Developed by: Gamtec
This is one of those unlicensed games, which is usually a huge warning sign that the game you're about to play isn't that good. Magic Girl is decent for an unlicensed game, but it's still sketchy in a lot of areas. The biggest flaw is that the game run at a low framerate, making it extremely choppy, possibly the worst game in that area yet. This makes seeing and dodging enemy shots a pain, even worse is that your girl moves surprisingly fast and will dart across the screen too fast, hitting something else entirely than what you were trying to dodge.
The graphics are done in a very cute cartoonish style, which is something not really seen so far, or that often in shooters in general. The game has some similarties to the Twinbee series in this regard, both also rely heavily on enemy patterns and predictable formations, but have totally different weapon systems. I heard a rumor that Magic Girl was a hacked version of Twinbee Arcade, but after playing both see no evidence of that.
Magic Girl has a decent number of powerups, shields, 3 small orbs to supplement your firepower, and three beam upgrades, a wave beam, a 5 directional shot, and homing shots. The shields seem unbalanced at times though, while you have a health bar, a single shield can take so many hits that I started to think I'd turned invincible.
Overall though, besides the cute style, I can't see much of a reason to play this one. The stages drag on too long, and the music is repetitive and nauseating at times. The final nail though is the choppy framerate, which doesn't make the game unplayable, but certainly doesn't help to make it stand out from the crowd.
Xenon 2: Megablast
Developed by: Bitmap Brothers
Hey look Polly, I beat the game!
Uhh, wasn't that just the end of stage one? Look, stage two is starting right..
I BEAT THE GAME!
It says stage two right there!
Look that stage right there looks almost exactly like stage 1, and it has the same shitty music! Clearly the game is on its second loop now, like all those Toaplan games.
Man, that game was pretty short!
American Title: Trouble Shooter
Developed by: Vic Tokai
Released: March 6th 1992
This game was a nice refreshing break from the norm. You play as two bounty hunters, Mania and Maria (Madison and Crystal in the American version), sent to rescue the son of some foreign president. I guess the bad dudes were busy. For a shooter there is a heavy focus on the storyline, with cutscenes between every stage, and even a fake ending that the main villian suddenly bursts into, cueing one last stage.
The main gameplay gimmick here is that you control both girls at the same time, with Mania (the blonde) always facing forward, and being the one who can take damage. Maria stays at your back, and you can control which way she faces, forward or back. Another main gameplay element is that even though there is only one main weapon, you can pick which bomb attack to bring between stages. There are four of these, lightning blasts, a missile barrage, a huge electrial circle, and a vertical laser. Although I found the lightning to be the only one you really need, having variety never hurt. These bombs need to recharge after each use, so you'll never run out, but you can't abuse them constantly either.
The only real problem with the game I found is that the difficulty can be a bit inconsistent at times. The second stage seems to be the hardest one, though it does have lot of health powerups in it, so maybe they expected you to take a lot of damage in it. The third stage is easy, except for one part where you have to hide in the bottom right corner of the screen, or you'll get crushed by the background, instantly killing you. This is a bit of a harsh punishment for a game where you only have three lives the entire game, so I'm glad it's the only part in the game something like that can happen. The game's final stage is a series of boss fights, but all of them are extremely simple which is disappointing.
Oh yes, one other thing, this game, like many others in the 8 and 16 bit eras, was a victim of absolutely terrible american box art.
Now while the Japanese box isn't the best, showing the two main characters and not much else, it's still leagues better than the americanized monstrosity:
Seriously, what the fuck? I don't get why so many games like this that have a strong anime art style, would almost always have redrawn box art. Shouldn't the characters just look like they do in the game itself? I wouldn't be surprised if this box caused low sales of the game, which would explain why the sequel never got released outside of Japan. For shame.
Overall though this is a fun game with a lot of charm and style. It might not have a ton of replay value, but it's worth going through once just for the hilariously cheesy storyline.
