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 SNES shmups in my upcoming features 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. Macross: Scrambled Valkyrie (1993)
I didn't discover this one until fairly recently as it was only released in Japan but I was certainly glad I did find it! It's based on an older anime and as such you can choose between three characters, each of whom has their own variation of the 'Valkyrie' fighter with unique weapons, all of which can be upgraded. The ships have an energy meter rather than lives and they can also switch between three different forms at will too, each of which is more useful in certain situations than others, as you might expect. There's a good few other nice features here too (including enemies with tractor beams - grrr!) and that, combined with the superb graphics and decent soundtrack, makes this a pretty damn fine shmup. It would be higher on the list if only it wasn't so bloody difficult though!
4. Pop'n' TwinBee (1993)
There had to be a 'cute em up' on the list somewhere and this is surely the finest on the SNES! Indeed, although there had already been numerous games in the TwinBee series, this was the first one to be deemed worthy of a release outside of Japan. It's the easiest game in this list by far too, which makes it a nice break for one thing, and it's certainly a rather unique game too. Either one or two players can play at once piloting the strange creatures, TwinBee and WinBee, through the unusual stages filled with both airborne and ground-based enemies including all sorts of oddities. It's probably not the most technically proficient game here but the backgrounds and sprites are beautifully drawn making it the nicest to look at anyway, in my opinion, and the music is fantastic too. This definitely won't be your thing if you dislike cute games but for everyone else it's a superbly entertaining and original game.
3. R-Type 3 (1994)
Despite its name, this is actually the sixth game in the great R-Type series and for many people the best. It would be nearly impossible for it to have anywhere near the impact of the first title but it adds a lot to the existing games. Not least is the ability to choose from three different Forces, each with its own weapons, and it must also surely rank as the finest shmup on the SNES, graphically. It features none of the slowdown that blighted the otherwise awesome Super R-Type but adds bigger sprites, some fantastic backgrounds, and superb bosses. The levels, too, are pretty creative with not only the usual kinds of enemies but also all manner of moving scenery which actually causes more problems than the enemies do. Indeed, this is a notoriously tough game and one that I've never managed to finish but I've sure enjoyed trying!
2. Axelay (1992)
Konami unleashed this amazing game pretty much out of the blue and it took SNES owners by storm, myself included! There could be many reasons for this including the graphics which are at worst good, and at best jaw-dropping, or the fantastic soundtrack, but it must surely be the innovative and varied stage design that clinched it - there's a few new ideas here which work really well. For starters the game alternates between vertically and horizontally-scrolling stages. The former makes use of a pseudo-3D viewpoint combined with Mode 7 graphics to create an amazing scrolling landscape effect and the latter is packed full of moving scenery, barriers, and lots of crafty enemies that try to halt your advance in any way possible! Axelay hasn't aged at all and remains a superb and varied shmup that still commands a strong following today. Just one question... Why no sequel?
1. Super Aleste (1992)
Some may disagree with me but I still think this is one of the best vertical-scrollers of all time, and certainly the best shmup for the SNES generally, and the reason for this is simple - there's pretty much nothing about it that isn't awesome! The graphics may not be quite as flashy as some other shmups but they're still superb, detailed, and varied. The second stage in particular is noteworthy, featuring a distant enemy base that gradually gets closer and closer (using some splendid Mode 7, of course), all the while firing missiles at you from afar, until if finally gets close enough for you to shoot up! The sound is also fantastic too, with some great music, speech, and some very bassy explosions. There's also eight varied and customisable weapons which can all be powered-up, twelve long, well-designed stages, but best of all it has the most perfectly-pitched difficulty curve of any shmup I've played. A truly awesome shooter.