<<< Prior Page    

    Next Page >>>

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

Back to the Index

V-Five (ヴイ・ファイヴ) / Grind Stormer - Arcade / Genesis (1993)

Genesis Cover

V-Five (Arcade)

V-Five, sometimes called V-V and also known as Grind Stormer, was one of Toaplanfs last games and can be seen as a kind of "proto danmaku" game, as it is an obvious predecessor to more modern shooters. It was programmed by Tsuneki Ikeda, who later went on to work on many similar games at Cave. The screen can be filled up with up to 80 bullets at once, especially on the later levels. There are five, long stages with lots of popcorn enemies and huge bosses at the middle and end of them. It is considered by many to be the spiritual successor to Slap Fight, as it uses similar elements and gameplay.

V-Fivefs story is very cheesy and is more than a little bit self-aware. It is about this horrifically hard video game that has been released in the year 2210. This video game, also called V-Five, takes its victims and pulls them in while making them hopelessly addicted like druggies in an opium house. The government sends in an agent, presumably the player, to investigate this evil video game to save its victims by beating the game. The arcade cabinet or cartridge supposedly contains this evil game from the future and you, the player, has supposedly been told by the government to beat this game. It tries to blur the line between fiction and reality a little, but really the story is just an excuse to blow stuff up.

V-Five has an upgrade bar similar to Slap Fightfs, except your hitbox never increases in size. The powerups are Speed Up, Shot, Search, Missile, Power, and Shield. Speed Up is pretty self-explanatory, except that it turns into speed down once it is fully powered up. Shot is the default form, with two to four options that constantly follow you in a sort of V formation. By moving backward while not shooting, these options come close together and shoot a powerful laser, much like the one from Donpachi. By moving forward, your options spread out and shoot weaker attacks that can cover more of the screen. Search mode has your options homing in on enemies and zipping through the screen from enemy to enemy. Missile has your options following you, like in Gradius and shooting destructive and powerful missiles. Mastering these three forms and knowing when to use them is key to survival in V-Five. The other two powerups are Power and Shield. Power gives you more options and makes your attacks do more damage. Shield gives you a force field that is surprisingly resilient. The difficulty is unforgiving and brutal and the gamefs speed can get pretty fast at some points.

The Genesis/Mega Drive version was ported by Tengen and has two game modes - Grind Stormer mode and V-Five mode. They are the exact same levels, but they feel completely different. Grind Stormer mode completely removes the upgrade bar and replaces it with floating rectangles that have the powerupfs name on it, which appear at seemingly random intervals. It also adds screen-clearing bombs that are very nice, but not necessary. The removal of the upgrade bar makes the game feel a lot more restrictive, mostly because it is harder to have the power you want when you need it. Fortunately, V-Five mode stays a lot more true to the arcade version, but is severely downsized to fit a system that was never meant to handle such a game.

The Genesis/Mega Drive port also waters down the graphics and runs them at a far lower resolution. V-Five looks like it was far better suited for the Saturn, which had not come out at the time. In general, the arcade version is superior to the Genesis/Mega Drive version in just about every way.

On the good side, V-Five plays and feels like a Toaplan shooter. The levels are long, the bosses are intense, and the action is fast. Some of the best parts include a scene in level 2 where floating mountains start bouncing around the screen and colliding like asteroids, one of the bosses, a giant brain in a tube that can make earthquakes and use a purple bullet whip, and a bizarre giant head enemy that can suck up its own attacks and spit them back out to make them stronger. The final boss deserves special mention for having an incredibly dense bullet pattern and has this trick where his shots start suddenly acting strange and changing paths as though they have a mind of their own.

V-Five is a really cool game, and if you look close, you can see smaller ideas that get refined and reused in later games by Cave, Raizing, and Takumi. It may not be the most well-known or well-polished game in Toaplanfs library, but V-Five is certainly worth looking into as long as you stay away from the watered down home version.

V-Five (Arcade)

V-Five (Arcade)

V-Five (Genesis)

Screenshot Comparisons

Arcade

Genesis

View all "Grind Stormer" items on eBay

Batsugun - Arcade / Saturn (1993)

Saturn Cover

Soundtrack Cover

Batsugun (Arcade)

Batsugun is arguably the earliest manic shooter, and is one of the first games to introduce and define many of the sub genrefs core elements. The biggest aspects they introduced are, of course, the practice of filling screen with over a hundred bullets at once, as well as shrinking the hit box to accomodate for the massive about of fire. It also uses human characters as pilots, which had become standard practice in many shooters at this time. Almost all of the same people who made this game went on Cave, including Tsuneki Ikeda and Junya Inoue.