American Title: The Steel Empire
Developed by: Hot-B
Released: March 13th 1992
Steel Empire is another war-themed shooter, but this one mixes it up by having a sort of alternate history steampunk theme, giving it a more unique artstyle than similar games. You can play as either a plane or zeppelin, but the two seem to have pretty much the exact same abilities. You can shoot infront and behind you, which is good as enemies and bosses will be coming at you from all sides of the screen.
One of the most notable thing about this game is the bosses, and midbosses, almost all of which are long fights. The bosses do a good job showing damage, with multiple parts and turrets breaking off, and smoke coming out from the broken wreckage. Each time you break something major off, the boss will just pull out a new weapon and the fight continues, to the point where you start to wonder when the heck they are going to die. The bosses are a weakness to the game as well though, each boss is good the first time, but towards the end of the game they start getting reused, a tactic I always despise. It's not as bad as a straight up boss marathon, but when three of the first four major bosses appear again in stages 5 and 6, it feels a bit lazy.
The other major issue with this game is the slowdown, which is probably the worst of any game so far. There isn't much early on, but the farther you get into the game the worse it gets, to nearly any enemy barrage slowing the game down. A very unwelcome addition to an already slower paced game.
This was so close to being a really good game, but a few pretty big flaws dragged it down for me.
Advanced Busterhawk Gley Lancer
Developed by: NCS
Released: July 17th 1992
Finally, a Japanese only game that is actually really good! Gley Lancer is a long and epic game, with 11 stages, storyline cutscenes before, after, and during the game, and more customization than any game so far. So lets get started and break it all down!
The first notable thing about this game is that you have a LOT of control over your two satellite ships. There are seven different settings, though a few are just inverse versions of each other. You can have them follow you around gradius style, tilt as you move similar to Sol-Feace, point the same or opposite way that you move, spin in a circle, or finally, the one I picked for this playthrough, having them automatically lock-on and shoot at enemies. This style seems a bit overpowered compared to the others, but I always like to pick the best option available.
Next up are weapons, which there again of ton of. I'm not even sure I can remember them all! Lesee, there's your standard shot, a laser, ricochet shots, a 5 way shot, a flamethrower, a lightsaber, and bombs that explode on impact. I think that's all of them. Basically the point is that there is an absolute ton of customization here You can even turn on permanent firing mode, so that you dont have to hold down B the entire game.
The problem I had is that having options that fight for me, and a gun that fires without me even pressing anything, kind of led to a feeling of letting the game play itself. The first few stages were extremely easy, after that it did thankfully pick up, but next time I play this I wont be using the auto aiming gun, it just makes things a bit too easy.
I can't figure out why this game never got released outside of Japan, when it's definitely one of the top shooters for the system so far. Even more annoying, is that it has been released for the Wii Virtual Console in japan, but still no worldwide release!
Thankfully, some people have taken the issue into their own hands! A fan translation group, M.I.J.E.T. has released an english translation patch for the game, so now you can see the story in english! Unfortunately I wasn't aware of this before I played the game, so I'll have to go through again to see it in English, but given how much I liked this game, that won't be a problem.
Thunder Force IV
American Title: Lightening Force - Quest for the Darkstar
Developed by: Techno Soft
Released: July 24th 1992
The third and final Thunder Force game for the Genesis. Yes, amazing as it is, after releasing the first two Thunder Force games in the US, they changed the name of the fourth one AND spelled the word lightning wrong. This one takes the graphics to a whole new level, with massive towering stages. While a lot of shooters will move the background a bit as you move side to side, to give more space, this game has stages around three screens tall. The graphics though, are a double edged sword, as while they are impressive, the game also bogs down with slowdown a bit more than I'd like, which is one of it's major flaws.
Weapon wise, it's pretty much the exact same as Thunder Force III, you always have a a foward and rear shot, and can pick up additional weapons, explosives, aimed shots, and homing shots. One new thing though is that in the second half of the game, you also gain a charge shot that fires out a huge laser and two bolts of lightening. This attack does a ton of damage, but also leaves you wide open as a good number of enemy bullets can be destroyed by shooting them, charging up for a big attack isn't always safe.
