Saturday, September 11, 2010

Gamecube Shoot Em' Ups

The Shoot Em' Up genre is one of the defining genres of hardcore gaming. The best of the best can still get their ass kicked on a regular basis. This is one of the most appealing aspects of the genre, since only the most devoted will ever take down the final boss. A delicate combination of dexterity, decisiveness, and luck are necessary to survive a Shooter, and, dare I say, no system is complete without at least one good SHMUP. That being said, the best systems have a good library of these games, and the Gamecube is one of those systems. So, without further ado, let's start on the list of Gamecube SHMUPs!


The most well-known shooter on the 'Cube, and certainly the most well-respected, Ikaruga is what happens when a shock of innovation is given to the genre. In the game, you have a ship that can switch between a white mode and a black mode. While in white mode, you can absorb white bullets, not being damaged by them. However, you can still be damaged by black bullets, and vice versa. However, shooting bullets of the opposite color of an enemy does more damage, but obviously leaves you more susceptible to damage. It is an interesting system of risk and reward that really gives the game personality. The other reason Ikaruga is so revered is its difficulty. To be blunt, Ikaruga is mercilessly brutal, but it is that special kind of difficulty, that, while frustrating, is always pushing you to keep trying and go "just one more round". The controls are also perfectly executed on the controller, with notably precise movement and response time. As we know, good controls are essential to an enjoyable game. To put this another way, if you die in Ikaruga, it's your own damn fault. The game also looks fantastic, running in 480p, despite it still being in arcade screen mode. There are options to have fullscreen gameplay if you have a screen tilted on its side, but I never got a chance to test that out. Once again, I must say that Ikaruga's visuals are stunning. A lot of the graphics look like they belong in a mid-to-high-end Xbox game, expecially the detailed backgrounds. All this can be expected, since the game was made by Treasure, a company with a long-standing pedigree for making outstanding games, such as the spiritual predecessor to Ikaruga, Radiant Silvergun; another extremely fun SHMUP, and an exclusive to the Sega Saturn. If you have the means, I highly recommend picking it up. Anyway, Ikargua is one of the best shooters of the previous generation, and was not available on the PS2 or Xbox; a scenario where usually the opposite was true. the Gamecube did not have too many SHMUPs, but the ones it did have were quite good, as you will see later on in this post.

Chaos Field

Chaos Field is a very different kind of shooter. In most games in the genre, you must go through several waves of enemies before you reach the boss at the end of the stage. Well, in Chaos Field, there is no small fry. Only bosses. That means no enemies that die with a few hits, and no legions of tiny ships that you can easily mow down. In many ways, Chaos Field is more of a SHMUP trainer than a true-blue shooter, in that the parts of the game that train you to be a better player; the bosses, are all you get. You get right down to Bullet Dodging 101 at If It Moves, Shoot It University. Basically, if you can survive Chaos Field, you can succeed in most shooters. Anyway, in this game, you choose between 3 ships with their own individual pilots and shooting styles. Pretty standard in terms of a shooter. But one of the nicer game mechanics in Chaos Field is what I call the "Windshield Wiper", a beam of light that circles around your ship that, while clearing all bullets in the immediate area, does not allow you to shoot. This is a handy tool for when things get too hectic, and traces back to my idea that Chaos Field is a SHMUP trainer, as opposed to an all-out bulletfest. That doesn't mean that the game is bad; it is very enjoyable when measured up against the genre's high standards, but I think a little more effort could have been put into the presentation. The graphics are good enough, but after playing some of the better-looking games on the 'Cube, Chaos Field really starts to look mediocre. It is nowhere near being a dealbreaker, though.

Radirgy Generic

Don't let the name fool you; this game is anything but generic. Radirgy [a.k.a Radio Allergy] is a stylish SHMUP released for the Gamecube, Dreamcast, PS2, and will soon be released on the Xbox 360. The game's visuals are fresh, virbant, and colorful in comparison to most games; the visuals have the same "techno cel-shaded" feel as in games like Jet Set Radio, and it certainly makes the game interesting. To accentuate this, the game also runs in 480p. However, the game still retains its arcade screen size, so the areas to the left and right of the game window are not used. Shooter purists won't mind this, but personally, I always liked my shooters to take up the whole screen, even if they are vertically-scrolling. But, that's just my opinion. It isn't really an issue once you get into the game. The gameplay is fairly standard, but you are given a few different extra features with which to dispatch enemy ships. The first is an energy sword-like attack that deals quite a bit of damage, but you must be at point blank range to use it. Another nice feature is your special move. Instead of a bomb that takes out everything on the screen, you get a forcefield that absorbs bullets, and retaliates against enemies. The more bullets it collects, the more powerful your attack will be. It is a neat attack, and can be surprisingly effective when used correctly. The music in Radirgy is cool, and has a distinct futuristic theme that fits well with the game. Once again, the game really reminds me of Jet Set Radio in its overall presentation. One thing I should mention, though, Radirgy was not released on the Gamecube outside of Japan. It was very, VERY close to getting a US release, but was cancelled at the last minute, and added to the "Ultimate Shooting Collection" for the Wii. There are supposedly finished copies of the localized game available, and several beta discs. [Say, if you happen to have one, let me know; I'd be glad to buy it from you]. It was a real shame that it was never released; it would have been the last truly great Gamecube game.

