The Phenomenal Play Station (PS1) Shmups Games
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The Phenomenal Playstation (PS1) Shmups Library
Note from racketboy: Following up on his epic Saturn Shmups Guide, BulletMagnet, walks us through the original Playstations well-rounded shooter lineup. Its difficulty to declare a solid winner in the 32-bit 2D shooter wars, but the PS1 puts up an awesome fight against the Saturn. This guide will take us on a journey through the Playstations best down to the quirky andmediocre. A couple of notes to keep in mind First, while I obviously tried my best to include every shooter released on the system, the PS1s library is much larger than the Saturns, and right up until the end of the writing process I kept stumbling upon obscure titles Id previously missed. While Ive made use of every resource I could think of to make this article as comprehensive as possible, the possibility still exists that I could have overlooked something if this is the case, please let me know and Ill get around to adding whatever Ive missed. Second, you might already be aware that a sizable number of shooters released on the Playstation were also available for the Saturn, and already have entries in that article thus, if an entry covering one of those titles appears to be lacking certain core information about a game, chances are that it was already covered in the Saturn shmups guide, so feel free to check it out for additional details and such.
Picking up where Batsugun left off, newly-formed Cave, one of the few consistent shooter developers still in the business today, began its journey to the top of the genre heap with this release. PS1 owners sick of hearing about how much better the Saturn is for 2D games ended up getting a reprieve when this port hit the shelves boasting a nearly arcade-perfect presentation and no slowdown problems (plus a budget re-release), this is the preferred pickup for most any shmupper with a Playstation. That said, the scrolling shooter genre was in something of a state of transition at the time, and this is one of the games which headlined that shift nearly fifteen years later, how does it hold up on its own?
Taking the mechanics of the C-Type craft from Batsugun a step further, each of your three selectable ships will let loose its regular shots when the fire button is tapped, but will switch over to a more condensed, powerful laser if the player holds it down. Doing this will also slow your movement speed, which can come in handy when weaving through tight bullet spreads, as well as determine whether you use a standard full-screen bomb or a Mega Beam O Death when you decide to hit the B button. Enemy chaining also makes its debut here, awarding you extra points for taking down lots of enemies with only minimal gaps between kills, though you can also keep an eye out for opportunities to uncover hidden bee medals with your laser. Youve got a pretty small hit area to work with, so you can (and had better) exploit small gaps between enemy bullets to get out of almost any situation. Well, at least until you get to Stage 4 or so. As you progress, DonPachi almost seems to start pining more and more for memory-heavy old-school challenges, and will assume that you do too, sending quick waves of enemies, guns blazing, darting in from every which way with no warning, forcing you to either remember where they came from and when next time around or inevitably die in the exact same spot. This schizophrenic streak, paired with a LONG power-up curve (which is reset to square one when you die) will likely jar some players right off their couches, wondering where on Earth such a sudden and unforgiving change of tone came from. These annoyances aside, however, DonPachi should serve as a nice segue into modern-style shooting for a majority of players. Find DonPachi on eBay
Attention, those of you who happen to be both purists and Cave fans prepare to prostrate yourselves before your Playstations. While the Saturn port of DDP offered an extra mode at the expense of an arcade-perfect reproduction, those willing to fork out the extra effort (and cash) required to get their hands on this edition are free to banish any recollections of blocky explosions or muffled music to the abyss. Its just the arcade game and not much else, but its as close to the original as a home port has come, and thats a very good thing some of you already know why that is, but everyone else, keep reading. While many of the basic components of DonPachi (ship types, lasers, chaining, etc.) are back for an encore, nearly every element has been refined and polished to a new level altogether. For one thing, you can now choose to make each plane a shot or laser type, which beefs up that aspect of your firepower and also prevents it from returning to pea-shooter status after death. Stages are now designed to encourage much longer chains than before, so hardcore scorers will have plenty to keep them busy, though everyone else can get through fine via several other (though less lucrative) point allocation methods, most notably a max bomb bonus which builds up as you collect extra nukes. While the aforementioned chaining, though optional, is definitely a memory exercise, most of the previous games out of nowhere deaths have been exorcised, replaced by more aggressive enemies overall and a more gradual learning curve. The end result is a more exciting and smoother-flowing experience than before, which will almost certainly keep you hooked, and eager for another go even after youve finished.
