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Thursday, February 4, 2010

Xbox 360 shoot 'em ups

With Shoot 1UP out now, I wanted to get together an easy reference list of shoot 'em ups available for the non-Japanese Xbox 360 market. I also hoped making this available would help get more shoot 'em up fans or curious gamers into the genre. I think the games coming from Japan are great but needing to import them and the steeper prices is a turn off for a lot of gamers.

I'm looking at this list, for my own purchasing and gaming habits, but also to see the market outside of Japan (where several higher budget shoot 'em ups have been released in recent years. Check out this shmups forums thread for more details on all shoot 'em ups.)
A lot of these games are in mixed categories on the Xbox Marketplace--some are in "Shooters", some are in "Action-Adventure", and some shmups are in "Classics", all of which makes it difficult to browse.

I've broken them into three categories, focusing on traditional vertical and horizontal scrolling and other forced-scrolling games. I grew up playing games such as R-Type, Life Force, Axelay, and Gaiares, and I'm most interested in those types of shoot 'em ups. I do plan to keep this list relatively well updated.

Here's a few games types I'm not listing (mainly because I'm not that interested in them):
Arena shooters - e.g. Geometry Wars
Adventure-style, controlled scrolling - e.g. Wing Commander
I may end up doing a separate list for these style shooters in the future.

I'm including notes where appropriate, and also including box art for the games I'm most interested in or enjoyed. If there's no info or box it means I didn't care for it, but wanted to include it for completion. But you may try out a given game out anyway. Different strokes and all that, right?

Vertical Scrolling
This is to include every vertical scrolling shoot 'em up available for play on a Western (non-Japanese) Xbox 360.

EspGaluda II Black Label

Notes: Originally released for the arcade in Japan in 2005.
Only the "Standard Edition" will be play on non-Japanese 360's.
Released February 25, 2010.

Raiden Fighters Aces

Notes: Not listed on the Xbox Marketplace. Compilation including Raiden Fighters 1, Raiden Fighters 2: Operation Hell Dive, and Raiden Fighters Jet.

Opinion: This is one that is so enjoyable to play as it's well tuned to be challenging but usually not frustrating. Having tons of ships to play, and different games, gives you a lot of replay options. The sprite art is great as well. At $20 (usually) it's a great collection and a great shmup package all around.

Raiden IV

Notes: Originally released for the arcade in Japan in 2007.
Supports "double play" in which one player controls two ships, like Raiden 3, and the upcoming Duality ZF.

Opinion: I don't enjoy the 3d graphics as much as the sprite art from Raiden Fighters Aces, but overall it's still a lot of fun.

Muchi Muchi Pork! and Pink Sweets

Notes: Two different Cave games in one package.


Notes: Originally released for the arcade in Japan in 2006.
Region-free copy of the game is available for the US.
Be careful, the "Black Lavel/Label" version on Games Marketplace section is a game add-on and requires the full game to play. You can get full disc from play-asia and other sources.


Raycrisis HD

Notes: Port of arcade game released in 1996
The cleaner look is very nice.

1942: Joint Strike

Opinion: Looks pretty nice, but it was ultimately sort of dull. The original 1942 game had a certain intensity to it, even on the NES that kept it more compelling.


Notes: Originally released in the arcade in 1999. Characters walk around on the ground rather than fly. 


Notes: Originally released in the arcade in 2001.
Opinion: I find this to be almost like a puzzle game. I love the tight spots you get into, especially in the boss sequences.

Triggerheart Exelica

Notes: Originally released in the arcade in 2006.
Features a "grab and throw" mechanic in addition to normal shooting.

Opinion: I liked the colorful backgrounds and the funky music. I also liked that not-shooting let you collect the drops easier. The enemies are a little generic or too abstract sometimes for my tastes. The grab and throw mechanic takes some time to get used to.

KOF(King of Fighters) Sky Stage
Notes: Character-based.
Opinion: This one was sort of by-the-numbers and not that interesting. No particular mechanic or look stood out for me, though I may have missed something obvious in the trial.


Notes: Originally released in the arcade in 1982.
Opinion: The bomb lomb, and the dual gun gameplay is still compelling after all these years. The ship is pretty sluggish, but overall it's simple yet satisfying.

Indie Games
Shoot 1UP

Notes: Yes, Mommy's Best Games is making this game and it's out now for only 80 MS points! Features six levels, massive bosses, the ability to control up to 30 ships at once, and 2 player for over 60 ships!

