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Konami Shoot-'em-ups

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1979-1983 Arcade Shooters

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1983-1985 Arcade Shooters

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1987-1988 Arcade Shooters

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Falsion (ファルシオン) - Famicom Disk System (1987)

Japanese FDS Cover

Falsion is a 3D shooter for the Famicom Disk System, not too dissimilar to Sega's Space Harrier. Falsion, however, differentiates itself from Space Harrier with different types of enemy patterns. In one stage, enemies will line themselves on both sides of the screen and shoot lasers at you. In some cases, enemies will visibly hover behind you before swooping out. One of the stages actually has buildings you need to avoid. There are six stages in total, each showing off some impressive graphics for the Famicom.

Of course, none of the 8-bit systems were strong enough to handle fully 3D action, and Falsion is no different. The action is extremely choppy and it's remarkably tough to figure out what the hell is going on. Enemies don't simply fly in waves, they tend to apparate right in front of you or home in your position. Sometimes it's impossible to tell if an enemy is close enough to kill you, or whether it's safe to fly in front of them. By the time you find out, it's usually too late. Your only aids are missiles, which are found in limited quantities and can home automatically onto a single enemy. Otherwise, you'll find yourself dying a whole lot, which also takes away any missiles in your arsenal. The levels are quite long, too, so replaying them after losing all your lives is pretty tedious. Falsion has some good music, and the silly Engrish messages after defeating the bosses are funny, but otherwise it's too much of a mess to enjoy.

Falsion

Falsion was essentially Konami's killer app for the Famicom 3D System, which were a set of glasses almost exactly like Sega's 3D glasses. Rather than using the typical red/blue patterns, the 3D glasses used powered shutters to simulate a 3D image. There were very few games that supported it, but Falsion is probably the best looking, even though it's still a pain to play.

As a bit of trivia, the Falchion β ship from Gradius Gaiden is based off the Falsion ship from this game.

Quick Info:

Developer:

Konami

Publisher:

Konami

Genre:

Shoot-'em-Up: Rail

Themes:

Space Combat
Sprite-Based 3D


Falsion (FDS)

Falsion (FDS)

Falsion (FDS)


Additional Screenshots


Crisis Force (クライシスフォース) - Famicom (1991)

Japanese Famicom Cover

This late gen Famicom game is easily up next to Recca as one of the best impressive shooters for the system. In fact, if it weren't for the color limitations, you could easily mistake this as a PC Engine shooter like Super Star Soldier. In some ways, it's even better. Although the setting seems a bit generic at first, the later levels begin to show a futuristic take on ancient Egypt, like it was inspired by the fifth stage from the NES/FC version of Life Force / Salamander. Some stages show off some particularly cool looking effects. Right in the first stage, the city beneath you begins to collapse and explode, with an earthquake creating a huge fissure from which enemies fly out of. The multiplane effect for these canyons look pretty cool - it was impressive when MUSHA did this on the 16-bit Genesis, and it's even more impressive for an 8-bit system.

Crisis Force

The game allows for two player simultaneous play, although since it does push the NES to the max, there's plenty of slowdown and flicker. There are two main types of weapons - machine guns and lasers - which can be upgraded several levels. Furthermore, there are three ship configurations which can be switched on the fly, each with different weaponry and bomb types. There are also little orbs flying around - grab five of these and you'll transform into some kind of super flashing bird with extreme firepower. You can only maintain this form for a limited time, and taking damage will decrease the timer, but grabbing additional orbs will add a few seconds on to the timer.

Like Space Manbow, if you compare it to Konami's other shooters, it's not QUITE as brilliantly designed, but it's mostly impressive because it pushes the system to the max, plus it has some damn nice graphics and some decent music. It came out too late for Konami to bother publishing outside of Japan, making it a necessary purchase for any import collector.

Quick Info:

Developer:

Konami

Publisher:

Konami

Genre:

Shoot-'em-Up: Vertical

Themes:

Military


Crisis Force (Famicom)

Crisis Force (Famicom)

Crisis Force (Famicom)


Additional Screenshots


Axelay (アクスレイ) - SNES, Wii Virtual Console (1992)

American SNES Cover

Japanese SFC Cover

When it came to shoot-em-ups, many developers shirked the SNES in favor of the PC Engine or Mega Drive. If ever questioned why, most would simply point at the SNES port of Gradius III, which was laden with slowdown. (To be fair, the arcade version was also pretty bad.) The common belief was that the SNES's slow CPU just couldn't keep up with the fast paced action required. How much truth this has is questionable, but the SNES library of shooters was pretty anemic. Outside of Super Aleste / Space Megaforce and some decent Parodius conversions, its highlights include a middling port of Thunder Force III, two mediocre Darius games, and similarly bland fare like Phalanx.

And then, there is Axelay, not only the best shooter on the SNES, but one of the best of the 16-bit console generation. This isn't just a case of a diamond in the rough shining the brightest, either, because it really is a beautiful game on its own right.