The graphics, while similar in overall style to DonPachi, have been given a complete overhaul, and the detailed sprites, sparse rendering tricks, and bevies of neon-colored bullets are still a pleasure to behold more than a decade into the titles life. The cheese-metal soundtrack is an ideal accompaniment to the fiery explosions and other assorted chaos, though the songs repeat too often for my liking. One annoyance to note, however, is that in this version players will need to turn on the Wait option in the pause menu each time they begin, or else the game will run a bit too fast. Another inconvenience that the PS1 version forces you to deal with is that in 2P mode both participants must use the same ship and even in 1P mode youve got to make your selection in the Options menu. Weird. Aside from these relatively minor setbacks, and the rather steep price, DoDonPachi shines at least as brightly here as on the Saturn, and is an essential addition to nearly any shooter fans collection. Find DoDonPachi on eBay
Everything changed for Squaresoft during the 32-bit era. Among other things, its longtime exclusive relationship with Nintendo came to an end, and the runaway success of Final Fantasy VII catapulted its name to sudden household status within the gaming community. As if the aforementioned wasnt enough, somewhere in the middle of it all they decided to put out, of all things, a side-scrolling shooter one with an odd German title (literally, one-hander), to boot. Notwithstanding, the title was well-received, and remains one of the PS1s best-known shmups two generations later strangely enough though, despite a healthy amount of fan fervor, a sequel has still not come to fruition. Though you might expect Squaresoft to have made an attempt to redefine the genre, as they did in the RPG realm, they actually chose to stick rather closely, in basic gameplay terms, to longestablished standards. You scroll sideways, you shoot stuff with a weak machine gun, your only default weaponmeanwhile your enemies are firing all sorts of nifty stuff back at you. Wouldnt it be nice to get your hands on some of the bad guys big guns for once? Actually, you can do just that aim carefully at certain enemies weapon pods and you can blast them right off, ripe for the collecting, thanks to your crafts handy-dandy manipulator arm. A choice of three selectable ship models allows you to handle the pilfered weaponry slightly differently, giving you some flexibility in how to approach the game the ability to adjust your speed on the fly also helps. In terms of scoring, blasting lots of enemies at once increases the point multiplier, so knowing which weapons to take into which enemy formations ahead of time is a must for getting your initials to the top of the list. As Square was wont to do, it made about the best possible use it could of the PS1s 3D abilities while dated somewhat by now, the overall ambience of the game is still effectively conveyed, and the soundtrack, while relatively standard techno, also does its part in setting the mood. Dont let the attractive settings distract you though while relatively modern by shooter standards, Einhanders not afraid to throw some near-unavoidable deaths at you, not to mention send you back to a checkpoint with all but your default armaments down the tubes. Some players might have been somewhat disappointed that this title didnt change everything, as they might have hoped, but for anyone willing to take some punishment in exchange for the opportunity to hit the
baddies with a taste of their own medicine, brush up on your Deutsch and pick this up. Find Einhander on eBay Find Einhander on Amazon
As gaming lore would have it, Konami had initially planned to bring this storied shooter Westward, but ended up deciding against it a shame, because not only is Gaiden (side story) one of the few Gradius entries created and tailored specifically for home console play, but its widely considered one of the series best, and a title that has the potential to appeal even to players who arent particularly fond of its siblings. As fate would have it, the game did eventually make its overdue trip via the PSPs Gradius Collection, but for those seeking the original experience Gaiden did well enough in Japan to earn a budget re-release twice over, so tracking a PS1 copy down isnt too to