I’ve played a lot of shmups this year. You wouldn’t know by following me here since I’ve neglected to write about any of them. I’m sorry, but my spell-checker just really doesn’t like the word “shmups” and I already disappoint it enough.
Actually, it’s more to do with the fact that they’re so hard to say much about. Even in my younger years, I felt for the poor souls asked to review shooters, wondering how much they needed to struggle just to pad out their word counts with fluff whilst dancing around the fact that so many in the genre feel exactly alike.
Kinda like what I’m doing right now.
I do have an inherent advantage in that I don’t actually write reviews here. Even now, I find it difficult to articulate exactly what makes a shooter “good” in comparison to others, often the only difference on the surface being whether you control a ship or a magical anime girl. I know there’s a certain feel to the ones that get it right; the way you weave though a series of constant near-misses while unloading increasingly powerful shots at waves of enemies. When you get into the right frame of mind, it can be nearly trance-like. In the rare moments that I wasn’t getting slaughtered, Raiden IV was able to capture that.
For all of the posturing about “true gamers” and what constitutes being “hardcore”, the most apt genre is the one I see the fewest talk about, having its roots in the infancy of the medium itself. Maybe there’s a thriving underground shoot ’em up scene that I’m completely unaware of. All I know is that I never fail to be impressed whenever I see someone that can go through a game like this without getting hit.
And by “be impressed”, I mean “feel completely inadequate”, wondering why my “use all of the bombs” strategy never seemed to pay off.