Rapid Hero
by sunburstbasser

Rapid Hero is a vertical shmup which may have a story involving blowing stuff up. There is no narrative to indicate this.

Ever heard of NMK? If you haven't, that's OK. NMK was active from the mid 80s to the mid 90s, and never really had a hit game. Most of their games range from playable to above average, with 1994's Rapid Hero being in the latter category.

It seems that a story exists for this game, as a cutscene is shown between each level with your character mugging for the camera. No text is given, and even poking around the Internet I couldn't find anything about a story. Since I know that shmups are mostly played for story (right?) I'll go ahead and give you one while I review the game.

Generic shmup controls. A fires a burst of shots, so you have to keep tapping but it isn't too strenuous. B drops the bomb. Powerups come in the form of round P icons and bomb-shaped B icons. You can also collect straight lasers with an L, cluster bombs with an M, and homing missiles with H. All of these side arms can be fired at once, and by collecting another letter each one has a second level of power. At full power, this game almost goes into reverse danmaku and seems to borrow from Compile in giving you so much weaponry. It's actually a lot of fun to see this in an arcade shooter when most limit your firepower to make it harder.

Player 1 and 2 control palette swapped super ships that are identical otherwise. Yet each side also gets a character so I'll provide sample names and bios for them.


Antonio was born in Cicangna, Italy in 2236. His father was a fisherman, and his mother a chef. Antonio was happy, but felt unfulfilled. At 18 years old, he enlisted in the Italian Space Force, yearning for the adventure of space flight and seeing the universe up close. He excelled as a pilot, able to navigate and dogfight in space almost naturally. His skills would lead him to the RAPID program, a joint between the Italian Space Force and the French Moon Patrol. He had been chosen as a test pilot for a new form of space superfighter. Little did he know that the test would push him beyond anything he had seen before.


In 2234, a woman in Reims, France gave birth to her third baby. She named her new daughter Cendrillon. Cendrillon spent most of her youth as a carefree, somewhat flighty child lost in a world of comic books and B movies. Her world was shattered when, at age 15, her older brother was brutally mugged and left to die in a gutter. Cendrillon's attitude towards life changed, and she vowed to fight so that weaker people would be free. Her desire to sucker punch the wicked led her to the French Moon Patrol, the military-controlled complex tasked with keeping peace in the Lunar mining colonies. She showed great aptitude with the space freighters and displayed high intelligence and quick reflexes, making her a perfect candidate for the RAPID program. She never expected to play the same role as her comic book idols.

NMK games usually feature some basic scoring system. In Rapid Hero, collecting stars will award increasing point values, from 100 to 5,000. Unlike Raizing games, the values of the stars only reset when you die. If multiple stars are on screen at once, they will increase in value as you collect them. In addition, anything you shoot will give points even if you don't damage it. When bosses appear on screen, pummel them for points even before they are actually vulnerable and you can get several thousand points. It's all fairly basic.

Graphically the game wouldn't look too bad on the Super Nintendo. Not a whole lot of fancy effects going on, nothing like what Konami and Taito were doing at this time. Backgrounds have a little bit of parallax scrolling, but no fancy buildings or glowing backgrounds. It's all quite functional and it's easy to see what is going on. The enemy sprites move insanely fast. Towards the end of the game, the screen fills with enemies. They move in set patterns, so after a few playthroughs you should be OK. Some sections have pretty thick bullet sprays. Your hitbox is practically the entire ship minus a few pixels on the nose and wingtips, so don't try to navigate bullet spreads, go around them.

The music is pretty solid stuff. Again, this wouldn't have sounded out of place on the SNES. In particular, many of the sound samples sound like they could be taken from numerous Capcom titles. These tracks wouldn't sound out of place in Mega Man X. I hope you like drums, this game has lots of synth drumming. Explosions have a nice crack to them.

Stage 1 is a flight over a city within a space station. You can tell it's in space because anytime the background is clear, you get a star field. This is a very basic stage. Enemies rush in, but few of them actually fire at you. Blowing up warehouses for collateral damage will reward you with score items.

The boss is a red robot. He probably has a name, but I name every red robot in shmups Bashinet. He'll be appearing a lot more, after all. He can throw out a lot of bullets at a time, but the gaps are very wide and even on your first time your twitch reflexes should get you through. In fact, while the levels do ramp up the boss fights are generally pretty easy.

We see here that Antonio and Cendrillon enjoy blowing up things, necessary or not.

Stage 2 starts out over a gray cloudscape. This stage starts the trend of throwing out dozens of enemies that move fast, but don't shoot. This stage also has a very apparent emulation bug that will crop up more later on. Part way through, you'll fight a midboss that pops up from under the clouds. Sit on his shadow, and he'll actually cover you up. He can also cover up powerups, which is far more annoying. Enemy bullets thankfully are not covered up but can be a little hard to see around your own shots. At the end of the clouds, you can see the land below and you might think you've gone back to Earth. But keep going, and you'll see that this is actually a space station so big it has clouds in it. It's a very cool background, and while it is flat and static the perspective does give some sense of depth. I wish Taito had done a level like this using their F3 board.

Bashinet returns. This time, his gimmick is that he splits into three. Only one is the right one, but due to a bug or actual design the real one doesn't flicker as much as the other two. He can also call on some pods to shoot at you. Again, WEAK.