Axelay takes a bit after the philosophy of Life Force / Salamander, in that there are six stages in total, each alternating between side-scrolling and overhead perspectives. The catch with Axelay is that the overhead stages have been slightly skewed at an angle, somewhat similar to Silpheed. The landscapes scroll using a Mode 7 effect which stretches the terrain, making it appear that you're flying over the horizon. It may seem hokey now, but it was quite impressive effect when it was introduced, and the use of multi-plane scrolling creates an interestingly fake impression of 3D.

Gimmicky effects notwithstanding, Axelay is also a gorgeous looking game. Many 16-bit shooters tended to be on the bright side, Axelay is a bit darker and moodier, while the extra detail allowed by the SNES color palette makes for a particularly gritty atmosphere. The locales themselves aren't that inspired - a trip through the clouds, a Gundam-style space colony, a futuristic city, an underwater, cave, and the final enemy battleship - but the amount of detail packed into each tile is perhaps only rivaled by the later arcade R-Type games, and even then, they're much crisper. The bosses, too, are memorable, especially the ED-209-style (from Robocop 2) robot walker, which treads backward awkwardly while using rotation effects to move its shield-like helmet. The final boss will attack with an unavoidable droid that, at first, seems completely harmless. Then you realize that it's actually scanning and replicating your ship, as it sends out wave after wave of identical ghost fighters, each mirroring your shots.

Much of the atmosphere is aided by the fantastic soundtrack supplied by Souji Taro, whose only other major composition was Super Castlevania IV. Like many of Konami's arcade shooters, each boss has its own theme, which is usually a darker, more intense variation on the level theme. Its heroic trumpet-based motif, repeated in more than a few songs, is the kind of legendary music that sticks with you for years afterwards. It makes good use of voice clips, too, like the "Arms installation is complete. Good luck!" after selecting weapons, and the "EARTHLING APPROACH" warning, accompanied by klaxons, when coming up on a boss.

Axelay is much more than just fancy graphics and sounds, though, as its genius can be traced to its subtly brilliant weaponry system. The ship's weapons system is divided into three systems - primary, secondary, and missiles - which are cycled through with the L and R buttons. At the beginning of each stage, you pick which weapons to equip in these slots. The primary weapon includes a standard powerful fire shot called the Straight Laser; the Needle Cracker, which shoots numerous small lasers that track enemies around the screen; and the Wind Laser, which fires a huge array of four lasers across the screen. The secondary weapons are less powerful but more versatile. The Round Vulcan fires two shots, which rotate slowly towards the front of the ship if the fire button is held down, and rotate towards the back when it's released. Careful mastery of this weapon is required in the first moments of the game, where your ship is completely surrounded by small enemies, and must use the Round Vulcan to cut through the crowd. The other secondary weapon is the Morning Star, which creates a circle of small bullets that rotate around your ship and slowly expands around the screen. Missiles can technically be fired at any time, although activating them allows use of more powerful projectiles which explode on impact. These do extra damage but are slow and rather unwieldy. The only difference between the three types is what direction they fly in - either they travel forward, downward at an arc (like traditional Gradius missiles) or straight downward. Obviously, these only make a difference in the side scrolling levels.

This weaponry system foreshadows the brilliant Radiant Silvergun, in that there's no one best weapon, challenging you to pick the most suitable one on the fly. The only unfortunate aspect is that the extra weapons are opened up during the course of the game, and the full arsenal is only available in the final stage. Axelay is also a bit easier than most arcade shooters, in that getting hit by a projectile will only disable your equipped weapon. Naturally if all of your weapon systems are damaged, or you ram into something, your ship will be completely destroyed. Your ship will automatically be resurrected when destroyed, although losing all of your lives sends you back to the beginning of the level. As a result, it feels much more tuned to home play than most of Konami's other shooters.

The only real problem with Axelay is its ending, which, on the hardest difficulty level, promises to "See you again in Axelay 2!" Of course, history has turned this little send-off into a cruel taunt, as a sequel was never produced. Here's hoping to the future!

Quick Info:

Developer:

Konami

Publisher:

Konami

Genre:

Shoot-'em-Up: Horizontal
Shoot-'em-Up: Other

Themes:

Space Combat
Sprite-Based 3D


Axelay (SNES)

Axelay (SNES)

Axelay (SNES)

Axelay (SNES)

Axelay (SNES)


Additional Screenshots


<<< Prior Page

Next Page >>>

Page 1:
1979-1983 Arcade Shooters

Page 2:
1983-1985 Arcade Shooters

Page 3:
1987-1988 Arcade Shooters

Page 4:
1990-1997 Arcade Shooters

Page 5:
MSX Shooters

Page 6:
Famicom/SNES Shooters

Page 7:
Miscellaneous

Back to the Index