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Steel Strider photo
Steel Strider

Doujin spin on Turrican, Contra coming to Steam


Steel Strider blasts off this fall
Aug 01
// Kyle MacGregor
Chances are you're unfamiliar with Astro Port, which is equal parts understandable and unfortunate. Japanese independent studios don't get lavished with attention (something we're trying to change), and Astro Port's wares are...
Sol Divide photo
Sol Divide

Sol Divide makes the trek from PS1 to Steam


Console Classics
Jul 13
// Steven Hansen
Out of left field this All Star week: Sol Divide has come to Steam. Looks like an emulation of the PS1 port, and early user reviews suggest it works pretty good. But where did this come from? Well, the publisher is listed as ...
Astebreed photo
Astebreed

Doujin shmup Astebreed hits PS4 on June 25


Courtesy of Playism
Jun 11
// Kyle MacGregor
Astebreed is finally warping to PlayStation 4 on June 25, Playism announced today. The shoot-'em-up comes from doujin studio Edelweiss and was actually among my favorite games released last year when it debuted on PC. In addi...

Review: The Next Penelope

Jun 10 // Chris Carter
The Next Penelope (PC [reviewed], Wii U)Developer: Aurelien RegardPublisher: Plug In DigitalMSRP: $12.99Release Date: May 29, 2015 (PC) / TBA (Wii U) It's the year 3044, in Ithaca. Odysseus has been away at sea for 10 years, and his kingdom is now under attack by Poseidon, father of the Cyclopes race. As a result, it's up to Odysseus' wife Penelope to find him. If you couldn't tell by the year marker, all of this is set to the tone of a futuristic epic -- spaceships are prevalent throughout Penelope's universe, and Poseidon is basically a member of an alien race. A lot of people probably won't even pay attention to the ties to Homer's Odyssey, but it works for the most part. All of this setup brings us to the main event -- racing. Yep, somehow, someway, this is a classic top-down racer reminiscent of the Micro Machines games or Blizzard's Rock'n'Roll Racing. As such, the visuals are retro-centric, and I have to say, they look excellent. Everything from the animated anime-like portraits during cutscenes and the colorful, flashy in-game graphics are painstakingly detailed. The controls take no time at all to learn, as they mostly consist of just altering your direction by way of the arrow keys or the gamepad's triggers, but they'll take quite a while to master. Acceleration is automatic, but weapons and power-ups can be enacted by pressing a specific button (in the case of a keyboard, the up arrow). These range from things like boosts to bullets, which you'll often need to blow away enemies or blast through hazards like boulders. They're fun to use, but since the general gameplay is so fast, they don't have as big of an impact as they should. [embed]293674:58914:0[/embed] Power-ups also bring another classic racing mechanic into play -- energy zones from F-Zero. While micromanaging your abilities, staying on track, and fighting off foes, you'll also have to occasionally steer yourself into the way of energy areas to sap up more power-up meter. It's fast, frantic, and fun, especially since individual stages are roughly a minute or two long. What's amazing to me is that The Next Penelope hosts a four-hour campaign. Heck, with its old-school flair it didn't even really need to go this extra mile, but it did. The campaign is even further augmented by a full galaxy map, the power to choose what stats to level-up (including upgrades to steering, defensive capabilities, and more outwards camera zoom). Boss battles on top of all this madness make things even more interesting, turning the game into a full-on shooter. It's crazy how much variety there is. The four-person multiplayer mode also has a mini-story involving Penelope's suitors, who are battling each other for glory. It's not a fully-fledged campaign or anything, but it's a neat little way to justify its inclusion. The gist is that all four racers, CPU or player-controlled, are attempting to blow each other up while they struggle to stay on one screen. If you're left behind, you're dead, and the last ship standing takes it all. It's a good old-fashioned slugfest across nine maps, and given the way it works, all four players can feasibly share the same keyboard. It's important to note that no online play of any kind is supported. The Next Penelope is a blast to play on PC, and will probably be a massive hit at parties when it arrives on Wii U later this year. It's a shame more old-school racers aren't around, but with games like this and 90s Arcade Racer, the scene is seeing a revival that brings a huge smile to my face. [This review is based on a retail build provided by the publisher.]
Next Penelope review photo
My, how mortals take the gods to task
If I told you that I wanted to mix Greek mythology with the racing and shoot-'em-up genres, you'd probably call me crazy. But that's just what developer Aurelien Regard did with his one-man show The Next Penelope, and for the...