Antonio is pissed that Bashinet got away. Cendrillon is pleased because her blood lust has awakened and only mass destruction can satiate it.

Stage 3 is the Giant Battleship fight. NMK copped out and just made this fight a long missile with some turrets on it. The beginning is the chase to the missile, which has some cool enemies with gatling gun arms. The actual missile is just a bunch of gun ports. Know the basic patterns and you'll get through.

The boss fight is a two part affair. For the first part, you destroy the nose of the missile which has two types of bullet spread. Then Bashinet jumps out and dons a suit which has some slightly more menacing attacks but still nothing awful.

Antonio realizes that Bashinet made a foul gesture at him while flying away. Cendrillon realizes that she left the stove running before taking off.

Stage 4 doesn't make much sense from a plot perspective, as this space shooter now moves to a river running through a jungle. It does bring the first dose of ground enemies, including submarines in the river. The river is perfectly straight, a bit lazy in design really.

Bashinet returns with a whole bunch of pieces that vaguely resemble armor. As you blow pieces off, the number of bullets he fires actually diminishes. Drop a bomb if you have to, but after two or three pieces are destroyed you should be able to just shoot him to death.

While flying through the jungle, a large insect hits Antonio's canopy right in front of him, obstructing his view. Cendrillon is amused because as prototype fighters these space planes don't yet have wipers.

Stage 5 is the desert stage. I hope you like tanks, because you'll be mowing them down all over here. The tanks mostly just fire straight forward, but can come from multiple directions and try to trap you. More deadly are the large AAA batteries that take a lot of hits to kill and send out pretty mean bullet spreads.

Bashinet still hasn't learned his lesson. We see him in what looks like the artwork for DoDonPachi wearing a cape and throwing it off. Why a giant red robot needs a cape is beyond me. He puts on a set of shoulder pads Samus would be envious of. This isn't a big deal. He puts on a new coat of paint when you destroy the shoulder pads, and gets some shadow options which is a big deal.

Antonio's fighter is the newer one and does not yet have the facilities needed to relieve oneself mid-mission. Cendrillon's fighter is a little older and has these facilities.

Stage 6 returns to space, with some more cool perspective artwork and masses of pacifist enemies. For every enemy that shoots, a dozen fly by. At full power, you can literally sit in the middle of the screen and blow away hundreds of enemies without moving.

Bashinet returns yet again, this time with a gun in one hand and a sword large enough to cleave a house in the other. The gun fires in a wave pattern, but it's right in front of him and if you have full gun power you can sit off to the side and he can't touch you. His sword attack is just a charge. After a couple plays, this will be easy.

After finding the channel to contact Bashinet, Antonio tries to taunt him but in his haste all he can come up with is "You big, uh, big dummy!" He is not pleased with himself. Cendrillon wonders if it's wrong to kill someone after such a terrible one-liner.

Stage 7 is a sort of boss rush. You fight Bashinet with a giant laser right at the beginning. He charges up, and sweeps the screen. Stay far left or right to avoid it. He gets more awesome shoulder pads in his second form. Most of the attacks aren't bad, but it can shoot out orbs which unexpectedly shoot out a laser. Don't sit in front of them. After some more enemies, he shows up with a small array of rotating guns and a flag which flaps in the wind. In vacuum.

For his final form, Bashinet builds up on the gun arrays, adds wings, and gets another flag. He likes to crowd the bottom of the screen in this form, and fire three-way spreads. You can get between the spreads, it just takes some finesse.

Since Bashinet still isn't dead, Antonio isn't going to get to watch his new porno movie tonight. Cendrillon is worried if it was the one she "performed" in to make a little money on the side.

Stage 8 starts innocently enough, a trek over some generic landscape. Then NMK gets really lazy and makes you fight the Giant Battleship from Stage 3 again. It isn't even palette swapped, some of the enemy formations are identical, and besides bullet count it's practically identical. The tip flies off instead of remaining attached, but has exactly the same patterns. A couple little satellites show up to liven things up but it isn't enough.

Bashinet shows up, looking pretty bad now. He has his sword again, but one arm seems to be missing. He has two attacks, an easy to dodge aimed pattern and an easy to dodge spread. When he dies, something stupid happens.

Not content to stab people in the face, Hanzo has turned into a space ninja. You look at that sprite and tell me NMK didn't rip off Samurai Shodown. This fight is brutal. His easiest attack to dodge is his bullet spread. His shuriken attacks are practically guaranteed to kill you. They move fast, in a tight, aimed spread. He can also try to chop you, and releases shuriken that shoot you. When he summons clones of himself, more shuriken. The game gets challenging in later stages, but this fight is so much harder than the rest of the game that it just doesn't fit. Amusingly, when he dies he commits seppuku. Then he explodes.

Both characters grin like idiots, so you can come up with your own riff for that.

Rapid Hero is a pretty solid game. The graphical bugs are known and work has been done, most notably ShmupMAME has apparently fixed the problem. Besides that last boss, it isn't too hard either and with a few playthroughs I think this could be a game most people could beat on one credit at least to that ninja. It does absolutely NOTHING new, special or unique, it's just a fun blast.


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