This is another long shooter, with 10 stages, though you can pick to play the first four in any order. It always seems to be the hardest games that allow this, as average players might not even see past these four, as this game can be quite punishing at times. Stuff comes at you fast as hell, from behind, and often without warning. The bosses also seem a bit out of wack, while TF3 had mostly "dies way too fast" bosses, the bosses in this game seem to vary wildly between average length fights, and "god dammit why won't this fucker DIE" length. The first boss seemed to take me absolutely forever, because he, like most other bosses, doesn't give any major indication you're hitting them in the right spot, so I spent forever just shooting into his body before realizing you're supposed to shoot the orb at the base of his tail.
I guess I would sum it up this way: Thunder Force III was a good game that showed potential for possibly being a bit more. Thunder Force IV is a great game, but is bogged down by trying to do too much. Now don't get me wrong, this is still a good game. The graphics are amazing, and show what the Genesis could really do. Or at least tried to do, as the slowdown and flicker can be annoying, and things become a clusterfuck pretty easily. Many consider this the best genesis shooter hands down, but it didn't quite hit the spot for me.
Crying: Aseimei Sensou
American Title: Bio-Hazard Battle
Developed by: Sega
Released: October 30th 1992
Crying, better known as Bio-Hazard Battle, does what a few games have tried, but all failed at, which is creating an actually creepy and atmospheric game. Bio-Hazard features a host of disgusting looking enemies, dark and unsettling locations, a very bizarre and unique soundtrack, and of course, mounds of dirt that shoot out maggots. If you said "awesome!" to that last part, this is the game for you.
You've got a choice between four different insect-looking characters to play as, but for the most part they seem to play pretty similar. Some special weapons will be different, but others the same, and all seem to share the same standard shot and charge attack.
The game is quite hard, attacks come at you fast as hell at parts, and it's almost impossible to keep up with all the enemies. Even worse is that enemies won't even stop appearing for certain boss fights, further dividing your attention. There is a two player mode though, in case you don't want to face the madness alone.
Honestly, for some reason I can't seem to find a whole lot to say about this game, even though I liked it. It's definitely worth checking out, on a dark and lonely night.
American Title: Robo Aleste
Platform: Sega CD
Developed by: Compile
Released: November 27th 1992
Since Musha Aleste was renamed to just Musha outside Japan, many people may not know that Dennin, or "Robo" Aleste was the next game in the series, though it has a totally seperate storyline. This time it takes place 500 years in the past, when Japan is divided into various territories. You play as Samuari who battles defends the honor of his lord, with a giant steam powered robot or something, yeah.
This game is pretty much more of the same as Musha, which is certainly is a good thing. The weapon system has been a bit simplified though. You've still got the tiny capsules that upgrade your primary shots, and four powerups, each of them with up to four levels of power. Gone however, is the extensive control of your options, though you can still sort of throw them out diagonally at enemies, this move seems overall useless unless you have none of the other powerups.
Since this is a Sega CD game, it has the usual perks that come with the system. A long introduction cinema, several cutscenes between stages, and of course the ending, all of it voice acted. The english voice acting isn't the best, but it's passable. Like Gley Lancer and Trouble Shooter, I personally always appreciate games that actually try to tell a story. The story of this game could've used a bit of work though, it seems to be filled with nearly every cliche. Every boss who blocks your path is quick to swear their loyalty to Astaros (the final boss) before and after being defeated, there's a sub-plot where you battle against your older brother turned bad, and there's even a case of mistaken identity that causes a teammate to attack you.
Even though this is a great game, for some reason I didn't find Dennin quite as amazing as it's predecessor Musha. The overall pace is a bit slower, contrasting the near non-stop action of Musha. Big brother Musha just set such high standards it would be hard for any game to clearly surpass it. Maybe they should battle to the death over a pit of lava, it would be fitting.