Review: Supercharged Robot Vulkaiser

Jun 02 // Kyle MacGregor
Supercharged Robot Vulkaiser (PC)Developer: Astro PortPublisher: Nyu MediaReleased: June 4, 2015MSRP: $4.99 The story centers on Takuya Akatsuki, captain of the eponymous Vulkaiser, and his trusty team of VulFighter comrades, who together must defend the planet from an armada of alien invaders. Akatsuki's buds can join him in battle one at a time, fusing their ships with his own. Each augment the Vulkaiser with a wide swathe of munitions ranging from a cannonade of heavy missile fire and a gun that harnesses the power of lightning to a needle blaster and a massive drill. Diffused between the levels are a series of vignettes where the VulFighters that just accompanied the protagonist will have something to say. While it's never explicitly stated, the game encourages players to stick with one squadmate throughout the experience, as the longer they accompany our hero in battle, the more of their personal storylines we see. It's a small lure, but those willing to humor it will discover an added wrinkle to the challenge. Even if you manage to clear the game on its hardest difficulty setting, sticking with a single VulFighter throughout the campaign's duration certainly ups the ante. In addition to particular allies being more useful in certain situations more so than others, they're also limited by their shields. Much like the Vulkaiser itself, the VulFighters only recharge a small amount of health between one battle and the next. Once a ship is gone, it's gone! And there aren't any continues either, so you need to be mindful about weaving through every barrage avoid an untimely and disappointing end. That's how Supercharged Robot Vulkaiser hooked me. Having initially played through the game and thought it enjoyable, if a tad prosaic outside of its charming '70s anime veneer, I began playing the game within the game. I decided to see if I would see new dialogue if kept using the same VulFighter. I soon discovered, yes, that's the case -- though this came with the realization that it might be difficult to keep them alive long enough to see all of it. And challenging it was. Going back to the lede, the moment Supercharged Robot Vulkaiser got under my skin was at its climax. I had nearly completed the entire game with my pal Kimiko in tow, only to see her VulFighter crash and burn mere moments before felling the final boss. I felt crestfallen, despondent, but more than anything imbued with a sense of purpose, an intense desire to forge ahead on this self-imposed quest. I found it remarkable how such a seemingly unexceptional experience could rise to be so much more than the sum of its parts. I can't guarantee Supercharged Robot Vulkaiser will blow you away, but I'm having a blast with it. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Doujin shmup review photo
On target
Amidst a wash of old school mecha anime and Tokusatsu-tinted nostalgia, there was a moment in this otherwise homespun shooter that left me surprised and curiously enamored. Supercharged Robot Vulkaiser doesn't come from a gen...

Japanese indie games! photo
Japanese indie games!

Supercharged Robot Vulkaiser invades Steam next week


Let's go, giant robot of steel!
May 28
// Kyle MacGregor
A blast of '70s-inspired action is bombarding Steam next week in Supercharged Robot Vulkaiser. Announced for a western release nearly two years ago, the mecha shooter from doujin studio Astro Port (Gigantic Army) is fina...
Evoland 2 photo
Evoland 2

Evoland 2 is part shmup, part platformer, part RPG, part puzzler...


Cute little microcosm
May 14
// Jordan Devore
After watching this debut trailer for Evoland 2: A Slight Case of Spacetime Continuum Disorder, I regret missing the first game. The basic concept of an adventure that evolves from 2D to 3D and spans multiple genres is the s...

