UFO has been an interesting publisher of late. They're the company behind The Monkey King: The Legend Begins and Heavenly Guardian. A lot of what the publish is shovelware but they are not afraid of bringing obscure Japanese titles to the U.S. and usually at a bargain price. Enter Ultimate Shooting Collection. In early 2007, there were a few people waiting with baited breath for the release of Radio Allergy in the U.S. Unfortunately, that project died after several delays and attempts to keep it afloat by the publisher O3. I was saddened but not heartbroken since I owned an import copy of the original for Gamecube as well as the soundtrack. Still, I am very happy to see a domestic release for such a charming shooter.
Ultimate Shooting Collection is made up of 3 popular shmups by Milestone - Chaos Field, Radio Allergy/Radirgy and Karous. All three of these games are tied to each other in rather subtle ways. In all three, the player controls a ship with a sword of some type that can destroy bullets and enemies. I've often felt that Radirgy felt like a more fully developed game based on the mechanics of Chaos Field. After a few minutes with Karous, it feels like a natural evolution to Radirgy.
Chaos Field is slightly different than the Gamecube game released in December 2005. That game is actually Chaos Field Expanded which is basically an upgrade to Chaos Field. The music and graphics are a bit better and the difficulty is a bit easier in Expanded.
The game included in this collection is the straight up Chaos Field for Naomi. It's basically a boss and mini-boss rush through a futuristic world. Unlike the other games in this bundle, Chaos Field uses 3D graphics and the whole width of the screen. The bosses are massive and the bullet patterns are nothing short of brilliant. Luckily for the player, the ship is equipped with guns and a light sword that can cut down specific enemy bullets. It's just as important to damage the boss as it is to watch the bullet patterns. The game is played in the Order Field. At any time, the player can switch to the Chaos Field which increases the attack power of both the boss and the player. It's a risky thing to switch fields but the payoffs make it worth the risk. This is a rather unique and entertaining take on the genre.
Chaos Field is a great game on its own but my least favorite in this collection. If this were Expanded, I may feel differently.
Radirgy is a more vertical shmup than Chaos Field. The graphics in Radirgy are cel-shaded and look very Dreamcast, which is a good thing. At the beginning of the game, the player chooses which type of gun to equip on the ship. There are the standard spread and laser shots and the all-awesome bubble shot. The player has a few tools at their disposal. The ship's main gun, the sword that can be used to take out both enemies and some bullets and, when the player is not firing, a shield appears that bounces enemy projectiles into a meter to be used with supers. As the game is progressing, text messages appear at the bottom of the screen. These often contain advice or hints from classmates in order to get the main character hyped. It's all very quirky, very Japanese and very beautiful. The game is fast and fluid and the enemy bullet patterns are hypnotic. This is the game that put Milestone into my gamer vocabulary.
Radirgy is a fairly standard shmup. The music and graphics make it feel more charming than other shooters and the running text message conversations also add a different tone to the game; it's much more playful and silly than most shmups.
Of all the games in this collection, Karous was the only one I had never played. Karous is quite obviously running on the Radirgy engine. The graphics are cel-shaded and Dreamcast-y just like the Radirgy graphics. The biggest difference is that the graphics in Karous are very dark and heavy - lots of black, gray and red - much like the story. The gamplay is similar; Karous only has one type of main weapon, a sword and a super attack that looks like a red skull and absorbs enemy bullets and boosts attack power of the sword and gun weapons.
The story in Karous is also much darker than Radirgy. There was a war between the people of Heaven and Earth. The main character is a young of mixed blood who lost both parents in the war. She sets out to avenge her parents by destroying the people of earth. She doesn't know that she carries the blood of both species.
While the overall look of Karous is similar to Radirgy, the gameplay is very different. The player's weapons are basically the same but the super is very different. Enemy bullet patterns are more intense often forcing the player to use the super to merely survive. Most of the enemies are also more aggressive than those found in Radirgy. The music is just as good in both games but the tunes is Karous are darker and somewhat more epic. This is easily my favorite game on the disc.
The interface in the game is more in line with the Japanese cover and is very elegant. Once a game is chosen, the player can then set options such as difficulty and controller set up. This collection supports Gamecube, Classic Controller and Wiimote + nunchuk. I don't think I want any motion controls in my shmups but thanks for the option.
The Ultimate Shooting Collection contains three really good bullet hell shmups. The games are tied together by gameplay concepts which gives the collection a unified feeling. If you like shmups, buy this right away.