Once upon a time, there was a game called Overkill. It was a vertical-scrolling shooter for DOS, and it’s the first (non-educational) game I can remember owning and playing. It’s now freeware, so you can download it right here, and it started me on a journey to discovering other games in the genre. Overkill actually isn’t anything special as far as shooters go. Tyrian is from the same era, and most people I’ve talked to consider it a better game. I can’t adjust to either one now, as they feel a bit slow and outdated.
Fast forward a few years, to when I got my first video game console, a Playstation, and with it, G-Darius. I didn’t know it at the time, but G-Darius is the last in a series of shooters in which you fight giant fish. Despite a sometimes annoying power up system, this is the game that introduced me to what would become my favorite part about shooters: cool bosses. Despite the “fish” theme, they did really creative things with it, like a boss that goes through dimensional portals to attack you, and a boss based on a sea angel. After this, I discovered some of the things I missed on the super Nintendo via the power of emulators. This was my first exposure to things like Gradius and R-type. I later got pretty good at Gradius V. I was never actually any good at G-Darius.
Fast forward a few more years, and we hit a game called Ikaruga. This one’s on Steam, if you want to experience it for yourself. This rather unique game was my introduction to “Bullet Hell” shooters, and pretty much brings us into the present day (or at least the point of this post). In the last two podcasts, I’ve mentioned a bullet hell game of some sort as something I’ve been playing recently. The Touhou games, while fun, are only available as Japanese imports and are somewhat inaccessible to beginners. Danmaku Unlimited 2 is $5 on Steam, and can serve as an introduction to the genre. It’s quite good, has an awesome soundtrack, and Bel played it for Steampowered Sunday a week ago (on my recommendation).
There’s a bit of a recent resurgence, but games in this genre have gotten rarer as time goes by. I suspect part of this is because as the games attempt to cater toward fans of the genre, they become increasingly difficult to get into for people who aren’t fans of the genre. Hopefully Ikaruga coming to Steam is a sign that there’s interest, and we’ll see more soon.
A final note in closing: I’d like to think I’m pretty good, but I’m sure that since this is the internet, someone can do better. I’ll be waiting.