Friday, 10 September 2010

Top Five PC Engine Shmups

Games-Related Top Fives Disclaimer: I've traditionally stuck to the games I know and love so far, and these game-related top fives reflect that. One of the purposes of this blog is diversify my gaming experiences, to play games I haven't played before, so I will do new game-related top fives in a few years to see how different they are!

If I review any PCE shmups in my upcoming feature that get really high scores, they don't appear in this Top Five because I hadn't played them before! (a.k.a covering my arse!)

5. Image Fight (1990)

Developed by Irem soon after they unleashed R-Type, this fantastic vertical scroller is for some bizarre reason far less revered than its sibling, which is odd because even a quick session with it reveals Irem were more than adept at this kind of shmup as well as the horizontal variety. Okay, I guess it's not quite as innovative or distinctive as R-Type, and it's not the flashiest shooter ever either. The graphics aren't particularly impressive and the music is instantly forgettable, but it is challenging, well designed, and, much like R-Type, features some interesting power-ups. Rather than the now-legendary Force from that game, here it's possible to attach a variety of devices to the front of your ship, each of which give it a different weapon. A top blaster which deserves more recognition.

4. Magical Chase (1991)

For a long time an Engine exclusive, this horizontal-scroller is so charming it's as if you've had a spell cast on you by the 'Star Maiden' protagonist of the game! It's a horizontal-scroller in a similar vein to Cotton (which was released around the same time) which sees you in control of a witch complete with broomstick (but apparently no black cat) battling six demons and their bizarre minions across the same number of stages! Magical Chase is a very strange experience, much like its better-known contemporary, but it's a compelling and highly playable little game which looks fabulous, with well-detailed graphics which are full of character, and it has a fantastic soundtrack too. A unique horizontal-scroller which constantly beckons you to discover what lies around the next corner.

3. R-Type (1988)

This famous game is often heralded as the greatest shoot 'em up ever. I'm not sure I'd agree with that but one thing's for sure - until the PlayStation came along, this Engine version remained the most faithful conversion yet seen (lord knows why it never appeared on the MD, come to think of it, that could've been a cracking version). Despite the fact that it was initially spread over two separately released Hu-Cards, it was still hard to fault it. The graphics and music are near-faultless and about as close to arcade perfect as anyone could reasonably expect, and the timeless level design and gameplay is faithfully recreated. This was a God-send for the game's many fans. Whatever esteem you hold this eternally worshipped game in, there's no question that it's all-time classic, and this is a top-notch version of it.

2. Gradius (1991)

As is the case with R-Type, this was arguably the best version of Gradius until the arrival of the 32-bit consoles (although the X68000 effort was also superb). While it's true that the graphics are fairly simplistic and do suffer from bouts of slowdown now and then, they are also beautifully defined and the twinkly, multi-coloured stars in the background are hypnotic! The remixed soundtrack here is fantastic too and is among my favourite shmup soundtracks on any system, but it's the finely-honed gameplay that keeps me coming back. Challenging it may be, but the difficulty curve is well pitched and it's packed with so many distinctive touches that it'll take ages to see all it has to offer, and is enjoyable enough to want to. They even managed to squeeze in an extra level!

1. Gunhed (1989)

It's amazing to think that this was one of the first shmups released on the Engine. After all these years it's still one of the finest vertical-scrollers I've played on any system. It's true that there's a vast number that I've still not played but that doesn't detract from the sheer quality of this classic from Hudson. It eases you in with the gentle opening stage before gradually ramping up the intensity to sweaty-palms, edge-of-the-seat levels - this really is a game that oozes quality in every department. It's packed with detailed and varied graphics, superb music, and interesting stages, so it's easy to see why it was revered in its day, and it hasn't aged a bit either. Given the Engine's prowess with this genre, it's possible I may encounter an even better shmup at some point but it'll have to be something really special to beat this legendary game.


  1. Magical Chase looks really cool. The style of the sprites reminds me of something... maybe Black Lamp or Onslaught, with a touch of Verminator. I'm going to fire that up on my modded XBox at the first opportunity. Was it a HuCard or CD release?

    Gunhed, Gradius and R-Type are all awesome. I haven't played Image Fight before so I'll give that a go too.

  2. not controversial at all si, totally agree with you on all of those. Mind you, never played any of them.

  3. Cheers guys :)

    Marc, Magical Chase was a HuCard release, and a fine one it is too! :) Cotton, however, which is similar and better know, was a CD release (which is why I haven't played it!)

    Glad you agree, JD! :P Shmups are so abundant on the Engine I thought I'd get a load of "what about...?", especially regarding the CD ones. But I haven't played those yet! :P

  4. Your missing Parodius Da! from that list. Aside from a hilarious parody of the genre it is also a very good shmup and probably the game that sees the most action on my PC Engine.

  5. This was one of my earliest lists here. I'll update it at some point and it will feature more than one game that isn't there now :)

  6. Super Star Soldier is not only my favourite PC-Engine shooter, but my favourite vertical shooter "full stop". Plays a lot like GunHed, but it also has a time attack mode and "caravan mode", in which you have two or five minutes on a special course to score as many points as possible, with all sorts of hidden bonuses and so on. Great for competitions between friends and so on.

    And the music's fantastic too!

    1. Yeah, it's definitely a corker. I hadn't played it when I compiled this list but it would be in the top five now for sure. Could probably say the same about the rest of the 'Soldier' series too!