lead to the screen soon being filled with enemies.
The next gimmick is the treasure chests. In the original MSX version of this game, there were three playable characters, each with their own weapons. In the Genesis version, there is only one character, with access to seven weapons, nearly all of which suck. But here's the fun part, every time you open a weapon treasure chest, it will display the default starting knife, which sucks ass. If you shoot it, it will move to the next weapon. The best weapon in the game in my opinion, is the twin sword one, which of course, is the last one in this rotation. So in order to even get it, you have to shoot each treasure chest seven times, once to open it, then six times to cycle to the weapon you want. One overshot and the order resets. All of this of course, is under enemy fire, as chests appear as part of the stages, so you've got to be fast before they scroll by.
The item boxes are the same thing, but instead of weapons that flat out suck, the item boxes have items deliberately made to screw you up. One of them takes away your current weapon, one damages you, and another slows your movement speed. What great items to have in the rotation, generally next to items that do the opposite. Another fun thing about this game, is that you only get three bombs. Not per life, not per stage, and not per continue. Three bombs, the entire game. And the best part? They aren't even the good everything-is-now-dead kind, they're a crappy orb that spins around you and sort of damages enemies and blocks bullets, but not really.
Next up are the bosses, who are usually about 60% of the screen big, and can kill you instantly by walking into you. You're almost guaranteed to die your first time seeing them, as they all will catch you off guard with either a quick attack you couldn't have seen coming, or by simply being so goddamn big you don't know how to fight them. For me the first boss took me so long to kill that I ended up turning on autofire through my controller in the second stage, and even the rest of the bosses STILL took ages to kill.
But I haven't even mentioned the REAL problem yet. This game... has no checkpoints. If you die on a stage, no matter where, you'll be sent right back to the beginning of it. Even though most of the stages have mid-bosses, even those don't grant you a checkpoint. This, combined with all of the above points, makes this game nearly unbeatable to anyone not willing to invest tons of time into it. How am I supposed to fight bosses like these if I've got to play through a 5 minute stage to get to them each time! Not to mention that the stages themselves aren't exactly a cakewalk themselves, you've only got 3 units of health and those have to be saved for the boss.
If you want a game that demands absolute perfection, this one's for you. It can be good, and plays quite well, but the overall difficulty, extreme frustration, and cruel and unusual lack of checkpoints kills it for me.
Developed by: CYX
The following is a dramatic reenactment of my thought process while playing this game.
Well, then, let's see what this game is all about. Well, at least the girl on the box is cute.
*text text text*.
God dammit why won't this bitch shut up. Ok finally there's a map screen, ok the game is starting..
Holy shit this is bad! Yet... I can't stop playing. Why is this background so freaking psychedelic? Ok good, boss is dead. Onto the next stage!
Son of a bitch, she's back and she's talking again!
Uhh... that's kind of risque for a video game...
WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON
WHAT THE FUCK IS THIS GAME!?.
Ohhh wait a minute, I guess I did hear something about a porn shooter on Genesis, I guess this is it. Aww what the hell, stage 2 is starting already? Well, better get to the end of this one too!
Lame, she's not as cute as the first girl
Genesis clearly has issues with it's limited color pallete.
Meh, not my type. Onto stage 3! This game is pretty good!
Now we're talking!
Oh god yes you are the hottest video game girl ever.
This is the best game ever! Stage 4!
This could be interesting...
Siiiiiigh, why is she talking so long to get naked
She's cute but looks kind of angry. Well then, onto the final stage!
Her chest is kind of misshapen, maybe she really is a guy. Oh my god look at that thigh too!
That glove is ugly.
Damn, already? Anyways, this game isn't the best, but even strictly gameplay-wise, there are several games far worse actually. At least this game knows to keep stages short and not drag on and on, so it's not boring. Enemies are highly pattern based, appearing in predictable formations. The bosses are kind of lame, touching them won't even damage you, making a lot of encounters easy. Stages are fairly short, the music in the first two is terrible, but the last three are much more listenable. Overall, I'd have to say Divine Sealing is an exciting game that will keep your attention from start to finish.