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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.

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Hello. :) I'm a 38 year old nerd from England, and I like lots of stuff, including retro video games, movies, sci-fi, and anime. This is the place where I will blabber on about them! At the very least, it will give me an excuse to try games/films that I keep putting off. Hope you like reading it! :)

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4 Comments

  1. Marc September 10, 2010 at 2:16 PM -

    Magical Chase looks really cool. The style of the sprites reminds me of something… maybe Black Lamp or Onslaught, with a touch of Verminator. I'm going to fire that up on my modded XBox at the first opportunity. Was it a HuCard or CD release?

    Gunhed, Gradius and R-Type are all awesome. I haven't played Image Fight before so I'll give that a go too.

  2. JD September 10, 2010 at 3:02 PM -

    not controversial at all si, totally agree with you on all of those. Mind you, never played any of them.

  3. RetroKingSimon September 11, 2010 at 1:03 PM -

    Cheers guys :)

    Marc, Magical Chase was a HuCard release, and a fine one it is too! :) Cotton, however, which is similar and better know, was a CD release (which is why I haven't played it!)

    Glad you agree, JD! :P Shmups are so abundant on the Engine I thought I'd get a load of "what about…?", especially regarding the CD ones. But I haven't played those yet! :P

  4. Bryan C. June 30, 2011 at 1:53 PM -

    I’m going to have to argue with this list. “Gunhead” is probably a keeper but it would be less confusing to readers if you would have also used it’s English name of “Soldier Blade”. On that note, the entire Hudson Soldier series is a must have for the platform ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Star_Soldier_(series) ).

    As for must have shooters after the Soldier series which is shmup cannon, in no specific order: for U.S. based gamers, Gate of Thunder, Lords of Thunder, Aero Blasters (two player co-op rules!), Cotton (over Magical Chase), with honorable mention to Raiden and Air Zonk. There are dozens of good shooters though.

    If we’re going to branch out and include Japanese releases, then you have to also include must-have games: Download 2, SideArms Special, R-Type Complete, Macros 2036, Spriggan Mark 2, L-Dis, Rayxanber II (most brutal shmup ever, and it has a crash bug in the final boss)… and again there are so many shmups for this platform that you can turn without bumping into one.

    On the high-side of these games that have made it to the Wii Virtual Console, you’re really in for a treat as this is the closest I’ve ever seen emulation get when you factor in that the controller is the same layout as the traditional PC-Engine/TG controller.

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