Shikigami No Shiro II

Let me just get the history of this game out of the way, first, because it can get confusing. Shikigami no Shiro was originally a PS2 and Xbox game, and got localized under the Name Mobile Light force 2 in the US, while the original Mobile Light Force was actually a port and localization of Gunbird to the PS1. The insteresting thing is that both games used almost the exact same box art, which looks more suited for a Charlie's Angels game. However, Shikigami no Shiro 2 was released for the Gamecube, Xbox, and PS2, and was localized in America for the Xbox and PS2 under the roughly translated name Castle Shikigami 2, despite never receiving a game with the name Castle Shikigami. Europe only got the PS2 port, which was renamed Castle Shikigami 2: War of the Worlds, not to be confused with the Science Fiction classic. The Gamecube version was never localized at all. Then, Shikigami No Shiro 3 was released for the Wii and 360, where it was only localized on the Wii, and got a slightly more correctly-translated title, as Castle of Shikigami 3, making the 3rd one the only game in the series localized on a Nintendo platform. *Whew*! That was the most complicated game series chronology I had to explain since Adventure Island! Anyway, back to the subject. Shikigami No Shiro 2, as I said, is import-only, just like Radirgy. But, the game is still worth checking out. For one, you get a larger-than-normal number of players to choose from, all with distinctly different shooting styles and strengths. Yeah, that's right; I said "players", not "ships". In Shikigami No Shiro, you play as a person who flies and shoots with psychic powers. Well, it's different, I'll give it that. The backgrounds are all in 3D, and they move around a lot, giving a surprisingly cool effect when moving through an area. The background moves like a roller coaster, and is a nice supplement to the action. Other than these things, Shikigami No Shiro 2 is a fairly standard shooter, with a few extra difficulty modes to make things easy for newcomers, but still give veterans a challenge.

Hudson Selection Volume 2: Star Soldier

Now we're talking! Star Soldier, in my opinion, is the absolute pinnacle of Gamcube SHMUPs. I used to give that honor to Radirgy, but only recently have I played Star Soldier, which blows it out of the water! I have no idea how I missed out on this awesome remake, but I'm glad I discovered it when I did. Star Soldier games always have a knack for finding their way onto Nintendo consoles, and the 'Cube is no exception. This game is actually a remake of the original Star Soldier, with updated graphics, sound, and everything else. I honestly didn't expect much going in, despite knowing that the original was a classic, but I was shocked to see the effort put into remaking the game! The music is pure awesome, with tons of hard rock to get you pumped up, and is easily one of the best soundtracks I have heard in a shooter. The graphics are great, too, with a good amount of detail put into enemies and scenery. Nothing mind-blowing, but it is cool, nonetheless. You really can't tell it is a remake; it looks as good as most Gamecube games. The control is absolutely perfect. The analog stick works quite well, but the D-Pad is even better. If you happen to have a Hori Classic controller, prepare for gaming nirvana with Star Soldier. It is so tight and responsive, it makes most other SHMUPs feel inferior. Everything in the game is polished to a blinding point, and as far as I am concerned, it easily makes it the Gamecube's best shooter. You want to know the best part? When the game was released, it was a budget title, meaning it sold for much less than a normal game. It sold for 3,000 yen at release; about $30. If has escalated in resale value since then, for obvious reasons, but still, this could have easily passed as a full-price game. It would still be worth it. Hudson released 3 other remakes for the Gamecube and PS2 under the same pricing structure, and they were all superb. So, if I have not been perfectly clear, if you are a shooter fan and own a Gamecube or Wii, you have to get this game. It is another import, so you will have to find a way to play it on a non-Japanese system, but trust me, you will NOT regret it.

So, there we have it. The best Shoot Em' Up action the Gamecube has to offer. The library may not live up to the sheer number found in that of the Saturn, PS1/2, or TurboGrafx, but Nintendo's lunchbox can still stand tall and say it has an admirable SHMUP library. I would really recommend tracking down some of these titles; while only 2 were released outside Japan, they are still fun and certainly worth playing. So go give your 'Cube some shooter love today.

This is Lisalover1, inserting another damn credit.

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