It’s a good time to be a retro game fan. While game preservation still has a long way to go, when it comes to the true retro classics, there are more ways than ever to play them on modern hardware. The first Toaplan Arcade Shoot ‘Em Ups bundle was a great example of that, bringing some of Toaplan’s 8-s arcade hits to Steam with a bevy of helpful features. I reviewed that bundle not too long ago, and I was impressed with the effort that went into the presentation of these games. Clearly I wasn’t alone, because Toaplan recently released the Toaplan Arcade Shoot ‘Em Ups 2 bundle, with four more nostalgic classics.
I really do recommend reading my review of the first bundle, because everything here is pretty much the same; it’s just four more games. But to give a quick summary: there are a lot of cool features added to these re-releases. Not only can you modify all of the original arcade machine’s settings, you can also activate various assists to make these quarter-eaters actually feel fair. The typical graphics settings you’d expect from a retro game collection appear, including borders and backgrounds, but it’s expanded here: not only can you choose whether to scale up the visuals, you can also choose the method used for doing so. I’m also still impressed with Toaplan’s overlays, using the space on either side of the game visuals to display in-game stats or instructions for how to play. This bundle did fix one of the major gripes I had with the first one, too: you can now manually insert credits to keep playing if you run out of lives, so that’s a plus.
That being said, the other downside of the first collection is at play here too: these are still arcade games from the 80s, and they aren’t for everyone. Because of that, and to mix things up a little from the previous review, I’m going to briefly talk about each of the games in the bundle:
Slap Fight is the oldest game here, releasing originally in 1986. Despite the name (and as the bundle would suggest), this is a top-down shoot-’em-up. It’s the only one of the three top-down shooters in the bundle to have a sci-fi setting. Slap Fight stands out to me by being possibly the first vertical game I’ve played to have progressive power-ups, where you can let your power-ups build up before activating them (think Gradius.) It’s also unusual in that your shots in this game have a limited range; they won’t keep flying to the end of the screen. While it’s simple, I did have some fun with Slap Fight.
Flying Shark is probably the simplest of these games, originally coming out in 1987. A standard vertical shoot-’em-up, it has players controlling a biplane and shooting targets both in the air and on the ground, with the option to drop bombs to clear the screen. Compared to the other similar games on offer, it feels rather sluggish, and it manages to be the hardest entry in a collection of super hard games. I’m sure Flying Shark was impressive in its day, but if there’s one game in the collection you can skip, it’s this one.
Fire Shark, on the other hand, feels like an improved version of Flying Shark. And that makes sense, since it was released two years later in 1989. Not only does your plane move faster in this one, you can pick up power-ups to speed things up even more. There are also power-ups to improve your gun, but more interesting to me is that you can actually grab different weapon types that fire in different ways. For example, the default shot fires in three directions. There’s even multiplayer in this one, and a catchy soundtrack as well. Fire Shark definitely burns brightest among Toaplan’s top-down shooters.
But the highlight of this collection for me is easily the single horizontal shoot-’em-up included, Hellfire. Taking the different firing modes from Fire Shark a step further, in Hellfire, there’s a dedicated button to changing your firing mode. By default you shoot forward, but you can switch things up and shoot backwards, up and down, or diagonally in four directions. You can change things up whenever you want, but certain areas and enemies are clearly designed for certain firing modes. It brings an extra level of strategy into things and feels very unique.
So, there you have it. Like before, if you’re already a fan of any of these games, you will definitely enjoy these re-releases. While I still wish the games were presented as part of a single package instead of being separate items in your Steam library, everything else is handled about as well as a retro re-release could be. And if you don’t have any nostalgia for these, you might still have some fun. I hope that this second collection means we’ll keep seeing more of these re-releases, from Toaplan and from others. This is a retro bundle done right, and I hope other publishers are watching.
On the cutting edge of early 90's technology, Jake entered the world of gaming through edutainment titles like The Oregon Train and Number Munchers. His first true video games were Sonic the... Read more...