The Shoot'em Up/STG/Shmup Mega Thread.

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Dig Dug
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PostRe: The Shoot'em Up/STG/Shmup Mega Thread.
by Dig Dug » Mon Jan 18, 2021 8:20 pm

Time to talk about another studio, this time we'll be covering someone whose shoot'em up titles were a little unconventional, but in a good way.
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It's easily forgotten now but Sega were a giant 30 years ago, not only in the console market with the Mega Drive but in the arcades with their line up of cutting edge blockbuster titles.
Sega have shared their load over the years as both a publisher and developer but they still found the time to contribute to the shoot'em up genre back when it was the golden goose of the arcades.
Titles of Note:
Zaxxon (Arcade, 1981)
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This early arcade title stood out by employing an isometric perspective at a time where the majority of arcade shooters were happy to sitck with 2D perspectives. This design choice would pay off for Sega as the game would be a hit with arcade goers. In an age where we take 3D perspectives for granted Zaxxon may seem a little antiquated but if nothing else it was a sign that Sega's ambitions lied beyond 2D games.

Space Harrier (Arcade, 1985)
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With the parallax scrolling technology used in Hang On! Sega had found the technology to match their 3D ambitions (by 1980s standards anyway) and they put it to work as Suzuki and his team would use it to create Space Harrier. Some today would classify Space harrier as a rail shooter due to its perspective but back in 1985 no distinction existed, Space Harrier was a shoot'em up through and through and showed us the potential the genre had in the 3D space. It is still perfectly playable today and I reccommend the excellent Sega Ages port by M2 on the Nintendo Switch.

Fantasy Zone (Arcade, 1986)
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If we were to disqualify every other game in this selection for not fitting the typical characteristics of what we consider a "shmup" to be then Sega would still get featured off the strength of this game alone.
Fantasy Zone was a very cutsy take on the 1981 Williams classic Defender but much like Konami's Gradius before it the game has gone on to be fondly rememebred by many high profile names across the Japanese video game industry. Fantasy Zone is an excellent blend of accessiblity, challenge and entertainment and has seen many, many ports including M2's Sega Ages release on the Switch.

After Burner II(Arcade, 1987)
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Whereas Space Harrier is unarguably a shmup thanks to its focus on dodging bullets and manually aiming After Burner is where the line between shoot'em up and rail shooter becomes blurred. After Burner is far more focused on locking-on missiles and leading the enemies missiles away from you. The foundations of the shoot'em up are still on show and After Burner II is still fun today but it and the many games that would follow (Thunder Blade, Galaxy Force, G-Loc) would splinter off to become its own sub-genre.

Panzer Dragoon (Saturn, 1995), Panzer Dragoon II Zwei (Saturn, 1996), Panzer Dragoon Orta (Xbox, 2002)
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To finish off Sega's shoot'em up development legacy we have the Panzer Dragoon series. When Sega launched their ill-fated Saturn console in the mid-90s they needed an original system-exlusive game to act as a 3D showcase for their console. Panzer Dragoon would be that game as it combined the best aspects of Space Harrier and After Burner as both manual and lock-on firing would be equally viable. The series would help set the standard for 3D shoot'em ups going forward and is still good to play today. Panzer Dragoon Orta is backwards compatible with the Xbox Seires (looks wonderful on it) and the original game has been remade for the Nintendo Switch. Zwei and the RPG spin-off Saga are both stuck on the Sega Saturn and are also worth a look.

So that's Sega's contributions as a developer, they didn't do a lot in terms of traditional shoot'em ups but as a publisher and arcade platform provider they have been a god-send to the likes of Treasure (Radiant Silvergun, Ikaruga), G.Rev (Border Down, Under Defeat), and Milestone (Chaos Field, Radirgy). Sega aren't a giant of the genre, but they certain have their place in it.

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Ironhide
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PostRe: The Shoot'em Up/STG/Shmup Mega Thread.
by Ironhide » Tue Jan 19, 2021 3:08 pm

Fantasy Zone :wub:

Have fond memories of randomly buying it (Master System) for £12 with my pocket money and spending countless hours trying to get past the fourth level. Still have the music from the first level pop into my head every so often over 25 years later.

Also one of the few games (other than the Civilization series and Doom) that my Dad has ever shown prolonged interest in.

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OrangeRKN
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PostRe: The Shoot'em Up/STG/Shmup Mega Thread.
by OrangeRKN » Tue Jan 19, 2021 3:42 pm

After Burner II is such a good looking game, goddamn

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Dig Dug
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PostRe: The Shoot'em Up/STG/Shmup Mega Thread.
by Dig Dug » Tue Jan 19, 2021 5:08 pm

Ironhide wrote:Fantasy Zone :wub:

Have fond memories of randomly buying it (Master System) for £12 with my pocket money and spending countless hours trying to get past the fourth level. Still have the music from the first level pop into my head every so often over 25 years later.