Opinion: The color balance is better than MBG's previous games, but I wish there were more animation throughout. Overall it plays pretty well, though managing multiple ships will discourage some hardcore gamers, while having tons of lives will please casuals and some normals. The ability to pick your course is not wholly original but keeps things feeling fresh and promotes replay and tooth decay.

Prismatic Solid

Notes: Features six different weapons and six 'satellite' arrangements. Normal level progression (6 levels with one locked from the start).

Opinion: I am completely blown away by the polygon count in this game. I think it may be pushing more polys than most big-budget boxed games. Sure they're untextured triangles, but the game still looks amazing, and the framerate is rock-solid.

The gameplay is fairly good as well. It's fun figuring out each weapon and deciding what works best in each situation. My main problem is that things can get too bright sometimes and obscure bullets is a shame.

Vampire Rage

Notes: Level progression, Radiant Silvergun-like sword mechanic.
Opinion: I like the strange "green islands with skeleton pieces" motif in the first level. I also like the cheesy "Type-O Negative" feel to it all.

Score Rush
Opinion: There's tons of bullets which is really cool. Ultimately though, I didn't find the enemies interesting to fight, there's basically only one bullet-type (small, and comes straight at you), and the weapon system is not terribly interesting. It is definitely very challenging though and high-score-seeking types will probably have fun with it.

Zulu Hour

Opinion: I like the changing perspective levels

Opinion: Boss fights look okay.

Joint Strike Force
Notes: color-based action


Fatal Abyss

Defender of Zorgaba
Opinion: I like the boxy, exaggerated font and buttons on the menus.

Vector Force


Notes: color-based action

Horizontal Scrolling
This is to include every horizontal scrolling shoot 'em up available for play on a Western (non-Japanese) Xbox 360.

Death Smiles

Notes: Released June 29, 2010

Otomedius Excellent

Notes: Supposedly due out September 2010.

Omega Five

Notes: Has four playable characters (two from the start), while the fifth character in the Omega-Five rides shotgun.

Opinion: At first I didn't enjoy this because the aiming speed for your gun was a little slow. But since then, the music has really stuck with me, the graphics are gorgeous, and the gameplay worked out pretty well.

R-Type Dimensions

Notes: R-Type was originally released in the arcade in 1987, R-Type 2 was released in the arcade in 1989.
Allows play of both R-Type 1 and R-Type 2 in sprite art form and 2.5D form.

Opinion: Even though I own several versions of R-Type 1 and 2, it's still mesmerizing to be able to switch between 2D and 3D on the fly. I wish more classic versions had this ability!

Aegis Wing

Notes: Has the ability for 4 players to join into 1 ship.

Opinion: The 4 player idea is neat, but the single player was too bland and derivative for me to keep it interesting.


Notes: Originally released in the arcade in 1981.
Supports updated and original graphics

Opinion: Similar to Xevious, the shooting vs lobbing mechanics are fun to use and manage your attack strategy. I also like the feeling of progression through the cave-like areas and the fuel dependency.


Notes: Originally released in the arcade in 1980.
Supports updated and original graphics

Opinion: Shooting the laser is still neat looking as is the mini-map.


Notes: Side-scroller with time-distortion mechanics.
Opinion: Never really enjoyed this one. The gameplay was slow, mostly focused on obtuse scoring, the enemies were too repetitive, very little level variety, the bosses were okay, but there was some decent slowdown during big fights.

Indie Games
Leave Home

Opinion: This is a fantastic, new blend of R-Type-like gameplay mixed with Rez themed graphics. The difficulty of the gameplay changes as you replay, and each game only lasts 5 minutes. But because it can morph, you can find yourself replaying several times in a session.

Revolver 360
Opinion: It's one of the better looking shooters on the 360 and the rotation mechanic is fun to play with. But the scoring system gets even better, as you switch back and forth between trying to kill tons of guys on the screen with your mega beam and suck up bullets to build your beam power for the next volley.

Notes: Unique rotation mechanic, in which the the game collision is in a 2D plane, but all bullets can move in 3D (and are compressed into that 2D plane).


Notes: Port of original PC version with some enhancements.

Opinion: The gameplay and enemy design is too vanilla for me, but the execution is great.

Crescendo Symphony
Notes: The name is in Japanese characters on the marketplace. There also seems to be a RPG of a similar name.

Border Wars

Notes: Includes a ship editor.

Opinion: It has a lot of heart, but the ship controls felt sloppy especially mixed with some of the lightening fast enemy attacks.

Lethal Judgement HD

Note: Normal level progression.
: The graphics are very nice, but the enemies are too static and the levels are fairly repetitive. It is a well done title though and worth a look.

