The Psikyo Shooting Stars Alpha collection from NIS America is out now on the Nintendo Switch, and gives us access to six shoot ’em ups from the creators of several arcade classics in the genre. Is it worth picking up?
Psikyo’s catalogue of arcade shooters is an interesting one, because their games date back to an interesting time for video game arcades. Coming out in the mid nineties, the golden era of arcades was gone, and when you think shoot ’em ups most people associate that era with games like R-Type, Gradius and 1942. Psikyo was responsible for a bit of a resurgence though, with a range of high quality shooters that many fans fondly remember.
It’s worth pointing out that Psikyo Shooting Stars Alpha is going to be followed by Psikyo Shooting Stars Bravo in a few weeks’ time, and although getting six games for 40 Dollars/Euros isn’t a bad deal it’s a shame we’re not getting a more complete collection and find that Psikyo’s best games are neatly divided between the two collections.
Psikyo Shooting Stars Alpha contains Strikers 1945 as well as its two sequels, and you also get Zero Gunner 2, Sol Divide and Dragon Blaze. The three Strikers games not only make up the heart of the collection in terms of quantity, they also arguably represent the best that Psikyo has to offer with three brilliant games. Completely unrelated to Capcom’s 1942, 1943 and 1941 in the official sense, Psikyo’s games are highly polished games in the same vein as the acclaimed series from the eighties.
What Psikyo’s games do incredibly well is propel the entire experience forward to a new generation of arcade technology, with better graphics and audio tied to great gameplay. The sequels (to Strikers 1945) also never feel like they’re quick cash grabs either – they get progressively better, refining the already high quality gameplay with each game. They don’t shake up the formula too much (in the sense that they’re not too different from 1984’s release of 1942), but they’re great fun and can be played with two players as well as in single player mode.
All three of the Strikers 1945 games also have the option to be played with a monitor in portrait mode, for a more authentic arcade experience without borders. The same goes for Dragon Blaze, another, which is a fantasy-themed vertical shooter. While the gameplay is comparable to games like Strikers, it’s great to see something that’s not a sci-fi or military-themed affair for a change. Portrait (or TATE) mode is also supported if you use the Switch’s screen and prop that up sideways – or you can use a Flip Grip to achieve the same result in handheld mode.
If you’re interested in steering away from the traditional shooter formula for a bit, then Zero Gunner 2 has a nice twist in that you can rotate your ship and fire in all directions that way. It’s a bit odd at first (because it doesn’t work like a twin stick shooter), but it’s a change that pays off because it gives a whole new dimension to your on-screen position in the game. Sol Divide is also different, but for another reason – since it incorporates RPG elements. It’s a horizontal scroller in which you mix up melee and ranged attacks and can unlock new spells as you progress through the game. It’s a bit of a mix between the shoot ’em up and the fantasy beat ’em up on paper, but it ends up feeling not as good as a lot of prime examples in either of those genres.
The Psikyo Shooting Stars Alpha is a great collection of classic shooters, the only downside being that shooter fans might already own one or more of these games since some have already been released individually over the years. The collection also doesn’t get the ‘museum’ treatment in telling you more about the games or offering ‘behind the scenes’ insights into the development – instead just offering you a fairly bare-bones launcher for the six games. Not an issue per se, but if you already own some of the games then it’s a shame there’s no bonus to getting them again in this collection. If you don’t, however, then this is a must have collection if you’re a fan of classic arcade shooters.