Irem Collection Vol. 1 launches a line compiling Irem’s arcade line-up, having three games each. The first contains the vertical shoot-em-up Image Fight and its console ports, its PC Engine exclusive sequel Image Fight II, and the R-Type-esque bio-horror shooter X-Multiply. The ports were handled by Ratalaika Games, using the same front end seen in their other emulation projects like Clockwork Aquario and Wonder Boy Collection. While the user interface is basic, it includes a nice selection of CRT filters, as well as the ability to rewind gameplay, handy for dealing with the high difficulty of these games. Also included are both the Japanese and international versions of these games, where they exist, though there’s really no difference between them.
One of the few vertical shooters from Irem, Image Fight lets you equip your ship with three floating turrets to supplement your fire. Blue turrets will always shoot forward but red turrets can be aimed in any direction. In the original arcade game, these turrets shot in the opposite direction of your movement, making them a little tricky to use, but this Irem Collection version lets you aim the red turrets in any direction by using the right analog stick, which is a nice addition.
The first part of Image Fight takes place in a simulation, challenging you to shoot down over 90% of the enemies across all of the stages. Meet this threshold and you can proceed to the second part, but fail to meet this threshold and you’re stuck in a penalty zone stage. Combined with the checkpoint-based gameplay, it’s a very trying experience, but it’s pretty much in line with the brutality of Irem’s other arcade games.
This package includes the arcade original, along with the PC Engine and NES ports. The PC Engine port was decent for its time, but in the process of adapting the game from a vertical monitor to a horizontal one, the screen ends up being zoomed in very closely, resulting in an extremely claustrophobic experience. The NES port has far smaller sprites, so this isn’t a problem, but it loses much of its visual impact in the process. This version adds in an optional HUD that shows your score and remaining lives, which was absent in the original NES game. With the arcade version present, neither of these are really worth playing outside of curiosity.
A PC Engine CD exclusive sequel re-released for the first time, this game seems to have been built on the PC Engine port of the first game. This is bad news, because it has the same cramped feeling as that conversion, and the gameplay itself hasn’t really changed much. It’s still just as frustrating too, making that rewind function very welcome for those who want to see the end without dealing with the aggravation. The cutscenes and CD audio aren’t anything special either, and they remain in Japanese without any subtitles.
X-Multiply may as well be a spin-off of R-Type, because it looks and feels pretty similar. Rather than manipulatable Force Pod, though, you can get a set of tentacles that attach to your ship, which can be used to attack enemies and block their fire. This one never received any contemporary ports, so it’s just the arcade release here. It’s challenging but not overwhelmingly so, making it a better choice for shoot-em-up rookies, but veterans will undoubtedly dig it too. This version also lets you manipulate the tentacles using the right analog stick, which isn’t quite as handy as the aimable shots in Image Fight but is still useful.
Publisher ININ seems to be trying to compete with M2’s ShotTriggers line, by sticking in the console ports and adding extra functionality. While this collection is a good first step, they’re not quite there yet, particularly when it comes to presentation. There’s really nothing in the way of supplementary material, where it could really use some introduction test or least some packaging scans. The emulation quality is basically fine, but there’s some noticeable glitchiness, particularly when using the rewind function. Some control mappings aren’t quite right either, as you’ll change speed in the PCE/NES version of Image Fight if you hit the shot and pod buttons are the same time, and the in-game pause doesn’t work right in Image Fight II.
There’s also the fact that both Image Fight and X-Multiply were already released separately as part of Hamster’s Arcade Archives series. While they lack some of the added control features in this package, the emulation quality is a little tighter, and their combined price is quite a bit cheaper too. The added ports and the presence of Image Fight II don’t really make up for it since they’re not particularly good. Subsequent entries in the Irem Collection series have games that haven’t already seen modern releases, so those will have better value, but this one isn’t quite as compelling.