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Shmups

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 ...
Starr Mazer Kickstarter photo
Starr Mazer Kickstarter

Point-and-click shoot 'em up Starr Mazer now on Kickstarter


Starrmazing
Jan 22
// Darren Nakamura
A couple days ago Steven told us that Mega Man composer Manami Matsumae would be contributing to Starr Mazer, and that she would not be alone in that endeavor. Indeed, the huge list of composers on the Starr Mazer Kickstarte...
A Quiver of Crows photo
A Quiver of Crows

A Quiver of Crows looks lovely, seeks Greenlight approval


Flying skeletons and laser-firing birds can have all of my votes
Jan 10
// Rob Morrow
Although I'm not a shmup aficionado by any stretch of the imagination, I do enjoy playing them from time to time. The ones that I tend to go for are typically on the unusual end of the spectrum. They either stand out du...
Resogun photo
Resogun

Resogun weaves its way onto PS3 and Vita tomorrow


Portable voxels incoming!
Dec 22
// Kyle MacGregor
Resogun is coming to PlayStation 3 and Vita tomorrow with cross-buy support. Dale North gave Housemarque's voxel-charged shoot-'em up a glowing review when it first arrived on PS4. He called it "the ideal system launch g...
Atomic Santa photo
Atomic Santa

Dropsy's Jay Tholen presents Atomic Santa: Christmas Omega


A satirical sleigh ride into the weird world of paranoia culture
Dec 21
// Rob Morrow
From the strange and fertile imagination of Jay Tholen (Dropsy the Clown) comes a very special holiday treat this Christmas season. A harrowing tale of two brave individuals willing to stand tall aga...
Resogun photo
Resogun

Looks like Resogun is also coming to PS3


It's like Defender except I don't hate myself afterwards
Dec 03
// Jordan Devore
Housemarque's arcade shooter Resogun was the first PlayStation 4 game I played and, a year later, I still think that was the right choice; someone had to save those humans and it might as well have been me. Did they all survi...
PlayStation Plus photo
PlayStation Plus

Deadly Premonition: The Director's Cut free with PS Plus in December


Injustice on PS4 and Hitman HD Trilogy on PS3, too
Nov 26
// Jordan Devore
A whole new audience is about to experience the delightful oddities of Deadly Premonition: The Director's Cut (PS3) once it joins PlayStation Plus. They don't know what they're in for, Zach. Hitman HD Trilogy (PS3), which inc...
The Blue Flamingo photo
The Blue Flamingo

The Blue Flamingo is a ridiculously adorable shmup


Might and Delight exemplify handcrafted Indie games
Nov 18
// Rob Morrow
Swedish game studio Might and Delight really knows how to make games that stand out visually. Its attractive-looking paper art style on the Shelter series is, in my mind, unmistakable. I can recognize the stud...
Bullet Hell iOS photo
Bullet Hell iOS

Bullet Hell Infinite looks like a neat indie iOS shooter


Coming to Android as well
Nov 03
// Chris Carter
Nicolas Bevillard has spent quite a bit of time crafting his own take on the bullet hell genre, and the fruits of his labor is Bullet Hell Infinite -- which is out now on iOS, and in development for Android. It's basically a...
Resogun PS Vita photo
Resogun PS Vita

Resogun coming to PlayStation Vita (Update)


Off-the-cuff announcement
Oct 30
// Kyle MacGregor
Today over at the PlayStation Blog, Sony Xdev Studio Europe detailed some new additions to Housemarque's PlayStation 4 shoot-'em-up, Resogun. (Photo mode incoming!) Funnily enough, though, the article's most enticing piece of...

