Even though we were still enjoying Psikyo Shooting Stars Alpha, we’re already testing Psikyo Shooting Stars Bravo this week – another six game collection of Psikyo arcade games. It’s exclusive to the Nintendo Switch for now, and is being published by NIS America.
On offer in the Bravo collection are Gunbird, Gunbird 2, Gunbarich and three titles from the Samurai Aces series. The two Gunbird games are both classics and form the beating heart of this compilation. Originally released in 1994 and 1998, they are shining examples of the excellent shooters that Psikyo was putting out in the nineties. The four year gap is visible in Gunbird 2’s more detailed backdrops and character designs though, with some especially impressive boss fights. The fact that they were designed for arcade play means there’s a fairly short campaign in both titles, but Gunbird 2 has better gameplay design in terms of replay value. With more intricate scoring mechanics, it’s a more polished and improved sequel to an already good shooter.
I was only familiar with the Samurai Aces games by name before playing this new collection and was pleasantly surprised by how diverse they were. The first one in the series is a fairly standard vertically oriented shoot ’em up, but the second game (officially titled Tengai) switches things up with a horizontal playstyle. The third one in the series (Sengoku Cannon) didn’t originally launch in arcades, but was a modern release for Sony’s PSP that combined traditional 2D shooter mechanics with 3D backdrops. It hasn’t aged well though, and although that’s common for early 3D games I feel that contemporaries like Gradius V and R-Type: Final still hold up fine today despite similar visual design choices. In comparison, the first two Samurai Aces games are the better choices despite being about a decade older.
Gunbarich is a bit of an odd one out, because – despite the similar title – it’s not another Gunbird game. Instead, it’s a mix of breakout and pinball with colorful visuals that serves as a fun little break from the shoot ’em up action in the other games. It’s got all the Arkanoid-type power-ups you’d expect, and even has a few boss fights with cartoon-like enemies. It may not feel like a logical choice in a roster of shoot ’em up games, but fun game worth playing.
As with Psikyo Shooting Stars Alpha, you’re not getting any special features with background information on the included games, which is a shame. There’s also a chance that you already own one or more of these games, since most have had prior releases (on the Switch). If that’s the case then this collection loses a lot of its value – which mostly comes from the two Gunbird games. If you have to choose then the Alpha collection feels like a better choice with more high quality games, but I can’t shake the feeling that mixing and matching with the individual game releases might be the best option here unless you’re a Psikyo fan looking to have as complete a collection as you can get.