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Hellfire
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Zero Wing

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Fire Shark
Out Zone
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Hellfire (ヘルファイヤ) / Hellfire S - Arcade, Genesis, Turbo CD (1989)

Genesis Cover

PC Engine Cover

Arcade Flyer

Hellfire was the first of Toaplanfs two horizontal shooters, with the other one being Zero Wing. Hellfire was also Toaplanfs first self-published game. Hellfire's main feature is its innovative weapon system. There are four modes your ship can switch to at any time, all firing in a different direction. They are Forward mode, which fires straight ahead; Backward, which was obviously inspired by the Thunder Force series and only fires behind your ship; Vertical mode, which fires simultaneously above and below; and finally Diagonally, which fires four shots in an X shape around your ship. Mastery of this 8-way firing system is key to survival in Hellfire, as for the most part, it is all you really get. Tatsuya Uemura, the same man that did the music for Flying Shark, composed the music in Hellfire

Hellfirefs story varies from game to game. There's always an evil overlord named Super Mech who has enslaved the universe, so it's up to the Hellfire Squadron to stop him. In the arcade version, the main pilot is faceless, as it is assumed to be you, the player. The Genesis/Mega Drive version adds a supporting character, a woman in a pink jumpsuit that's your commanding officer and only really appears in endings. Lastly, the Turbo CD version turns that woman into the pilot and adds animated cutscenes between levels.

The levels themselves are usually wide open, as opposed to the typically cramped levels usually found in horizontal shooters. Hellfire can feel like a very methodical shooter, as having the right directional fire at the right time can be crucial to survival, except upon death, your ship simply respawns instead of being booted back to a checkpoint. This can be both a good and a bad thing. On one end, it is nice to pass up an obstacle and actually be done with it, even if it killed you. On the other end, you do not get a screen clearing attack, power ups are scarce, and the screen scrolls very slowly.

There are six levels in Hellfire, each with their own interesting theme. The first level is much like the first level of R-Type, taking place in space and moving into a gigantic battleship. The second level has a distinct ancient Egyptian theme, complete with a sarcophagus boss at the end. The third level takes place inside a cave with strange, purple, alien plants growing everywhere. The fourth one is a vibrant forest filled with strange volcanoes that periodically sprout out of the ground and erupt fish. The fifth level is a somewhat boring fortress that has a segment where the screen scrolls downward, something seen as highly unusual at the time. Lastly, the sixth and final stage takes place in space, has a strange, color changing background, and is filled with battleships.

Like Truxton, Hellfire has no shortage of bosses, with each level usually having a mid boss and a stage boss. Unfortunately, many of these guys are just ripoffs of Gradius enemies. Most of them have glowing red cores as their weak spots, the first boss in particular looking almost exactly like Big Core. Despite this, Hellfire has a few original foes. The final boss, Super Mech, is basically a gigantic shield who wields a mighty lance and blocks his weak point with his shield.

Hellfire actually has a scoring system, even if it is a basic one. There are certain enemies that drop powerups. They usually take way more hits to defeat than they should, even at full power. If your ship is fully powered up, they drop "B" chips that give 2000 bonus points. If you can survive for a long time at full power without dying, you can rack up a really good score. Unfortunately, staying alive is easier said than done in Hellfire.

Hellfire received two ports to home consoles - the Genesis and the PC Engine CD. The Genesis version adds an AI controlled robot that helps you through levels and destroys enemies for you, much like in Soldier Blade. The other weapon added is a powerful super laser that crushes anything in its path and does heavy damage to bosses. Unfortunately, ammunition for the laser is extremely scarce and it does not affect gameplay nearly as much as it should. This version speeds up gameplay and offers an easy mode that can be useful for learning the levels. On the complete opposite end, there is also a secret difficulty, humorously called "Yeah, Right" that makes an already hard game even harder. Upon beating this mode, your commander even accuses you of cheating. This version also sends you back to a checkpoint when you die

The PC Engine CD port adds the aforementioned animated cutscenes and is renamed Hellfire S. It's very similar to the the Genesis version, except it's missing the robot helper and the instant respawns of the arcade versions are back. It also features two-player simultaneous play. The graphics are slightly better than the Genesis version, although the ships no longer change color when cycling through weapons. The CD audio music is excellent, as expected. Either way, both home versions of Hellfire are much better than the arcade version.

MP3s Download here

Stage 1 (PC Engine)

Hellfire (Arcade)

Hellfire (Arcade)

Hellfire (Arcade)

Hellfire (Arcade)

Screenshot Comparisons

Arcade

Genesis

PC Engine (Need Screenshot!)