Review: Touhou 14: Double Dealing Character

May 08 // Chris Carter
Touhou 14: Double Dealing Character (PC)Developer: Team Shanghai AlicePublisher: Team Shanghai Alice (JP) / Playism (US)Released: August 12, 2013 (JP) / May 7, 2015 (US)MSRP: $14.99 There's no Texas two-steppin' around it -- the "Western" release is not a good port. There's very little effort put forth at all, mostly due to the fact that it's relatively untouched from the Japanese version, and it's not translated -- at all. Double Dealing Character's menus were already in English, but extra details and bits of the story are all in Japanese, so you'll have to manually update it with an outside fan patch. When Playism announced that it was "bringing Touhou to the West," I assumed it would be a little more than "we made it slightly easier to buy the original Japanese game." Whether this is Playism's doing or Team Shanghai Alice's request, the result is the same.   The actual game, thankfully, is very good, and I must stress though that with the English menus, it is entirely playable. If you haven't experienced a danmaku (also known as bullet hell or curtain fire) game before, the concept is pretty easy to grasp. Tons of bullets will litter the screen at all times (like a curtain), and it's your job to maneuver around various patterns while firing back at your opponents. As is the case with most Touhou games, Double Dealing Character features a standard shot button in addition to one for specials, and a "slow" ability, which I'll explain in a moment. Where the Touhou team excels is in the presentation of it all. The bullet patterns are varied and constantly keep you on your toes, but they're also coupled with a charming art style and catchy music. Double Dealing Character is no exception. It would be fun to read the various story bits that pop up during boss fights and between levels, but again, you'll need a fan patch for that. Not being able to understand it all doesn't fundamentally ruin the game, but Touhou fans are big on their lore for a reason -- it gives context to the proceedings, and elevates the experience significantly. [embed]291754:58465:0[/embed] You'll have access to three characters, all of which have two different variations in tow. Each "ship" (in this case, a magical girl) has a different rate of fire or type of shot, such as a straight bullet or a spread. Specials add even more variety, like one character who uses a giant broom melee attack, or another who fires a deadly void bomb that slowly creeps up the screen. This is where the lack of a translation comes into play again -- you'll have to experiment with each variant since you can't read what they do on the select screen. Now, about that "slow" function I mentioned earlier -- it's another Touhou staple that spices things up a bit. At any time you can hold a button to make your character's flight more precise, which not only shows your hitbox (a blinking light that displays where bullets can damage you), but changes up your shot type as well. Personally, I always map it to the left trigger, so I can comfortably switch in and out of it at will, and it works like a charm. Thankfully there is plug and play controller support, and it's easy to customize your buttons. Like most shoot-'em-ups, Double Dealing Character will last you roughly an hour your first time around, with six stages and an additional EX level. There's also a few extras like a practice mode, music player, and some secrets that you'll definitely need a guide or translation for. Playism may have made it easier to buy into Touhou, but the actual result isn't anything better than just purchasing the game anywhere else. It you're a shoot-'em-up fan and haven't touched the franchise yet, you owe it to yourself to play at least one game in the series -- so why not start here? [This review is based on a retail build of the game purchased by the reviewer.]
Touhou review photo
Bad port, great shooter
As I've said in the past, I consider myself lucky when it comes to meeting fellow gamers over the years that have had a positive impact on my life. I was fortunate enough to discover the Touhou series back in 2002 at the...

Touhou photo
Touhou

Japan's most popular indie series arrives in the West


Touhou 14 out now on Playism
May 07
// Kyle MacGregor
The Japanese indie sensation Touhou has been around for nearly two decades. Since debuting in 1996, the series has transformed from a collection of obscure shoot-'em-ups into a cultural phenomenon, spawning a myriad of deriva...
Touhou photo
Touhou

More Touhou is coming to PlayStation 4


Croixleur studio announces STG port
May 06
// Kyle MacGregor
Touhou seems to be everywhere these days. The series is making its western debut tomorrow. A demo for the next mainline entry isn't too far behind. And even some of the fan-made games are on their way to PlayStation 4. The cu...
Karous 3DS photo
Karous 3DS

Trailer for 3DS shmup asks 'is life meant to be shitty?'


'Was I right to do this?'
May 03
// Jonathan Holmes
Karous is a vertical shmup about two hugging sisters that was released by Korea-based developer Milestone Inc. back in 2006. It was later ported to the Dreamcast, and then again to the Wii as part of the Ultimate Shooting Co...
Touhou 14 photo
Touhou 14

Touhou makes its western debut on May 7


Prolific doujin series finally crosses the Pacific
May 02
// Kyle MacGregor
When it comes to Japanese indie games, there's Touhou and then there's everything else. Over the course of two decades, the property has transformed from an series of obscure bullet hell shooters into a cultural phenomenon. H...
Japanese indie games! photo
Japanese indie games!