Batsugun contains an experience point system where each enemy is worth a set amount of experience, with bosses worth 100 points while smaller enemies are only worth around 3. Once enough experience is collected, your ship levels up. There are only three power levels, and once you would level up at maximum power, you instead get a screen-clearing bomb. Experience is really easy to get, as you will probably spend most of the game at level 3, the highest one. At level three, you typically spew out just as many bullets and have just as powerful attacks as most of the bosses, but that does not make the game particularly easy. The gun can also be upgraded five times within each experience level. Batsugun has five stages in total, most of which are quite brief, each one more daunting than the last. The bosses are even harder, the only real "easy" one being the first.

Batsugunfs storyline involves an alien force attacking earth. An elite mercenary group called The Skull Hornets is sent in, who have special ships that can both fly underwater and into the stratosphere. There are six main characters in total, although there are only technically three different variations, with two types of each to accomodate for two simultaneous players.

Jeeno
Jeeno is the Player 1 ship A character. He has cybernetic enhancements that make him better at flying. Jeeno also has a shirt that has the words "A New Hope" emblazoned across the chest, possibly a Star Wars reference. The ship itself is a spread shot taken to its extreme, spraying the screen with over 100 bullets and missiles in just a single attack at his highest level. Mashing the attack button makes this continuous.
Beltiana
The player 1 ship B character. Beltianafs brother was killed by the aliens and is hoping to avenge him. Ship type B shoots a powerful electric laser that gains circular sub shots and homing capabilities later on. You can mash the fire button to shoot powerful sparks of energy rapidly. Fully leveled up, it looks suspiciously like a Vic Viper from Gradius.
Iceman
The Player 1 ship C character. Iceman is a self-parody of Joker Jun, as he always wears his sunglasses even indoors and at night. He is supposedly one of the greatest pilots in the world and is partially aware that he is in a video game, bragging about how many credits he can beat the game on. His ship functions very similar to the ships in Donpachi, having a spread out attack by tapping the fire button and a powerful, focussed attack by holding. His ship does not slow down when using this attack, however, so it can feel pretty weird to use him if you are too used to Cavefs series.
Schneider
The player 2, ship A character. Schneider was the main character from Flying Shark and was cryogenically frozen until he was needed. He is always dressed like a cowboy and acts very typical of old men in popular culture, complaining about how much better everything was when he was young and using his old tactics to blow up the new stuff.
Alteeno
The player 2, ship B character. Alteeno is the Skull Hornetfs top mechanic and a good pilot too. Her hat seemingly has gibberish on it, but if you look closely it says "ATOLANP", an anagram of Toaplan.
Olisis
The player 2, ship C character. Olisis is the founding member of the Skull Hornets. He always wears silly looking armor wherever he goes and carries a rose with him. Olisis is the former prince of the invading army and has rebelled against his father because he knows that invading earth and killing billions of people is wrong. He may not look much like an alien, but his eyes are purple, which is enough for most people.

Batsugunfs art and music are phenomenal, making it Toaplan's best looking shooter - an impressive feat after the phenomonal V-Five and Tatsujin 2. Junya Inoue did a spectacular job on the art, putting forth some of his best work at the time. The music is equally good, the theme for Stage 1, "Heart Beat" deserves special mention, as it is one of the catchiest songs to appear in a Toaplan game. Another one of the best songs is "A Feeling", which accompanies the fight against the towering battleship Jupiter. The song is dark, menacing, and fit the mood perfectly, that you are up against a truly powerful opponent.

The scoring system involves collecting large, golden Vs (for Victory, assumedly) after large enemies are destroyed. Additionally, pigs are hidden all over levels and finding them also grants extra points. It would have made more sense to use Pipiru, but for they decided not to, for whatever reason.

Toaplan's release a second version of Batsugun with some different mechanics. This arranged mode which is meant to be played for a longer period of time, as the difficulty starts out a little lower, but ramps up over the course of four loops, where the original version only has one. The arranged version also adds suicide bullets as you get farther, more scoring opportunities, different enemy behavior, a shield that lets you take a single hit before getting killed, and a slightly altered color palette.

Batsugun for the most part, stayed in Japan. It received a European release, but only for arcades and with a poor translation. Unlike many of Toaplan's later games, it was released on Saturn by Banpresto with a number of enhancements. It includes both arcade versions in nearly arcade perfect form, although it does remove some of the slowdown - whether that's good or bad is completely subjective. The Saturn version also offers both the arcade soundtrack and an arranged soundtrack as redbook audio, the latter of which is sadly rather weak.

Batsugun was one of Toaplanfs last games and their very last shooter. It remains to this day one of the most influential games in shmup history and one of Toaplanfs best in their library.

After finishing work on Gazellefs Air Gallet, Junya Inoue started Chew Gum Comics. His very first work was a graphic novel based on Batsugun called Skull Hornets. From the looks of it, it includes all of the characters, including the bosses and tries to provide a more descript version of the gamefs story.