Also one of the few games (other than the Civilization series and Doom) that my Dad has ever shown prolonged interest in.

It's a common theme I've found with Fantasy Zone. Almost everyone who encountered it growing up has a strong feeling of nostalgia whenever it is brought up. It's one of those games that you won't know is a classic until you talk to someone who played it back in the day. I worry people wil begin to forget about it once the people who loved it the most are no longer in the industry to port it and talk about its impact on them.

OrangeRKN wrote:After Burner II is such a good looking game, goddamn

The speed really puts in work, it's crazy how many layers of sprites they were using compared to OutRun.

It's a good thing I did Sega now as it's given me a very good distinction between shoot'em ups and rail shooers.
A shoot'em up is a game where you are dodging the enemy attacks and hitting them with your own firepower in return (normally bullets).
Rail-shooters tend to lean more towards attacking with locks-ons and elininating threats before they can reach you or attack you, you don't really have an influence on movement.

So for example: Space Harrier is a Shoot'em Up. Rez is a rail shooter.
Afterburner and Panzer Dragoon are inbetween. You can use manual shooting, lock-on is optional and you can control movement enough to dodge.

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PostRe: The Shoot'em Up/STG/Shmup Mega Thread.
by jawa2 » Tue Jan 19, 2021 5:15 pm

Oh boy! Space Harrier and After Burner... I love Sega's arcade super-scalers!

I'm still fond of these shooter games on both the Master System and the 32X; the MS versions really push the system technically whilst the 32X versions are tremendous.

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PostRe: The Shoot'em Up/STG/Shmup Mega Thread.
by Ironhide » Tue Jan 19, 2021 5:27 pm

jawa2 wrote:Oh boy! Space Harrier and After Burner... I love Sega's arcade super-scalers!

I'm still fond of these shooter games on both the Master System and the 32X; the MS versions really push the system technically whilst the 32X versions are tremendous.


Space Harrier on the Master System is pure witchcraft, there's no other explanation.

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PostRe: The Shoot'em Up/STG/Shmup Mega Thread.
by jawa2 » Tue Jan 19, 2021 5:43 pm

Ironhide wrote:Space Harrier on the Master System is pure witchcraft, there's no other explanation.

It sure was, Ironhide. I believe it made use of "user-defined graphic" characters rather than sprites for the scaling objects in the background; hence the blocky effect with small borders around objects. It worked well and gave - considering the tech limitations - a good representation of the arcade version.

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Dig Dug
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PostRe: The Shoot'em Up/STG/Shmup Mega Thread.
by Dig Dug » Sat Jan 23, 2021 11:25 pm

Ya boy just got his first ever one credit clear in a very scuffed thunder force IV run. Gonna keep playing this until I’m not terrible at it.

I think I could beat it deathless if I keep at it.

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Dig Dug
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PostRe: The Shoot'em Up/STG/Shmup Mega Thread.
by Dig Dug » Tue Jan 26, 2021 9:56 pm

Since I've been on the Thunder Force grind I may as well talk about this company.

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One of the premier game studious for the Sega Mega Drive Techno Soft started life in the 1980's making games for Japanese micro computers. These early titles included shoot'em ups like Thunder Force & Herzog. In 1989 the studio would rlease Thunder Force II on both the Sharp X68000 and Sega Mega Drive likely due to both systems utilizing similar specs such as the Motorola 68000 CPU.
I would be love at first sight with the Mega Drive and Technosoft would spend the next 3 years being one of the consoles greatest third party studios.

So how did their games fare? Let's start with the shoot'em ups.

Elemental Master (Mega Drive, 1990)
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Technosoft's third Mega Drive title would be a departure from the typical shmup as the player was neither a piloting a machine or flying. The game took place entirely on foot with a protagonist who could fire magic either forwards or backwards. The player had the option of tackling the first 4 stages in any order (something that would become a staple of Techno Soft games) and would gain a new spell for each boss they defeated. While not on the level of their later efforts it is still well regarded as a game worth seeking out.

Thunder Force III (Mega Drive, 1990) / Thunder Force AC (Arcade, 1990) / Thunder Spirits (SNES, 1991)
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The thrid title in the Thunder Force series would drop the overhead freeroaming sections from the previous two games and go all in on 2D side scrolling action. Thunder Force III set the foundations for what we now consider to be series staples such as a wide weapon selection which can be changed at will and the ability to alter the ships speed at will. The game was popular and would see ports for the Arcade and SNES. The arcade port differs greatly from the other two versions by removing the stage select feature and redesigning two stages entirely.
Thunder Force AC was ported to the Nintendo Switch lasy year as part of the Sega Ages collection by M2. Good game but the best was still to come.