Playism is localizing doujin games for PS4, Vita


Astebreed, Croixleur Sigma, and more coming west in 2015
Apr 21
// Kyle MacGregor
Good news for fans of Japanese indie games: Playism is bringing its wares to consoles.  We've known this was happening for a while, but now it's official. The company has announced plans to localize a number of Japanese ...
Resogun photo
Resogun

Resogun developer Housemarque offers post mortem thoughts on its PS4 shooter


What a great game with great support
Apr 13
// Chris Carter
Housemarque did a fantastic job with Resogun. While I enjoyed it at launch somewhat it wasn't until the subsequent custom ship updates and extra mode DLC came out that I really started to play it in earnest. Now you can get ...
Touhou localization photo
Touhou localization

Doujin shooter Touhou 14 targets western release


And Playism aims for our hearts
Apr 07
// Jordan Devore
Japanese indie games distributor Playism scored the rights to one of the Touhou titles last year, putting us one step closer to a possible English-language adaptation of the popular doujin series. That was the speculation, an...
Dual iOS impressions photo
Dual iOS impressions

'Dual' is a really cool mobile shoot 'em up that functions over two devices


With a fair 'one person buys' setup
Apr 06
// Chris Carter
The other day I ran across a newly released shooter for iOS and Android called Dual. The whole gimmick is that it uses two devices to function, with a screen that spans between them. By forming a tenuous Voltron-esque link you can play two modes, versus and co-op. Although it is a free download, thankfully, only one person needs to buy the premium version ($1.99) to play the latter mode.

Review: Crimzon Clover World Ignition

Apr 03 // Chris Carter
Crimzon Clover World Ignition (PC)Developer: YotsubanePublisher: Yotsubane, DegicaReleased: June 6, 2014 (PC)MSRP: $9.99 I had played the vanilla version of Crimzon many years back, but I never gave it the proper attention it deserved. Now as a result of this assignment, I had a chance to really explore the game and came out immensely satisfied -- especially with all of the incremental upgrades that occurred over time. It's an excellent crash course in bullet hell, and with a variety of difficulty levels (including a really cool God Hand-esque adjusting mode) it will appeal to just about anyone. At first glance it may seem like Crimzon follows the standard "shot and bomb" methodology to a tee, but it's actually much more than that. For starters each ship has a lock-on ability similar to the Star Fox series, and the way it's implemented is just about perfect. By pressing the button you can scan the screen for targets, then release to instantly unleash your fury. What I love about the lock-on system here is that it's a radial mechanic, allowing you to stay in the action at all times even if your standard shot is out of reach. I also really dig the amount of detail that was put into the user interface, as you can see how many homing shots are active or if your allotment is full. All of the game's meters in general are conveniently placed on the screen and don't hinder gameplay. Everything from the plethora of point stars to the look of the bullets themselves feel like an homage to a CAVE shooter. The typical "press for bomb and blow up the screen" idea has been overhauled as well, replaced by the "Break" power. With the tap of a button you can enter a frenzy mode with enhanced firepower, with the option to end it early with a bomb. If you decide to wait for a longer period of time and gather more energy, you can double-break and blow away even more fodder. All three ships truly come alive in their own way with Break Mode.  The actual stages themselves aren't all that memorable when it comes to backgrounds or themes, but the bullet patterns are well constructed, which could be considered an art form. As a bullet hell game there will be lots of projectiles on the screen at once, all carefully crafted as manageable curtain fire. The ship's hitbox (weak point) is also plainly stated on-screen as a pulsating core, so there's no guesswork involved. There are four modes of play (Boost, Original, Unlimited, and Time Attack), as well as two difficulty levels. With only five stages those settings come in handy, though that may be stretching it a bit when it comes to long-term replay value. Thankfully, the developer seems to be keeping up with any issues, as the latest update for the Steam version was a little over a month ago, which to me indicates dedication -- particularly since the game was built by one person. Crimzon Clover may not be the most fully-featured or best-looking shoot-'em-up around, but the commitment to excellence for both the player's ship mechanics and the enemy bullet designs is impressive. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Crimzon Clover review photo
A clover by any other name
Every so often, something will come across my desk that I completely overlooked at the time. Valdis Story: Abyssal City was a perfect example of that. For a while now readers have been asking about Crimzon Clover World Ignition, and I finally set aside the time to play it. That ended up being a good choice.