MP3s Download here

Heart Beat
Skim the Surface of the Sea

Batsugun (Arcade)

Batsugun (Arcade)

Batsugun (Arcade)

Batsugun (Arcade)

Batsugun (Arcade)

View all "Batsugun" items on eBay

Twin Cobra II / Kyokyoku Tiger II (究極タイガーII) - Arcade / Saturn (1995)

Saturn Cover

Twin Cobra II (Arcade)

Takumi, one of the four companies that formed after Toaplan closed its doors, released Twin Cobra II. It was almost finished when Toaplan went out of business, so Taito, the company that owned the rights to the Tiger Heli series, was nice enough to let the former Toaplan employees finish it up. Even though it was technically published by a different company. it has just as much of the Toaplan spirit running through it as any other game in their library. The levels are long, the bosses are menacing, and the music is loud and catchy.

Right as Twin Cobra II opens up, your helicopter takes off above a city. Impressive scaling effects are used, as you dive down close to the ground and high above the city periodically. These scaling effects are used all through Twin Cobra II and compliment the large sprites and impressive explosions.

Once again, there are three weapons in Twin Cobra II, each with different colors. Red is called Red Fang, which shoots waves of powerful missiles straight ahead, very similar to the default weapon from the first Twin Cobra. Blue is called Blue Smasher, exactly like the blue spread shot from Twin Cobra. The Green weapon, however, differs depending on which player you are. Player One gets Thunder Claw, a huge missile that is accompanied by many smaller homing missiles. Player Two gets Binchou Laser, a powerful beam that shoots blasts of electricity to the sides of it.

Another cool new feature is the super bomb. Bombs are powerful enough, clearing everything on screen, and under normal circumstances, you can carry up to four of them. If you pick up a bomb when your stock is full, one of your bombs will start glowing. It is now a super bomb, and dropping it will make an explosion even greater than a staqndard one. Even though super bombs are cool, they are not particularly useful because regular bombs are powerful enough. The scoring system is simple, as certain dropped enemies drops stars, which increase in value as you pick them up, up to 10,000 points each. Die, and the value resets back down to 100.

Even though Twin Cobra II has some very fun weapons to play around with, it excels with the creative use of scaling effects. Granted, the effect is rather restrained and not used to nearly the same effect as, say, Thunder Blade, but it cool when it pops up. They tend to twist and turn, diving in and out of everything from sewer systems to bizarre polluted canyons, to an enemy base located inside a volcano. Scaling does not end there, as enemies will jump out from the background and sometimes take cover from your shots. One of the bosses, a gigantic tank that is the size of a house, parachutes in from above your helicopter and lands, ready to fight. Another one of the best parts is a mini boss you fight on the last level called Heavenfs Gate. It's a Compile-style boss with turrets all over it. Once you defeat Heavenfs Gate, you dive straight into it, moving onto the next part of the level. Vimana had a very similar effect on its last level, but it was not nearly as impressive and did not come with a fun mini boss to destroy.

Twin Cobra II was the last and best game in the Tiger Heli series. Takumi may be better known for its modern style shooters such as Mars Matrix or Giga Wing - and even this one feels more "old school" than Toaplan's later games - but it's still impressive and serves as an excellent swan song for a bygone era.

A Saturn version was also released under the name Kyokyoku Tiger II Plus, released by Naxat. The Arcade mode is automatically set in tate mode. The Saturn mode is a pretty authentic port of the arcade version, with a bar on the side of the screen to maintain the same horizontal resolution, as well as screen scrolling if you move forward and backward. The Arrange mode adds a brief CG introduction, mission briefings between levels, a extra brand new soundtrack using higher quality synth, palette changes and some rebalancing, as well as an extra seventh stage.

MP3s Download here

Steel Tiger II ~Good Luck Guys~

Twin Cobra II (Arcade)

Twin Cobra II (Arcade)

Saturn Cutscenes

View all "Kyukyoku Tiger saturn" items on eBay

After Closing

Even though Toaplan closed its doors in 1994, the story was far from over. Many of its staff moves onto other companies and continues to make new games up into the 21 century. Tatsuya Uemura, the composer of the music for Flying Shark, Hellfire, Out Zone, Dogyuun, and Zero Wing later work for Gazelle on Air Gallet. After that, he would work with Raizing and compose the music for Battle Garegga and Battle Bakraid. Raizing continued to use Toaplan hardware in making their games, starting with Mahou Daisekusen. The very last game to be released on Toaplan hardware was Battle Bakraid, released 5 years after Toaplan closed its doors. One of the most iconic tributes to Toaplan is the inclusion of Pipiru at the end of the first Donpachi game. Shortly after clearing the final boss of the second loop, Hibachi, the ships from Donpachi fly through the sky to celebrate their victory. Pipiru had somehow attached itself to the red ship and falls off, screaming.

Thanks to Justin Warkentin for his help with this article.

Links

A History of Toaplan A brief run-down of all of the key players at Toaplan and what they worked on.
Gamengai - Toaplan Staff Interview Amazing wealth of information, straight from the best source possible.
Shooting Star Excellent Toaplan fan site. All in Japanese, though.

Batsugun (Arcade)

<<< Prior Page    

    Back to the Index

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

Back to the Index