Guns Loaded
Notes: Provides an ability to zoom in on the action.

Ultimate Sacrifice
Notes: The name is prefaced by Japanese characters on the marketplace.

Notes: Score attack-style shooting.


Graviton AI

Retro One series

Vega Magnitude
Notes: Color-based action

Other Forced Scrolling
This is to include all forced-scrolling shoot 'em ups (not in the vertical or horiztonal lists already) available for play on a Western (non-Japanese) Xbox 360.



Rez HD

Notes: Remake of the original Rez, released for the Dreamcast in 2001.

Opinion: The game has a musical theme, but it's not intrusive to the shooting gameplay. I love the changing levels; things seem to grow as you play.


Notes: Originally released in the arcade in 1983.
Supports updated and original graphics

Time Pilot
Notes: Supports updated and original graphics

Indie Games

Notes: Heavily inspired by Rez (see above). Has normal level progression

3D Infinity
 Notes: In-to-the-screen forced scroller similar to Panzer Dragoon or the Space Harrier series.
Opinion: This is sort of well-done and looks like a good start, but is very, very short on content.

Pell Mell

Notes: Racing-style shooting. Looping levels that slowly get harder--but not normal progression.

Revenge of the Evil Aliens

Magnetic Defender
Notes: color-based action


Hunty said...

Great list! But unless it's changed considerably from when I playtested it, Shining Blood is more of a third-person shooter like Armored Core than a shoot 'em up.

Also, I know it's an "into the Z axis" game and thus falls outside of your list, but I think GearToyGear deserves a mention for those of us who can run ccgame files. :)

Nathan Fouts said...

Yes, thanks for pointing out Shining Blood. I actually had it in a different list originally.

I've since reordered the list to include a last catch-all "other forced scrolling" category.
And I put Rez back in.

But since Shining Blood is more a 3D person action game, I'm removing it from this list.

Matthew Doucette said...

Great list. I couldn't think of any more to add to the list! Thanks for the Duality ZF mention! :)

I suppose you could throw up Decimation X, as it's technically an old school shmup.

Nathan Fouts said...

Thanks Matthew!

I had Decimation-X there originally, but I then pared the list down to "forced scrolling" shoot-em ups of various kinds.

That made it a lot more reasonable, and it was more in-line with the style shoot-em ups in which I am interested.

I might do an "other shmups for the Xbox 360", for games such as Geometry Wars and Decimation-X in the future.

I've updated this list to now include EspGaluda II and added in some original release dates.

Once Duality ZF gets a release (date) it'll be on there for sure!

coamithra said...

I´m hurt! What didn´t you like about Revenge of the Evil Aliens?

Nathan Fouts said...

Revenge of the Evil Aliens has bee on there for some time! Check the "Other" section near the bottom (as it's a traditional vert or hori game).

Edward said...

This list is becoming more and more interesting. I just noticed the majority of the vertical downloadable games is new to me!

Nathan, would it be possible for you in a future update to maybe add to each downloadable game a note if it's a casual game or not? By casual I mean that the game only gets harder and harder to no end (Decimation X, Tech Shooter, Geometry Wars), while regular games would have proper stages and a proper ending (Shoot 1UP, Omega Five).

Nathan Fouts said...

Yes, I'll look at doing that. Like I mentioned in the notes at the top, if I'm not excited about the game I don't write much about it, but ones I like, I will try to include helpful info like that.

Sined said...

Hello Nathan :-)

Nice job !

Just any XBLIG shmups in more walking in my head lol :

- Hypership Out of Control
- Isagoras
- Magnetic Wars

- A shooter
- Lethal Judgment Origins
- Magnetic Wars
- Packito Lost in Space
- The Sugar Killerz

Space Invaders-like
- Krazy Alienz
- Pure Carnage
- Retrofit Overload
- Xenocide
(Matthew already mentionned DeciX family)

Other types
- Amniotic
- Ballistic
- Beat hazard
- CheneyStar
- Inferno
- Mimi in the sky
- Vorpal

and more...



Anonymous said...

thank you very very much for this great list!
greetz by a very thankfull german schmupfan

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hidden object game said...

Hi there,thank you so much for your sharing.I have little bit to add.In Shoot 1UP gathering many ships is a core mechanic and is factored into all aspects accordingly.The bullet patterns are slower to give you more time to move your ships.It does play slightly differently from a regular shooter.It's still being balanced and will probably change some over time.Good day.

@Veronika Hart.