Thunder Force IV (Mega Drive, 1992)
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This game is a masterpiece. Arguably the best shoot'em up on Mega Drive, definately the best game Techno Soft ever made. Thunder Force IV takes everything from its predecessor and completely super charges all of it. Better ship design, better weapons, more levels, expansive level design, thougher bosses; it has excellent challenge, pacing and replayability. I just spent my free time over the last week getting the one credit clear on it and I'm still not done with the game. If you are going to play this then I suggest getting the Sega Ages port by M2 on the Switch, not only does it give you options such as turing slwodown on/off it also lets you play as the ship from Thunder Force III as a bonus. The European Mega Drive version is on the of the few games on the system that was optimised for 50hz, meaning it plays at the same speed as the 60hz Japanese and US versions.
I could throw praise on this game all day and I haven't even gone into how you can quick kill bosses with the almighty Thunder Sword.
If I had a criticism for the game it is that you can't always tell if your attacks are actually damaging enemies and bosses, you just have to know they are.

Hyper Duel (Arcade, 1993 / Saturn, 1996)
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Hyper Duel would see Techno Soft leave the Mega Drive behind as they attempted to transition into the arcades wherte the big boys of the genre played. This titles main gimmick would be the ability to shift your ship into a mech at will. The mechs had greater firepower which they could angle up and down at the cost of being slower, bulkier targets. Mastering this game means knowing when to make the switch. The game has held a cult staus for many years but has some under scrtiny in more recent times thanks in part to the games asking price. A copy of the Sega Saturn port will set you back around £400 and when a game costs that must it needs to be able to back it up. Unfortunately Hyper Duel doesn't warrent its asking price, it's by all means a good game but it lacks that wow factor Thunder Force IV had going for it on the Mega Drive.
Due to its asking price alone the game could do with a port to a modern system but don't expect that any time soon when the fanfare for this game mostly comes from the few people who happen to own it.

Thunder Force V (Saturn, 1997)
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The final game that Techno Soft would put out for the Thunder Force series was released exclusively in Japan for the Sega Saturn and Sony PlayStation. While Techno Soft still had it in them to make high quality games the ship for shoot'em ups had sailed by the time of its release as the genre was dying a painful death. With the game being exclusive to one region very few have had the change to play it. It is said to still be very good, much better than Sega own attempts when they would release Thunder Force VI for the PlayStation 2 a decade later.

So that's the best of Techno Soft's shoot'em up output summed up but are you aware of the non-shmup titles they also wroked on?
Herzog Zwei (Mega Drive, 1989)
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This real-time strategy game would gain a cult status so strong that it would be spoken of in the song Proto Culture by rapper Del the Funky Homosapien.
I still need to get around to playing it myself. Thankfully it has been released on the Nintendo Switch as what would be the final game in M2's Sega Ages collection.

Dragons Fury (Mega Drive, 1991)
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This game was a conversion of the PC Engine game Devil's Crush by Compile (now there's another studio we need to talk about).
This Pinball Title is excellent, the table design, sound and physics are all on point. This games legacy lives on today in indie title Demon's Tilt such is the memory of its excellence.


Also time for some plugs to add:
For those of you who have an interest in Japanese game development the website Shmupulations contains an archieve of translated interivews and features from the 80s, 90s and 00s for various Shoot'em Ups, Fighting, Arcade and Role-Playing games. Even if you don't play shmups there's likely something on the site for you.
http://shmuplations.com/

Also for those of you who use twitch be sure to check out the STG_Shmups category, with so many games being obscure the shoot'em up community have all agreed to now play under this tag for the sake of discoverability. if you ever fanacy watching some live shmup play, this is what you search.

Finally a new Youtube channel that has caught my attention is the Game Preservation Society. They put out a 30 minute documentary this month on the video game developer Yūichi Toyama who worked on many titles for Techno Soft and Compile including Herzog, Musha Aleste and Terra Diver.
It's almost worth watching for the production value alone, it's incredible that something like this is given away for free on youtube.

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weakboson
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PostRe: The Shoot'em Up/STG/Shmup Mega Thread.
by weakboson » Thu Jan 28, 2021 3:41 pm

This fine thread has awoken me from my slumber. As someone who has spent a lot of time on the internet being annoying about how good these games can be I can honestly say it really warms my heart. 2020 was actually such a good year for shmups. Some of my faves on steam/itch are:

Super XYX - Very much in the Toaplan spirit, but thankfully easier.

Zenodeath - a mix of shmup gameplay with some top-down stages thrown in for good measure. Very fast paced!