Review: A City Sleeps

Oct 21 // Nic Rowen
A City Sleeps (PC [reviewed], Mac)Developer: Harmonix Music Systems, IncPublisher: Harmonix Music Systems, IncReleased: October 16, 2014MSRP:$14.99 A City Sleeps is an experiment for Harmonix, and it very much feels like it (with all the good and ill that implies). While the side-scrolling arcade shoot-'em-up genre is a total departure from its previous body of work, the studio's fixation with music remains present as ever, cleverly blending the action on screen to the soundtrack. Both the player and the enemies fire in time with the music, creating a synesthesia-like experience of sensory interplay; listening is often as important as watching closely, and getting into the rhythm of the soundtrack can mean the difference between successfully anticipating attacks and being in the right place at the right time, or dying a clumsy embarrassing death. More than any other shmup I've played, when it's at its best, City encourages the sublime trance-like experience of total concentration that enthusiasts of the genre know and love. Which is why it's a shame there are so many small annoyances and flaws that will frequently, and rudely, snap you out of that hypnotic state. City casts the player as Poe, a sort of dream-exorcist who is able to dive into the sub-conscious minds of others and purge them of their personal demons. The game is set in a super-slick techno-future where the line between "person" and "personal computer" has blurred to a point of non-distinction. The dreamlike imagery focuses on that tension, calling up visions of ruined cities, clockwork machinery, and teaming insects representing the hivemind grid the entire population is plugged into. The soundtrack alternates between the synthy-electronica of living inside a computer and sombre, ambient sounds that bring to mind isolation and disconnection. It has a great, hip futuristic sensibility reminiscent of Transistor (always a good thing). [embed]282861:56040:0[/embed] Sadly, those interesting visuals are as much a stumbling block as an asset. Each screen is cluttered with a barrage of visual information. Dull, frequently static and unanimated enemies get lost in the backgrounds, often colored too similarly to stand out against them. Enemy fire and obstacles dissolve in a mess of sheer sensory overload, with too many competing colors and flashing lights assaulting your eyes at once. It's frustrating to constantly smack into unseen attacks even after replaying a Dream several times over. Adding to the visual clutter are the Idols, a key gameplay mechanic unique to City that sets it apart from other shmups. As a dream-exorcist, Poe has a collection of helpful Ghosts that can be plugged into Idols, large floating, abstract objects such as statues or railway cars, to provide various support effects also in time with the music. You start with the Ghosts of Anger and Mercy, which act as an extra damage dealer and a healing fountain respectively, and unlock more exotic options as you complete the Dreams on higher stages of difficulty. Poe can only carry three Ghosts at once and each Ghost has two different functions depending on what type of Idol it is slotted into, creating a variety of tactical choices to consider. While offering an intriguing element of depth, the Ghosts are also visually overwhelming. The Idols take up a massive amount of the screen, and when active, emit a large colored highlight around themselves, as well as spew out whatever effect the Ghost is producing. The screen is soon dominated by colossal shock-waves, a smattering of orbs, and tons of other visual garbage that betray not only the cool aesthetic of the title, but the ability to proficiently play it. The Idols and Ghosts are a fantastic idea, but the execution leaves a lot to be desired. Difficulty is always a personal thing, especially in a niche genre like shmups that tends to cater to a hardcore, specialized audience. I consider myself a shmup enthusiast; while I've never 1-CCed a game, I'm in deep enough to know and care about what a 1-CC is (clearing the game on a single credit or continue for the uninformed out there). I can safely say, this game is hard (and not in a fun way). There are five stages of difficulty to play through, and the curve is severe. City is unsatisfyingly breezy on the lowest difficulty setting, but quickly escalates to near-impossibility. The confusing visuals are compounded by slippery controls that don't respond quickly or accurately enough to deal with the lattice-work of death you'll frequently contend with. Furthering the frustration is Poe's anemic firepower, that is often unable to defeat larger enemies before they simply wander off after torturing you for a while. I eventually managed to beat all three Dreams on the forth difficulty setting and two of them on the fifth by the very skin of my teeth (from the leaderboard information, it seems only one person has conquered the most demanding Dream on the highest difficulty at the time of this review). While hardcore shmup nuts will appreciate the challenge, many players will likely find themselves stymied and unable to progress deeper into the game. This is doubly frustrating as City locks alternate Ghosts and passive upgrade Relics behind successfully completing higher difficulties. These Ghosts and upgrades offer some of the coolest mechanics in the game, and in many ways seem necessary to enjoying it. For example, the Master Ghost and its associated Relic allow you to apply devastating damage to enemies through skillful, and risky, screen positioning based on where you are relative to the possessed Idol. It's a great mechanic. On one hand, it adds another layer of strategy and thought onto an already hectic and stressful situation, but if you use it right, you'll be able to eliminate enemies before they can overwhelm you. It quickly became my favorite tool. Handy as it is, some players might not ever be able to unlock it, and this seems to be a constant theme. As you progress you get speed-boosting passives, an upgrade that makes the healing Ghost substantially more effective, and damage perks that all combine to offset much of the earlier frustration. It's understandable that Harmonix wanted to include some element of progression and reward for tackling the bigger challenges, but it seems like all the best toys are hidden in the back-end of the game, past the point where many players will likely throw up their hands and uninstall. Adding insult to injury, you can take those unlocked Ghosts and perks back to earlier tiers of difficulty. So players stuck at one point can't even amuse themselves trying to crack the leaderboard. A player that has unlocked all the goodies can just circle back and ace those difficulties to a degree that's impossible to compete with if you only have the default loadout. There are only three Dreams and three interactive soundtracks to enjoy. While the higher difficulty levels do offer some degree of replayability, it's hard not to feel left wanting by the paltry amount of content available. It feels like the game is just starting to roll when you hit the credits, the record scratching to a sudden unexpected stop. The whole experience is frustrating, because there is a genuinely cool game hidden somewhere in there. As an examination of other ways to apply rhythm and sound to gameplay mechanics, it is a solid proof of concept. There were moments while I was playing it that the world around me seemed to fade away and I didn't even think about the controller in my hand. But then I'd hit one of the many snags, die another frustrating unfair death, and the experience would be soured. A City Sleeps feels like a half-made game. Perhaps if they had a little more time or budget to add a few more Dreams, and even out the experience for players of all skill levels, it might have been something special. As it is, A City Sleeps is strictly for hardcore shoot-'em-up fans and people who are intensely curious about the future of rhythm games (an interesting Venn diagram for sure).
A City Sleeps review photo
Flat note
[Disclosure: Nick Chester, who is currently employed at Harmonix, previously worked at Destructoid. As always, no relationships, personal or professional, were factored into the review.] It's a weird time to be Harmonix. It i...

