Back in the late 80’s to the mid-’90s, shoot em’ ups, or ‘Shmups’ for short, took the world by storm with its fast-paced and frantic gameplay. The action would be non-stop and players would throw their tokens (or coins depending on which arcade you ventured to) into the arcade cabinet, trying their hardest to complete the game in one sitting. Before you know it, all of your tokens would vanish and you’d have to run to the vendor to restock. Those were the golden days of arcade gaming but sadly those glorious moments have dissipated, as the arcade scene as a whole has gone extinct, at least in North America. In Japan, the scene continues to thrive and Shump cabinets are abundant, with classics like Strikers 1945 still playable for the retro junkies to dive into. But of course, this is only possible if you’re living in Japan...or at least that was the case until now because NIS America is proud to bring you a collection of some of the best Shmups in arcade history. Say hello to Psikyo Shooting Stars Alpha for the Nintendo Switch!
What to Expect
Ah...good old TATE mode...As with any collection of classics, Psikyo Shooting Stars Alpha is catered to those who have a love for the Shmup genre, and need their quick fix of explosive action. Psikyo Shooting Stars Alpha comes with 6 titles: Strikers 1945, Strikers 1945 II, Strikers 1945 III, SOL Divide (Sword of Darkness), Dragon Blaze, and Zero Gunner 2. As you can clearly see, Strikers 1945 is a very popular series and is one of the early frontrunners in the sleeper genre, but continues to thrive even to this day. Anyone out there who’s looking for a title that’s challenging enough to keep you coming back for more, while still retaining that retro visual charm, then there’s no reason why you shouldn’t buy Psikyo Shooting Stars Alpha!
On the point of visuals, Psikyo Shooting Stars Alpha combines a modern and flashy presentation while still retaining the retro charm that made these classics glitter with excitement. All of the games within the collection are quite distinct in their own way and a couple even follows somewhat of a short plot to keep the player engaged. It’s by no means an RPG tale of sorts but the small plot allows for the game to run smoothly, giving players the incentive to complete the game and see an ending. One of the most visually pleasing of the bunch is Strikers 1945 III, which released in early 2000, and even to this day still manages to look superb in its 32bit form. Dragon Blaze is another favorite of ours which contains a nice little story of its own, and from a visual standpoint still looks crisp even on the big screen.
Nothing is more sublime than to hear the clashing of metal or the bullets tearing apart an enemy brigade, as you fight your way through hordes of enemies to reach the end goal. Psikyo Shooting Stars Alpha is jam-packed full of fun but it’s very aesthetically pleasing to the ears, especially for those who grew up in the early generations of gaming. It’s authentic and fulfilling in its own way, not dissuading you from the gameplay and keeping you fully engaged with everything taking place screen. The music and sound effects are fitting for the genre as they evoke the emotions of excitement, motivation, and thrill.
While many of these titles started out in the arcades and require players to often use a joystick to control the movement of your ships, the Nintendo Switch version of these manages to retain all of the smooth controls without demeaning the game. We used both the joy-cons connected to the Switch along with using the Pro Controller, and we can honestly say that it’s better to play with the Pro Controller since you have a much more seamless experience. The joy-con analog sticks are just too small to really get used to but the Pro Controller is big enough that you can play for hours and not feel any sort of irritation in your thumb, as you constantly blast enemies into oblivion. Another positive about Psikyo Shooting Stars Alpha is that at any time, should you ever feel like leaving one game and jump into another, it’s all seamless. There’s little to no loading times and so it’s almost as if you’re jumping from one cabinet to the next without any interruption.
No longer will you need any fat stacks of tokens sitting next to you in order to continue, as Psikyo Shooting Stars Alpha allows you to jump right back into the fray even after you’ve succumbed to a game over, allowing the action to continue almost instantly. While Shumps are generally tackled alone there’s the option of teaming up with a friend to obliterate the enemy and collect rewards, as you both strive to complete missions as swiftly as possible. 2-player mode is such a blast when you have a friend who knows what they’re doing and can assist you when things start to go sour, and you need those extra kill points. Much like in the arcades where one cabinet contained 2 joysticks, Psikyo Shooting Stars Alpha reflects that beautifully with the co-op option, granting Shmup fans the permission to go all-out for hours on end together.
Honey's Gameplay Consensus:
One of the only drawbacks of Psikyo Shooting Stars Alpha is that it doesn’t contain any sort of online leaderboard or online multiplayer, which was a little disappointing. It certainly doesn’t bereave you of the true Shmup experience but it would’ve been great if players had the opportunity of jumping online, and tackling missions with other retro junkies around the world. Better yet, giving players the chance to test their skills and create the highest score possible for other Shmup addicts to try and beat would’ve been a blast. Sadly that’s only a pipedream for us but perhaps next month, we hope that Psikyo Shooting Stars Bravo will allow us to take our skills online and really have a blast!
Relive the glory days of the Shmup genre, one that helped to redefine the gaming world as a whole.
Visually the game retains its retro charm and plays smoothly, even on the big screen! No lag!
There’s so much variety in the games you can play and with 6 in total, there’s plenty of replay value for players to dive right back into.
The lack of online services really is a bummer, since Shmups are generally co-op based and giving players a chance to play with others around the world would’ve been amazing. Hopefully, we’ll see something in Psikyo Shooting Stars Alpha Bravo!
Honey's Final Verdict:
Psikyo Shooting Stars Alpha served up a nice plate of savory fun and we can only hope to see more love for throwback titles from NIS America in the near future. With an almost endless library of titles in the retro arcade vault, there’s really no reason to continue releasing golden nuggets like this one! To all the retro junkies out there, pick up Psikyo Shooting Stars Alpha and truly savor in the endless array of action, excitement, and frenzy. If you’re new to Shmups then Psikyo Shooting Stars Alpha is certainly the place to start because you have a collection of titles that will continue to stand the test of time, because of how great they are.
Until next time!
Author: Rob "NualphaJPN" B.
A passionate fan of gaming, writing, journalism, anime, and philosophy. I've lived in Japan for many years and consider this place to be my permanent home. I love to travel around Japan and learn about the history and culture! Leave a comment if you enjoy my articles and watch me play on twitch.tv/honeysgaming ! Take care!