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 altogether. And my only other major criticisms are that a few early stage hazards blend into the background too much, and (as usual) the difficulty is too steep. That being said, Curse may have a claim to being my favorite Sega shoot-em-up (alongside Arrow Flash and GleyLancer).
Curse is, in most respects, a run-of-the-mill space-shooter, but there are a few standout elements to lend it some distinction - one being its audio cues. Few shooters incorporate sound as a necessary gameplay component, but stages 2 and 4 make excellent use of blaring deflection pings to signal approaching meteors (which would otherwise be hidden among swarms of enemies). If you can hear your own forward-facing shots ringing, you can preemptively avoid collisions. Curse also offers a fun and welcome introductory element to several of the boss fights, where battles are preceded by ‘lesser’ versions of the stage boss to familiarize you with the general attack patterns you’ll soon contend with on a more lethal scale. My favorite example of this is the Serpent boss, which coils around the screen emitting radial bullets as you maneuver to aim at its vulnerable head.
The last facet of Curse that makes it particularly noteworthy is the haunting label-art, evoking an alien-like automaton with exposed inner organs fused with machinery. I was thrilled to find this unsettling figure make an appearance in-game as the final boss encounter, where it transforms into an even more grotesque, skeletal creature. Space-shooters are always better with a healthy dose of nightmare-inducing monsters, after all.