The joy of bullet hell photo
The joy of bullet hell

The joy of bullet hell


Pew pew, I'm in heaven
Mar 31
// Chris Carter
Shoot-'em-ups started innocently enough. Spacewar blasted its way onto computers back in the 1960s, and after Space Invaders was released, the rest was history. Galaga and Galaxian would go on to further popularize the genre,...
Pythetron Kickstarter photo
Pythetron Kickstarter

Gorgeous 2.5D shoot-'em-up Pythetron now on Kickstarter


But you can play the game now, because the designer's cool like that
Mar 24
// Rob Morrow
Talented game designer and artist TJ Townsend has taken his visually stunning 2.5D shoot-'em-up Pythetron to Kickstarter, looking to secure -- in today's crowdfunding terms -- a very reasonable $5,00...
More Geometry Wars photo
More Geometry Wars

Geometry Wars 3 is evolving with 40 new stages and Hardcore Mode


Somehow this is a free update
Mar 17
// Jordan Devore
This is unexpected. Geometry Wars 3: Dimensions is rolling out a free update across all platforms (PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, PC) on March 31, 2015 that's large enough to warrant a name change. Going forward, the game wil...
Jamestown+ photo
Jamestown+

Colonial shmup Jamestown+ launches on PS4 tomorrow


Help colonize Mars with your friends
Mar 16
// Ben Davis
The definitive version of Jamestown: Legend of the Lost Colony, a bullet hell shooter set on 17th-century British colonial Mars, was planned to release last summer on the PS4. But as luck would have it, there were some delay...
Soldner X-2 photo
Soldner X-2

Beautiful shmup Söldner X-2 is coming to Vita this month


The PS3 version came out in 2010
Mar 05
// Chris Carter
The Söldner X series has had a home on the PlayStation 3 for years, hosting two titles, the newest of which released in 2010. Now, Söldner X-2 is heading for the PlayStation Vita this month on March 17. It'll ...
Velocity 2X photo
Velocity 2X

Hybrid platformer/shoot-'em-up Velocity 2X headed to Steam and Xbox One


The goggles do nothing
Feb 25
// Jordan Devore
We didn't review Velocity 2X for PlayStation 4 or PS Vita, but Hamza did talk about how this half vertical spaceship shooter, half side-scrolling platformer was going to "melt [our] eyeballs." Hah, that Destructoid dot com --...
Cave photo
Cave

Cave has a new shoot-'em-up hitting mobile in April


Probably only in Japan, sadly
Feb 23
// Kyle MacGregor
DoDonPachi studio Cave is back with a new mobile shooter, "Gothic Magic Maiden," which is set to arrive in Japan on April 16. Whether it will ever come west seems pretty doubtful, though. Cave shuttered its official Eng...
Raptor photo
Raptor

PC classic shmup Raptor: Call of the Shadows is on Steam


'90s-riffic
Feb 17
// Chris Carter
If you were an old school PC gamer in the '90s, you remember Raptor. It was a really rad shoot-'em-up that had a heavy emphasis on upgrades, allowing you to slowly enhance your plane over the course of 27 levels. It was a fu...

