If you’re a fan of “shoot-em-ups,” or “shmups” as they’re usually referred, then the Nintendo Switch is a good platform for them. We’ve already seen the likes of Ikaruga and several others released for the system, even taking advantage of the vertical TATE set-up with the ability to turn the portable screen on its side (or taking the wiser route and playing with a FlipGrip). But now there’s a collection — with a second on the way — that will really milk those “shmup” skills.
And that’s Psikyo Shooting Stars Alpha, which features six of the company’s classic games in one convenient collection. Most of these games came out prior with downloadable versions, but now there’s one convenient place to enjoy them all. It’s not loaded with too many frills outside of the games, but for some, the shooting action is more than enough.
The collection kicks off with a trio of games from the retro-themed Strikers 1945 series, numbered 1 through 3. The real draw here is 3, which I believe hasn’t seen a home release as of yet, though I could be wrong. The first two games are worth checking out when it comes to getting you used to gameplay and presenting some fun wrinkles with its bosses. But part three is the real draw, with a number of vehicles to choose from and power-ups that literally fly across the screen. It’s a real treat out of the batch.
Then there’s Zero Gunner 2. This is a trippy shooter in its own right, as you don’t always have to shoot forward. In fact, you can rotate your helicopter a full 360 degrees, so you can shoot at enemies on the sides of the screen or even behind you. It’s a unique mechanic that takes some getting used to, but it’s well rendered from its days on the Sega Dreamcast, and a fine addition to the collection. Challenging, as well.
Dragon Blaze is up next, and if someone told Psikyo to make their own version of Dragon Spirit from the Bandai Namco games, this would probably be it. This allows you either fly on your dragon for superior firepower, or even break apart to try and double up your attack. This one’s a great deal of fun, and probably one of the biggest surprises in the package.
The only game in the Psikyo Shooting Stars Alpha collection that comes up short is the final game, Sol Divide. It works in its own curious way, though. It has a mixture of shooting, alongside attacking with melee moves and even a few RPG elements. The segments are a lot shorter than I would’ve hoped, and it ends all too quickly. Still, for those who are curious, or missed out on it with its prior release generations ago, it might be worth discovering again. Just don’t expect too much magic.
The collection as a whole offers a great deal of variety, no matter what type of shooting you’re in for. And NIS packed the game with a menu system that makes it easy to select and start up your favorites.
Alas, it doesn’t have many extras to choose from. Outside of the games and the ability to play some of them vertically (always a nice touch), there’s no history lesson to learn from Psikyo here, nor any real unlockables to choose from. There are some neat scoring features in case you literally want to gun for the high score; but SNK 30th Anniversary Collection this isn’t when it comes to abundantly telling us more about the company at hand. This would’ve been a nice lesson, especially for those going, “Wait, who’s Psikyo?”
But if you can look past that and enjoy the core games offered here, Psikyo Shooting Stars Alpha does have something significant to offer. Three excellent games, two good ones and a somewhat average one with its own interesting touch are worth checking out, and the features and scoring opportunities are abundant, even if the actual extras are not. The emulation is very well done, as these represent the original games quite well.
It may not be the most packed retro compilation out there, but it’s a substantial one for those of you that live and breathe “shmups,” just like me. And to think, we’ve still got Bravo on the way as well, with even more memorable shooters to choose from.