I’m picking back up this week with the second half of exploring Game Boy shmup games. If you missed the first half, you can find it here. I hope you give some of these a try.
Sagaia/Darius (Taito) – Horizontal Shmup
Sagaia is the more-known Darius (a bio-mechanical-fish-based shooter) on the Game Boy. It’s also this name on the Genesis (I guess it’s the classic Japanese vs American thing). This is sort of its own game with different levels than the console or arcade counterpart and it’s worth owning just for that. It’s a decent game with pretty cool music.
This is a competent shmup put out by Nintendo. It’s not particularly memorable, but it’s widely available (I see it in nearly every game lot I find at flea markets and yard sales) and a decent offering. This was probably created to fill in the genre gap at the time it came out.
This is the black/white Game Boy port of the old classic. On the original handheld, it’s kind of a boring game (no extra bells and whistles). It might as well have been a game and watch game. But, to add extra value, the developers added unique support for the Super Game Boy. This cartridge has an entire SNES game embedded within that’s the arcade port of Space Invaders. And it’s really nice (having the transparency-film effect that the arcade version had). This is – as far as I know – the only game that got this treatment and if you have a Super Game Boy this is a must-own for the novelty alone.
This is a pretty average horizontal shmup with some nice parallax scrolling. I find the outline of the ship in white to be helpful with all the screen activity (especially on the original Game Boy with motion blur).
I’m a huge fan of the Disney afternoon cartoon (which is sort of a mix of sky pirates and Indiana Jones adventure – but set in an animal-character world).
So I was a little disappointed that the released games were just a kind of shmup games (although that makes sense given the main character pilots a plane I suppose). I guess the Sega Genesis got an action-platformer from the series, so I got my wish. Still, the NES/Game Boy games are not terrible. They are what they are. The main criticism I have is the hit box of the plane being so large. I do like the backgrounds and detail (and, like I said, I’m very nostalgic for this time period), but as a shooter game, I’d stick with others in the genre.
Top Gun Guts to Glory is really not my kind of game. Until the modern era (or at least until the beginning of PC gaming past DOS), developers kept trying to mimic the look and feel of an actual jet cockpit and the result was always a very poor rendition (even the mighty Konami). I guess this sort of thing was novel back in the day, but these days it’s not really amusing to me. I guess I’d say check this out if you’re looking into the history of this genre, but avoid otherwise.
Turrican is a run and gun that was popular on Amiga and this is the Game Boy port of the franchise. I’m actually surprised that this exists and was done so well to be honest. This is a pretty decent game on all fronts (graphics/music/etc) and is definitely worth a try. I always found Turrican to be a tad too difficult for my tastes, but it might be just right for you.
Volleyfire is sort of an primitive shmup that resembles an Atari game (like Outlaw or Space Invaders) more than the regular vertical shmup. It’s also different than traditional shmups because the style is kind of a deathmatch/vs game. You must destroy the ship on the other side of obstacles by going back and forth- all the while avoiding enemy fire. The graphics aren’t bad and this is quirky enough to warrant an inclusion in your Game Boy collection.
Xenon 2 (Bitmap Brothers) – Vertical Shmup
This is another shmup from the early-computer era (i.e. Amiga) that got ported to the Game Boy (like Turrican). It’s not a bad game and is worth a play-through. The game later came out on Genesis and hasn’t received good reviews. However, the bar is a little lower on the black/white gaming handheld and this game is definitely competent.
ZAS is a technical marvel (with beautiful parallax scrolling and a large number of sprites) and a wonder to behold. It’s not an easy game and it’s not easy to find, but it is worth emulating or borrowing (if you can). I think this game is definitely up there with R-Type and Gradius in quality (in fact it’s kind of ripping them off in some aspects).
Well that’s all the games I could find of the shmup variety for the Game Boy. If I’ve missed any (and they’re playable on the original black and white handheld) please let me know in the comments below.