Review: Super Stardust Ultra

Feb 13 // Chris Carter
Super Stardust Ultra (PS4)Developer: HousemarquePublisher: SonyReleased: February 10, 2015MSRP: $12.99  Sony has been somewhat vague as to what Ultra actually is, but the reality is fairly easy to explain. It's a brand new game (without the option to update or Cross-Buy for past owners) that feels more like current-generation update than a true sequel. If you've never played a Stardust game before, it's commonly described as a twin-stick shooter that's a cross between Asteroids and Robotron, which is as apt as it gets. You'll pilot a ship across a spherical zone, blasting away at enemies to wrack up points. There are obviously intricacies that are made known the more you play it (certain weapon types smash certain asteroids more efficiently), but for the most part it's an arcade-centric shooter that looks pretty. Enemy waves come quickly but not in an overwhelming manner, putting this smack in the middle of a true bullet-hell shooter and a casual title. Housemarque really nails that feel throughout the entire game, to the point where you don't ever feel like deaths are cheap, but you also feel like you've earned your high score. [embed]287580:57334:0[/embed] There are nine modes in total, all of which ultimately feel the same but are still fun because of how solid the core shooting mechanics are. While Arcade, Endless, and Survival are self-explanatory, modes like Bomber and Impact help mix things up with forced handicaps, only giving the player the power to use bombs or a boost attack respectively. Blockade is basically Snake, leaving a trail behind you as you move. As you can probably tell, aside from Blockade it's not very riveting stuff once you've saturated all you can from Arcade. "Interactive Streaming" however is a new mode that's more novel than the rest. You can easily broadcast a game on the PS4, and lets other people "vote" on what happens -- good or bad. I had a fun time both watching and playing this mode since it feels like a natural evolution of the series, and takes advantage of new hardware in a fun way. Social features have a way of creeping up on modern games too often, but getting more people to share their experiences across Sony's network is a great thing. At this point though my enjoyment of the Stardust series as a whole is starting to dull a bit. Personally I prefer Housemarque's other PS4 project Resogun both stylistically and mechanically, as Stardust can often feel boring with its same-looking spherical flow. Although the former employs a similar "endless" rail trick, it looks and feels like a living, breathing city on the brink of destruction as opposed to the same planet with minor hue adjustments. Still, Ultra is decidedly impressive running at 1080p and 60fps on the PS4 (with 3D if you have it). It's the best its ever looked. Multiplayer is a bit more fleshed out with local four player co-op that supports both same and split-screen co-op experiences, along with a host of competitive modes like Last Man Standing and deathmatch. The longevity of any Stardust game is going to come from solo high-score runs, but playing with a friend or three who also happen to enjoy shooters is a great way to pass the time. Sadly, the opportunity to add online play was missed yet again. Oh, there is also a small ship editor included but it's very bare-bones -- you can only shift around pre-existing parts, and it's not nearly as featured as Resogun. If you already own a prior entry and aren't bonkers about the series, you can probably pass on Super Stardust Ultra in favor of something original like Geometry Wars 3, as very little is wholly new here. But if you're the type of gamer who worked tirelessly in the past for a top Stardust score and can't get enough, this is the smoothest package yet. While I may be slowing down with my love for the franchise in light of recent competition, the light isn't entirely extinguished.
Super Stardust Ultra photo
New dust, old stars
Super Stardust has been around for a long time -- since 1994, in fact. Although most people know the franchise from Super Stardust HD, it was originally on the Amiga platform before it hit the big-time. Now developer Hou...

Starr Mazer adds Transformers composer Vince DiCola, high profile crossovers

Feb 12 // Darren Nakamura
[embed]287554:57304:0[/embed]
Starr Mazer photo
Shovel Knight, Hyper Light Drifter, Children of Morta
Starr Mazer came out of the gate with an impressive roster of artists working on its soundtrack. Despite having a huge list of talent to pull from, developer Imagos Softworks has added another composer sure to pull on some n...

Resogun photo
Resogun

Resogun free update available now, expansion coming


So much Resogun, so little time
Feb 11
// Robert Summa
If you own a PS4, then you should already own Resogun. It's a quality game. Trust me. For those that left this game on the virtual back shelf for a while, it might be time to check out what's changed. Starting today, a gigant...
Kromaia contest photo
Five copies up for grabs
Our friends at Kraken Empire have given us five keys for their crazy shoot-'em-up Kromaia to give away to lucky Dtoiders! Described as a frantic, old-school, coin-op shoot-'em-up that's come crashing headlong into the 21st c...

Aerobat photo
Aerobat

My brain can't handle this 'absurdly high-speed arcade shmup-like'


Let's get this through Steam Greenlight
Jan 23
// Jordan Devore
Not ten seconds into watching this video for Aerobat, a shoot-'em-up about "reckless self-endangerment," I fired off a staff email to call dibs on posting it. Holy shit! Gimme. Your pilot's ship doesn't have enough power to ...

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