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Curse [Sega Mega Drive - 1989]

Played through Curse [Sega Mega Drive - 1989]. Curse is an obscure, early Mega Drive space-shooter that appealed to me instantly from stage one. And the fun mostly persisted the whole way through (although I admittedly abused save-states to alleviate my frustration from the game’s lack of continues or checkpoints). This game rightfully takes criticism for its abysmally choppy frame-rate, but I found that it didn’t take long to adjust to the motion and ultimately forget about it altoget

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Violent Soldier [PC Engine - 1990]

Played through Violent Soldier [PC Engine - 1990]. This awkwardly-named 16-bit game boasts all the trappings of a grade-A shoot-em-up. It has a heavy R-Type influence (high memorization factor and endearingly derivative mechanics), fantastic design and atmosphere (with great music and a creepy, organic visual twist on everything from lightning-filled caverns to vegetation-heavy space trails), and a highly memorable “jaw” gimmick. Said jaws are the defining feature of this title - they hinge

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Final Soldier [PC Engine]

Played through Final Soldier [PC Engine]. I actually cleared a space-shooter on normal difficulty without save-states - this is EXCITING!!! Final Soldier is Hudson Soft’s second Star Soldier game on the Japanese PC Engine (which, unlike Super Star Soldier and Soldier Blade, never got localized to the North American TurboGrafx-16). And while it may not garner the same acclaim as its brethren, I think it shines equally bright as a solid representative of the broader 16-bit vertical shoot-em-u

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Truxton (Tatsujin) [Sega Genesis]

Played Truxton (Tatsujin) [Sega Genesis]. Truxton is a bit of a cult-classic early 16-bit space-shooter, and I’ve had a secondhand affinity for it ever since I started watching Classic Game Room (which constantly references it as a running gag) in the primordial days of YouTube. It feels almost like a natural evolution of Star Soldier from some parallel timeline where Hudson Soft didn’t develop the successive Soldier games, and instead Toaplan took the reins. My copy of the game is actually

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Dragon Spirit: The New Legend [NES]

Played Dragon Spirit: The New Legend [NES] It took a turbo-controller and save-states at the final boss, but I finally finished one of my favorite NES games for the first time. Dragon Spirit is a fantasy themed shoot-em-up where you play as - surprise - a DRAGON! The game uses Xevious attack mechanics, employing both a standard shot for airborne enemies and short-range bombs for ground enemies. Naturally, powerups increase your fire, but they also allow you to evolve into different dragon i

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The Legend of Zelda [NES]

Played through The Legend of Zelda [NES]. As a cryptic, nonlinear, exploration-based, action RPG - The Legend of Zelda is everything I hate in a video game, yet it’s an undeniable staple of the NES library (and the larger classic gaming canon). So I finally decided to play it - but in the least painful way possible: using a comprehensive online guide to save me the trouble of figuring out where to go or what to do on my own. And even though I still found the exploration obtuse and the

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Asteroids [Atari 2600]

Rolled the score on Asteroids [Atari 2600] for game variation 1/B/B. Asteroids is a staple among classic space-shooters, but I’d never spent much time with it before - maybe because it demands that you rotate to aim your shot rather than offering a fixed-direction attack like most of its contemporaries (i.e. Space Invaders). The gameplay is definitely fun, though - and it’s always satisfying to decimate a blanket of huge space-rocks at the start of each new wave. I managed to roll the

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Raiden Densetsu [Super Famicom]

Played through Raiden Densetsu [Super Famicom]. Raiden was a staple of early arcade shoot-em-ups, which can sometimes translate to console ports with clunky controls and merciless “quarter-munching” difficulty. Luckily, Raiden Densetsu on the Super Nintendo manages to steer clear of these pitfalls, offering smooth maneuvering and easy settings with adjustable lives, bombs, and credits (at least on the Japanese release). I had a lot of fun with this game - it’s one of the most straightf

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R-Type III [Super Famicom]

Played through R-Type III [Super Famicom]. This wasn’t a legitimate clear because I used save states (bookmarks that aren’t natively built into the game), but R-Type III is just too challenging for me to finish otherwise. In spite of the punishing difficulty, though, this is one of the best space-shooters I’ve ever played. R-Type is the quintessential “strategy shoot-em-up” franchise, where the focus is on stage-memorization and route-planning rather than reflex. This is my personal fa

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Hello Kitty World [Famicom]

Played through Hello Kitty World [Famicom]. This game is a neat curiosity in its convoluted branding and localization. Its origins trace back to Balloon Fight, a staple of Nintendo’s original 1985 NES / Famicom lineup, which was heavily-inspired by Williams Electronics’ 1982 arcade hit Joust (but without the ostriches). Balloon Fight later spawned a 1990 Game Boy sequel - Balloon Kid, which was exclusive to North America and Europe at the time. Japan didn’t get a taste until 1992, when the

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Strike Gunner STG [Super Famicom]

Played through Strike Gunner STG [Super Famicom]. The most endearing part of this game (which was released in 1992) is that it’s set in the ‘distant’ year of 2008. The developers thought that, by then, we’d be fighting aliens on the moon with our high-tech spacecraft, instead of fighting each other on the internet with our high tech cell-phones. Even on easy mode with 9 lives per credit, this game still smoked me over and over again until I found the best loadout for each stage. That’s

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Tekkaman Blade [Super Famicom]

Played through Tekkaman Blade [Super Famicom]. I love a good shoot-em-up / platformer hybrid (Wonder Boy III, Xexyz, Robocco Wars), but Tekkaman Blade is the first shoot-em-up / fighting game hybrid that I've ever played. And in spite of my general distaste for the 1-on-1 fighter genre, I had a lot of fun with this title. I liked the consistency in stage partitioning, where progression felt predictable with just enough small variations to keep things interesting and imply that you're advanc

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Pop'N Twinbee [Super Famicom]

Played through Pop'N Twinbee [Super Famicom]. As usual, I played on easy mode. I still had to make a couple of attempts to clear it, but the game didn't give me too much grief aside from the final boss. And I had to switch to a control pad instead of my arcade panel because the button-configuration was cramping my hands. The visuals here are some of the best I've yet encountered in the 'cute-em-up' sphere, surpassing the likes of Parodius and Cotton, and contending with my personal fav

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Phoenix [Atari 2600]

Played Phoenix [Atari 2600] this week. This is probably my favorite traditional fixed-shooter, even above classics like Galaga and Space Invaders. I just love how distinct the phases are, culminating in a mothership battle at the end of each loop. And the mechanics are perfectly simple - just shoot and dodge (along with a temporary shield that absorbs enemy fire, but can end up trapping you because it locks you in place while activated). That's not to say I'm any good at this game - I

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Cotton 100% [Super Famicom]

Played through Cotton 100% [Super Famicom]. It's rare that I find a classic game too lenient in its beginner settings, but Cotton 100% actually made me feel like some kind of gaming-prodigy when I played it on easy-mode with extra lives/continues. I was able to credit-feed my way to the end in a single attempt, but at the expense of really learning the enemy patterns or mastering the mechanics. Cutesy scrolling shoot-em-ups like this are always charming (if surprisingly lewd at times), an

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Super Bomberman 2 [Super Famicom]

Played through Super Bomberman 2 [Super Famicom]. I usually prefer action-puzzlers to be heavier on the puzzles, lighter on the action - but Bomberman games are the exception. This was a fantastic title, and I really enjoyed the boss battles, enemy designs, and stage themes.  My only complaints were the frequency of new stage gimmicks (by the time I got fully accustomed to one new element, it was swapped for another) and the final boss battle. I couldn't damage the big one-eyed alien guy,

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