PC Engine Cutscene Screenshots

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Twin Hawk / Daisenpuu (大旋風) - Arcade, PC Engine, Genesis/Mega Drive (1989)

Japanese Arcade Flyer

PC Engine CD Cover

Twin Hawk (Arcade)

Twin Hawk, directed by Lee Ohta, is notable for giving the player the ability to command a whole squadron of planes in addition to the normal player character. It's sometimes lumped together with the Tiger Heli series, but the gameplay is closer to a tighter, smoother Flying Shark. The only perceivable reason it would be lumped with Tiger Heli is the fact that it has the word "Twin" in its name, much like Twin Cobra. The strangest thing about Twin Hawk is that there are no flying enemies. Every last one of them are boats, tanks, and other land-and-sea based foes.

Twin Hawk's storyline involves the fictional countries of Gorongo and Fuangania going to war. Fuangania apparently has absolutely no airplanes, showing a huge weakness. The President of Gorongo, humorously called President Bratt, sends in the special air force Big Whirlwind to take down Fuanganian forces. Thatfs you; youfre the guys in Big Whirlwind, all of them.

Twin Hawk can feel very minimalistic at times. You only get one weapon, a forward shooting gun that can be powered up to shoot a little bit wider. The only other weapon you get is a special button to call in your squadron. Once they come in, the real fun starts. Each plane in your squadron fires when you fire, moves right when you move right, and left when you move left. They never move forward or backward, and they always move much slower than your plane, but otherwise go in perfect formation. If you fly into them, you simply go right through them, making the cluttered screen seem far more manageable. Whenever one of your fellow planes is shot, it catches fire and quickly tries to dive bomb any enemies on screen in a blaze of glory. Interestingly, if your plane goes down while your squadron is out, the entire remaining squadron will do a suicide strike with you, likely taking out whatever killed you in the process. Now thatfs loyalty!

One strange option is to turn your squadron into a bomb. By pressing the button that calls in your squadron again while they are flying in, they will instead fly off the screen and carpet bomb the place. This may not always be a very good idea, as much of what makes Twin Hawk so fun and interesting is trying to keep your friends alive and covering the screen in your bullets.

While Twin Hawkfs graphics seem washed out, dark, and drab, its sound is amazing. The first level in particular has great music that starts out slow, but turns into a very fast drum beat that can really get you pumped and in the mood to shoot down anything.

One of the best moments in Twin Hawk is the final level. On this level, large enemies and mini bosses start spewing out simple bullet patterns that are impossible for your entire squadron to dodge. This is a war, after all and not everyone is going to survive. The game throws so much at you that no matter how much you hoard your powerups to call in more friends, they will not survive. Then, the final boss comes, the hardest fight in the game and you have to fight it all alone without anyone elsefs help, which becomes the most intense and dramatic moment in the game.

Daisenpuu Custom (PCE CD)

The Genesis version has some graphical downgrades in order to fit it into a cartridge, but the sound remains perfectly intact and is the best home version. Like the port of Truxton, the right side of the screen is devoted to a status bar. Daisenpuu was ported to the PC Engine twice, first on a HuCard, and later on CD-ROM. On the surface they look identical, with some slight graphical dowgrades again, although the visuals take up the full screen. The sound takes a hit too, but you can still recognize everything for the most part. But the CD-ROM port is, strangely, inferior. Probably due to the limited RAM of the PC Engine and the inability to stream data, the levels are no longer continuous, but are instead broken down into areas. On the plus side, that means brand new bosses at the end of each stage. On the downside, many background details are removed. For example, in the first stage there's an area where tanks are supposed to be driving over a bridge. Apparently those tiles couldn't fit into memory, so now it looks like they're part of a canyon. Later on, you're supposed to fly over an ocean. That doesn't happen either - this particular section looks like the rest of the stage now. Some enemy patterns have changed, some sections are added or missing. Even the explosions are missing animation frames and look kinda bad. Other than the bosses, the only advantage is the CD audio music, which isn't terribly good anyway.

Twin Hawk (Arcade)

Twin Hawk (Arcade)

Twin Hawk (Arcade)

Screenshot Comparisons

Arcade

Genesis

PC Engine

PC Engine CD

PC Engine

PC Engine CD

Zero Wing (ゼロウィング) - Arcade, PC Engine CD, Genesis (1989)

Japanese Arcade Flyer

European Genesis Cover

Zero Wing (Arcade)

Zero Wing is one of Toaplanfs most well known games, mostly because of the "All Your Base Are Belong To Us" internet meme that spread around in 2001. Although routinely mocked for its incredibly bad English, it's actually a pretty decent title. It's also Toaplan's only other side-scroller shooter outside of Hellfire.

