Just like with 2D fighting games, there are basically two types of shmup fans: those who love them primarily for the fun of developing the skills required to play them with any modicum of success, and those that are still attached to the genre for reasons of nostalgia. For those in the first category, games like Ikaruga and Radiant Silvergun are often referred to as the pinnacle of gameplay excellence, while those in the later camp will often cite R-Type Final or Gradius V as their favorite shmups of all time.
I fall into the second category. Honestly, I've never played a shmup that I didn't like, but my favorites are definitely the games that predate the "bullet hell" paradigm that has pretty much dominated the genre for the past ten years. No, my love of shmups is definitely more tied to rose-tinted memories of "the good old days," hence my complete adoration of Bionic Commando Rearmed, Mega Man 9, and Contra 4.
It's with that throbbing, retro-hungry pixel lust that I dove into Gradius Rebirth. Sure, I wanted the game to have good level design and enemy patterns, but more than anything, I was hoping that it would deliver the kind of graphics, music, and gameplay that could effectively take me back to 1989, a time when I didn't think games could ever get any better than R-Type and Blazing Lasers.
Does the game succeed at taking me back twenty years in the past? On top of that, is the game actually any fun? Hit the jump to find out.