A City Sleeps photo
A City Sleeps

A City Sleeps still looks enchanting, available now on Steam


A challenging bullet-hell shooter for the rhythmically inclined
Oct 17
// Rob Morrow
Harmonix's chaotic-looking but nonetheless stylish music-driven shoot-'em-up A City Sleeps is now available on Steam and there's currently a 10% discount bringing the price to $13.49. While I typically shy away from bullet-h...
Castle Of Shikigami photo
Castle Of Shikigami

Castle Of Shikigami is on iOS today in Japan


For 600 yen
Oct 03
// Chris Carter
One of my favorite shoot 'em up series comes to iOS today. If you happen to have a Japanese account handy you can pick up Castle of Shikigami for 600 yen. Like most shmups on iOS it has auto-fire controls to facilitate t...
Söldner-X Vita photo
Söldner-X Vita

Söldner-X 2: Final Prototype is coming to the Vita with 'next to no load times'


Beyond that it's basically a port
Oct 02
// Chris Carter
I don't know why but the PlayStation 3 version of Söldner-X has always had a special place in my heart. Maybe it's because it's one of my most-played games on the PS3 back in an era when it didn't have as many choi...
Raiden V photo
Raiden V

Raiden V coming to Xbox One next year


Trailer coming soon, we'd bet
Sep 18
// Dale North
If things work out as we expect them to, you'll soon see a trailer for Raiden V popping up on YouTube and our front page. The next in the line of shmups will come to the Xbox One next year in Japan, and most likely beyond.  There's a trailer running at Microsoft's Tokyo Game Show booth today. Stay tuned -- I'm sure we'll have it soon. 
Japanese indie games! photo
Japanese indie games!

Revolver 360 RE:ACTOR shoots up PC tomorrow


Doujin shooter set to arrive on Playism's English storefront
Sep 11
// Kyle MacGregor
Revolver 360 RE:ACTOR launches its attack on PC tomorrow for $9.99, Playism announced today. The shoot-'em-up comes by way of doujin studio Cross Eaglet, and is most notable for its eponymous swivel mechanic. The t...

Bullet-hell and rhythm fans will both like Harmonix's new game

Aug 29 // Brett Makedonski
The underlying brilliance behind A City Sleeps is its accessibility. Most players familiar with twin-stick shooters will feel an instant comfort controlling it. Left stick to move, right stick to shoot. Easy enough. However, complications start to arise when the game asks you to not only be skilled, but to factor in technique as well. A City Sleeps tells the tale of Poe as she enters the dreams of citizens of SanLo City in an attempt to save them from their unending nightmares. If it sounds confusing, that's because it kind of is. Harmonix's Nick Chester told us that the team hasn't quite figured out how it'll convey the story, but it'll likely be through cutscenes or text. The build that we played contained neither, so we were unable to glean any of that on our own. Moving through dream worlds as she does, Poe has control over three ghosts -- Anger, Mercy, and Master. The catch is that these spirits can only be unleashed at certain idols that appear at predetermined spots as the level progresses. Doing fine on health but have some nasty enemies on the screen? Anger will deal an area-of-effect attack that damages anything in its radius, or Master will significantly weaken anything between you and the idol. Conversely, Mercy will shoot out bursts of oft-needed health, for those in the mood to sacrifice offense for defense. [embed]280339:55479:0[/embed] It all sounds basic enough, but music is the element that ties everything together. Without it, it'd be a frantic mess. However, the musical score is dynamic, leading to sections that are slightly slower or faster depending on the action on the screen. Likewise, Poe's shot speed follows the speed of the score, as do the idols which will disburse their assigned power-ups usually on the downbeat of a measure. It culminates in an experience that is entirely predictable for the musically inclined, but still difficult enough for even seasoned bullet hell players. Getting into a groove and knowing which idol you need to be by at any point in a measure, while dashing around and doling out damage can be supremely rewarding. Any break from the rhythm will leave you scrambling to dodge projectiles, but regaining the momentum instantly puts you back in sync. Although music is so integral to A City Sleeps, Chester thinks that shoot-'em-up fans will find a real challenge here. Given some time with the game on an easier difficulty, we're inclined to agree. It's certainly no cakewalk, as we felt the heavy hand of failure more than once. Juggling ghosts, shooting at enemies, and avoiding bullets is a lot to ask of even the finest multitasker; the music's just there as a fine guide.
A City Sleeps photo
Hands-on with A City Sleeps
Music has always been at the heart of what Harmonix does. From Rock Band to Dance Central to the extremely experimental Chroma, the studio's made sure that whatever the player's doing, they'll nod their head and tap...

 photo

Harmonix announces A City Sleeps, a musical shoot 'em up


For $13
Aug 29
// Dale North
Harmonix announces A City Sleeps, a musical twin-stick shoot 'em up a heaping helping of anime and bullets. It's like a musical Geometry Wars. Harmonix says that soundtrack synchronization drives projectiles, movement, bulle...

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