Top Five PC Engine Shoot-em-ups

5. Image Fight (1990)

Image Fight - Gameplay Screenshot

Developed by Irem soon after they unleashed R-Type, this fantastic vertical scroller is for some bizarre reason far less revered than its sibling, which is odd because even a quick session with it reveals Irem were more than adept at this kind of shmup as well as the horizontal variety. It’s not the flashiest shooter ever – the graphics aren’t particularly impressive and the music is instantly forgettable, but it is challenging, well designed, and, much like R-Type, features some interesting power-ups. Rather than the now-legendary Force from that game, here it’s possible to attach a variety of devices to the front of your ship, each of which give it a different weapon. A top blaster which deserves more recognition.

4. Magical Chase (1991)

Magical Chase - Gameplay Screenshot

For a long time an Engine exclusive, this horizontal-scroller is so charming it’s as if you’ve had a spell cast on you by the ‘Star Maiden’ protagonist of the game! It’s a horizontal-scroller in a similar vein to Cotton (which was released around the same time) which sees you in control of a witch complete with broomstick (but apparently no black cat) battling six demons and their bizarre minions across the six stages! A very strange but nonetheless compelling and highly playable little game which looks fabulous, has a fantastic soundtrack, and constantly beckons you to discover what lies around the next corner.

3. R-Type (1988)

R-Type - Gameplay Screenshot

Until the PlayStation came along, this remained the most faithful conversion of this eternally worshipped, all-time classic yet seen (Lord knows why it never appeared on the MD, come to think of it, that could’ve been a cracking version). Despite the fact that it was initially spread over two separately released Hu-Cards, it was still hard to fault it. The graphics and music are near- faultless and as close to arcade perfect as anyone could reasonably expect, and the timeless level design and gameplay is faithfully recreated. This was a God-send for the game’s many fans.

2. Gradius (1991)

Gradius - Gameplay Screenshot

As is the case with R-Type, this was arguably the best version of Gradius until the arrival of the 32-bit consoles, although the X68000 effort was also superb. While it’s true that the graphics are simplistic and do suffer from bouts of slowdown now and then, they are also beautifully defined and the twinkly, multi-coloured stars in the background are hypnotic! The remixed soundtrack here is fantastic too, and among my favourite shmup soundtracks on any system, but it’s the finely honed gameplay that keeps me coming back. Challenging it may be, but the difficulty curve is well pitched and there’s so many distinctive touches (including an extra level) it’ll take ages to see all it has to offer.

1. Gunhed (1989)

Gunhed - Gameplay Screenshot

It’s amazing to think that this was one of the first shmups released on the Engine. After all these years it’s still one of the finest vertical-scrollers I’ve played on any system. It’s true that there’s a vast number that I’ve still not played but that doesn’t detract from the sheer quality of this classic from Hudson. It eases you in with the gentle opening stage before gradually ramping up the intensity to sweaty-palms, edge-of-the-seat levels – this really is a game that oozes quality in every department. Given the Engine’s prowess with this genre, it’s possible I may encounter an even better shmup at some point but it’ll have to be something really special to beat this legendary game.

Sexy Parodius

Sexy Parodius box

Sexy Parodius

I’ve played a lot of strange games in my time, but it has been a while since I have constantly yelled out WTF during gameplay. Sexy Parodius is an arcade shooter made by Konami and from the research I did is the fifth and last in the series. Sexy Parodius is a parody of the Gradius series with a lot of strange enemies, bosses, oh and sexual innuendo.

Sexy Parodius screenshot
Sexy Parodius screenshot

Now my version was not in English, but from what I was able to tell an evil octopus is taking items from different people and it is your job to get them back. You can choose from a team of characters including sexy bunny sisters Hikaru and Akane, Takosuke the Octopus, Koitsu the stickman.

Sexy Parodius screenshot
Sexy Parodius screenshot

Some characters have a normal looking ship while others, like stickman, ride a paper airplane. As stated this is a side-scrolling shooter so your main job is to avoid enemy incoming fire and take them down. However, the enemies can be everything from flying foxes to cows being flung out of a jar that says milk. At the end of each level you come up against a boss and once you defeat it you can move on.

Sexy Parodius screenshot

In the video I only completed the first level, but from there it get’s, uh, sexy. The enemies and bosses change to things like skimpily clad women and it makes me wonder why would you want to shoot that.

Sexy Parodius screenshot

Sexy Parodius is one of those games that would be even better drunk or perhaps that is how the game was imagined, I don’t know. Sexy Parodius was released to the arcades in 1996 and ported over to the Sony Playstation and Sega Saturn. In 2007 it was ported to the PSP.

Free Game – Hydorah

Free Game – Hydorah

In the spirit of 8 and 16 bit side scrolling shooters comes Hydorah, a free game from Locomalito.

Hydorah
Hydorah

The game is a lot of fun and plays a lot like NES/c64/Amiga games of this style like Gradius, Life Force, Disposable Hero, and Project X.

Upgrades, bosses, the usual!

You can download the full game here.

Just download the ISO and mount the game with your favorite virtual image program such as DaemonTools, Alcohol 110%, or PowerISO.

Thanks goes out to Joern Ashes for the recommendation!