Demonizer - a really beautiful game with some unique touches. I'm so scared people are going to overlook this gem.

I have played these three games a lot and there are probably some others I have forgot. STG never die :toot:

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PostRe: The Shoot'em Up/STG/Shmup Mega Thread.
by Qikz » Thu Jan 28, 2021 3:43 pm

The replays on Dodonpachi DFK on Steam seem to be bugged, I swear watching a run back I was dying in the replay when I didn't die before.

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The Watching Artist wrote:I feel so inept next to Qikz...
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PostRe: The Shoot'em Up/STG/Shmup Mega Thread.
by OrangeRKN » Sun Jan 31, 2021 2:19 pm

Well I played through Panzer Dragoon for the first time on Switch. Great game, now I want to read a wiki to find out the insane lore behind it

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Dig Dug
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PostRe: The Shoot'em Up/STG/Shmup Mega Thread.
by Dig Dug » Mon Feb 01, 2021 11:45 pm

weakboson wrote:This fine thread has awoken me from my slumber. As someone who has spent a lot of time on the internet being annoying about how good these games can be I can honestly say it really warms my heart. 2020 was actually such a good year for shmups. Some of my faves on steam/itch are:

Super XYX - Very much in the Toaplan spirit, but thankfully easier.

Zenodeath - a mix of shmup gameplay with some top-down stages thrown in for good measure. Very fast paced!

Demonizer - a really beautiful game with some unique touches. I'm so scared people are going to overlook this gem.

I have played these three games a lot and there are probably some others I have forgot. STG never die :toot:

Ayyyyy, good to see my efforts help the forum.

I've never heard of the Zeno series before but I very much like what I see I'm going to have to try the trilogy out.
I haven't played Super XYX or Demonizer but I know the hype surrounding those games and the whispers I'm hearing are incredibly promising. XYX definately has those Topalan vibes going for it. Demonizer looks very late 80s to early 90s visually. Reminds me of Twinbee.

My backlog of shmups has gotten kinda big recently so once I've slimmed it down and got the clears I want on my current games I'll think about moving onto these.

Qikz wrote:The replays on Dodonpachi DFK on Steam seem to be bugged, I swear watching a run back I was dying in the replay when I didn't die before.

Wouldn't surprise me if something like that was happening, Japanese studios are only now really getting a hang of PC hardware. I'm not in the know but at the very least I've seen people say the Xbox 360 is the best way to play those Cave games.

OrangeRKN wrote:Well I played through Panzer Dragoon for the first time on Switch. Great game, now I want to read a wiki to find out the insane lore behind it

It's not perfect but it does its job as a remake. I've heard they are remaking the far superior Panzer Dragoon II so hopefully it addresses all the shortcomings this remaster had.

Anyway I've taken a break from trying to deathless Thunder Force IV. Remembered I had a set of neo geo games from a humble bundle 5 years ago so I ripped the roms out and ran them in Mame instead of using dotemu's crappy, awful, terrible launcher. Blazing Star is such an outstandingly good game, so is Neo Turf Masters tbh.

Also picked up Arcade Archives Omega Fighter for half price on eshop. This game is actually really solid, bit tricky and short but it is a point scorer. It's definately one of the AA games that is actually a good fit for the caravan mode.


Finally I've been playing R-Type because I've never beaten it. It's hard, really, really hard when you're new to it and don't know the strategies. But it's also one of the best designed shoot em ups I've ever played. The force is such a brilliantly designed power up purely because it forces the player to choose, it's not like the gradius option that does everything.

I need to get my affairs in order so I can dedicate some time soon to trying to blast through my Switch shmup backlog.
Thunder Force IV 1-All, Thunder Force AC 1CC, Super Hydohra 1CC, R-Type 1CC, Omega Fighter 1CC, Gradius 1CC, Danmaku Unlinited Normal 1CC, Satazius Normal 1CC.
I'm going to start with those 8, I think they are all doable.

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Dig Dug
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PostRe: The Shoot'em Up/STG/Shmup Mega Thread.
by Dig Dug » Sun Mar 14, 2021 10:13 pm

Been wanting to add more content to this thread but I've had my hands full recently so I've not had time for a write up.
I'll have another in the pipeline once I've spent more time researching and trying mroe shmups I've never played before.

In the meantime I have something very special to share. After a week of grinding the game I have achieved a 1 credit clear of Space Harrier.
Getting this 1CC is one of the most insane gaming experiences I have ever lived through. I had to pause take a break after clearing stage 17 because my body could not cope with the adrenaline rush. I've never felt that was playing a game before and I've been playing in tournaments for years.
This alongside the 1CC of Thunder Force IV I got a few months back is definately pushing this habit. I want to plick up more old school games to 1CC, not just shoot'em ups.
Enjoy.



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