Zero Wingfs story revolves around The United Nations siding with an alien dictator that goes by the name of CATS. CATS completely annihilates all of Japanfs space colonies, stopping by to taunt their leader before killing him. One ship survives this massacre - the ZIG. It is ZIGfs mission to destroy CATS and his forces and possibly show the UN the error of their ways.

The ZIG is a very unique ship. It's equipped with two indestructible satellites that hover above and below it, and fire whatever weapon the ZIG is equipped with at the time, much like in R-Type Leo. The ZIG also has a tractor beam, which can be used to suck up certain enemies, which are then helpless positioned in front, acting as a shield. Additionally, ZIG can reverse the tractor beam and spit enemies out at other enemies. Not every enemy is vulnerable to the tractor beam, as some are simply too big. Others are large, but weigh ZIG down, hindering its speed and causing it to slowly sink to the bottom of the screen until released. ZIG can also pick up a bomb that can be attached to the front of it. This bomb can be thrown back at enemies or it can simply be used to block enemy fire until it blows up.

There are three different types of weapons in Zero Wing. They are red spread shot, blue laser, and green homing. Each weapon has three arms levels that can be raised by picking up the same power up twice. The Mega Drive version has a secret arms level four that makes your firepower even better and your satellites even bigger.

Most of the level designs are inspired by Gradius or R-Type, sometimes both at once. Like in Hellfire, one of the bosses closely resembles Big Core, for that matter. Fortunately, Zero Wing has plenty of original ideas that set it apart from the series it often copies. The bullets in Zero Wing spin in a strange, 3D way that has them alternating between being circles and lines. Some of the level designs are very ingenious, especially the Barricade Zone. It really is one of the coolest levels in the game and shows a bit more creativity than most games when they try to make an R-Type inspired level.

In addition to the original arcade release, Zero Wing was ported to the Mega Drive and PC Engine CD. The home versions are quite a bit easier, and while they only grant limited credits, you probably won't need most of them. Graphically they're all pretty similar, though the PC Engine version adds some extra layers of scrolling and occasionally changes some background graphics. The arcade version annoyingly flashes red whenever ever enemies are killed, which is distracting, to say the least. The Mega Drive soundtrack is very close to the arcade version, using similar FM synth. The PC Engine version uses redbook audio remixes, which don't quite pack the same punch. The music in general is quite catchy all around, though.

The Mega Drive version is the only one to have the legendary opening cinema featuring CATS. The English version never came out in North America and was only released in Europe, but every single line of its intro is mangled beyond belief, and any sense of drama immediately becomes hilarious. The Turbo CD version uses its own anime-style cutscenes, and they're much more boring, sadly, especially considering they don't feature CATS at all, and instead has its own roster of generic shooter characters.

One last reason the Mega Drive version is far superior to the arcade version is the final boss. CATS has to be one of the most well-known shooter villains and the actual fight against him is fairly challenging. In the arcade version, however, you never actually get to defeat him. He always gets away in an escape pod and the game tells you to keep going after CATS while the game loops. You can loop the game all you want, but CATS will always get away. The Mega Drive version of Zero Wing, however, finally lets you kill CATS. He will never get away in an escape pod, giving you the satisfaction of actually defeating the man who said "All your base are belong to us" once and for all. It truly is one of the greatest moments in Zero Wing and is completely absent in the arcade version. The Genesis version also has three different endings depending on the difficulty level. All versions feature Toaplanfs mascot, Pipiru, a little purple creature that appears as an easter egg in several of the company's later games.

MP3s Download here

Intro (Genesis)
Open Your Eyes - Stage 1 (Arcade, Genesis, PC Engine CD)

Zero Wing (Arcade)

Zero Wing (Arcade)

Zero Wing (Arcade)

Zero Wing (Arcade)

Screenshot Comparisons

Arcade

Mega Drive

PC Engine CD

All Your Base Are Belong To Us

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Page 1:
Performan
Tiger Heli
Slap Fight/ALCON

Page 2:
Flying Shark/Sky Shark/Hishouzame
Twin Cobra/Kyokyoku Tiger
Truxton/Tatsujin

Page 3:
Hellfire
Twin Hawk/Daisenpuu
Zero Wing

Page 4:
Fire Shark
Out Zone
Vimana

Page 5:
Dogyuun
Truxton 2/Tatsujin Oh
Fixeight

Page 6:
V-Five/Grind Stormer
Batsugun
Twin Cobra 2

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