Game Review

Ultimate Shooting Collection Review

USA USA Version

Posted by Sean Aaron

A 3-in-1 tour of Milestone's vision of Bullet Hell

Milestone is a pretty rare beast: a company completely focused on arcade shooters (well, other than that hula game) at a time when arcades and the old shoot 'em up game genre are both practically extinct. They were putting out Dreamcast games after that system died, so perhaps they just have a morbid obsession with dead game systems. In any event, Ultimate Shooting Collection is the Western name for the Milestone Shooting Collection released in Japan more than 18 months ago and a nice example of the "bullet hell" subgenre of shooting games.

Included are three games that originally appeared in Japanese arcades in the middle of the decade. They are all "bullet hell" shooters which means that whilst you're still shooting on-screen enemies your primary focus is often more on evading their fire than trying to destroy all of them since the screen will frequently be blanketed with bullets.

All three games have similarities in that they have a primary weapon that auto-fires whilst holding the button down, a secondary short range "sword" weapon that does more damage than the primary "shot" weapon; a life bar rather than separate lives - meaning your ship can take a few hits rather than being destroyed by one - and a limit of two continues to get you through the standard five stages. The first two games, Karous and Radio Allergy (abbreviated in the game select menu as "Radirgy") are very similar in their mechanics so we'll address these together. They are the more approachable games for new players, whilst Chaos Field is noticeably more challenging and differs in both structure and visuals from the other two.

In both Karous and Radio Allergy your central strategy is remembering when not to fire and when to use your special attack. Whilst firing you're exposed to enemy attack, however if you stop firing then a shield will form directly ahead of you to absorb enemy fire. It's only good against fire coming directly at you, so you still need to keep moving lest you be hit by shots coming in at angles or those few shots it won't block. The special "attack" in both games is a temporary shield that surrounds your ship, blocks attacks from all directions and causes damage to enemies it contacts - critical in boss encounters. Both games have auto-fire for your sword attack (though shot power decreases if you use both attacks at once) and both like to interrupt the action with little text messages from characters in the game or "spammers" (thankfully this can be turned off).

Whilst the strategies are broadly similar there are noticeable differences between the games. Karous is the more approachable game for bullet hell novices because the bullet hell sections are limited to the boss battles in the first couple of stages (after that all bets are off), and the bosses themselves aren't too difficult to defeat - once you get your head around the idea that not shooting is a good thing sometimes. There are carriers with power-ups that appear periodically that can be toggled between a few different types by hitting them with your sword: you can change your shot type between fairly conventional "spread" and "laser" varieties or upgrade your shot, sword or shield levels, which are recorded in a display in the upper-left corner of the screen. Upgrading your shot level increases the number of shots and their power, upgrading the sword increases the frequency of sword attacks when holding the button down and upgrading the shields increases their defensive capability and eventually reflects shots back at attackers. Your special attack can be triggered after filling your S.P. gauge either via a pick-up or, more slowly, by shooting enemies.

Radio Allergy allows an initial choice between three ship colours and three shot patterns which you stick with throughout the game. Your shot power is tied to an energy gauge at the top of the screen which is filled by collecting little capsules released by enemies after you shoot them. Using your special attack or hitting enemies with your shield will cause these to be collected automatically, but otherwise you need to intercept them which is not an easy task as they fly towards the bottom of the screen faster than bullets. You can also pick up power-ups, but given the energy gauge is constantly running down you'll still want to collect those capsules. Ground-based enemies leave behind various tokens after being shot and some enemies fire odd things like basketballs, baseballs and tennis balls or falling leaves at you. Unlike Karous, Radio Allergy is a bullet-fest right from the start though the goofy attacks and food tokens enemies leave behind make it feel a little friendlier - don't be fooled though, this is definitely the tougher game.

Chaos Field is substantially different from the other two games. Visually Radio Allergy and Karous are quite similar with a bright, cel-shaded look that makes the games look very similar to each other. Chaos Field is much darker and has a more conventional look to it. Rather than going through a series of smaller ships ending in boss battles, Chaos Field is simply a series of boss battles against giant screen-filling enemies and is quite challenging right from the beginning. You choose one of three ships, each with different shot types and degrees of manoeuvrability; your only defence is your sword and special attacks. Your sword attack can only be used as quickly as you can press the button after the attack animation completes, meaning that you'll have sub-second windows of vulnerability when using it to clear out shots (thankfully there are very few which it cannot sweep aside).

Rather than triggering a special attack the third button is used to change the game mode between the Fields of Order and the Fields of Chaos. In the Fields of Chaos your weapons do more damage, but the enemies' attacks also become more ferocious and fewer items are released when they're destroyed, so switching back-and-forth is a major part of your strategy. By pressing a combination of sword and shot or all three buttons you can pull off two different special attacks, though this is limited by the amount of Meta Stock you have. Collecting ten items will give you one Meta Stock; holding and releasing the fire button when items are floating towards you will cause you to collect them automatically.

Configuration options are plentiful with players able to adjust their starting life-bar amount, score required to regain a life point, overall difficulty and button assignments (though you'll need to press (A) to confirm selections and high score entry regardless of function remapping). Karous and Radio Allergy also have an option to be displayed vertically just like the arcade - assuming you have a vertical monitor to hook your Wii up to. Controller choices include Remote and Nunchuk, GameCube Controller, or (best of all) Classic Controller/Pro. One thing you cannot change is the number of starting credits, so you're not going to see any of the endings until you master the games. The soundtracks are a great mix of techno and classical/opera and can be listened to separately via the Sound Test menu (there are no sound effects on offer, however.)

While all of these games have interesting mechanics, none of them are as compelling as Castle of Shikigami III or Ikaruga. Enemies tend to be pretty generic spaceships and tanks and the attacks are no different to any shooting game produced in the past 20 years. Nevertheless it's a good collection which is worth having for any fan of the genre.

Conclusion

Ultimate Shooting Collection presents three recent examples of arcade shooters and is firmly targeted at fans of the "bullet hell" subgenre or just shooting fans who might want to see what's been happening in Japanese arcades in the past ten years. Whilst none of the games on their own is particularly special, it should definitely have a space on the shelf of any shoot-em-up fan. UFO should be applauded for taking the time to localise Milestone Shooting Collection for the North American market; hopefully a European publisher will step up and follow suit for PAL territories.

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User Comments (20)

JamieOStaff

#3

JamieO said:

Thanks Sean, your review has laid it all out for me and it definitely belongs in my collection. I am up for buying it to support Milestone's dedication to the genre, your opening paragraph is a great hats off to the type of company that earns my respect. I am going to import this for sure, I like the idea of a cel shaded shooter, but I may have to wait until after Christmas. Great review, mate. :)
@LEGEND_MARIOID Just to let you know, unfortunately this one is not available for your DS, this 3 game compilation is for the Wii if you think that you may be more tempted in playing it more on a bigger screen. However, it is not available in the UK at the moment, so you would need an imported Wii console and copy of the game to play it.

Stargazer

#4

Stargazer said:

This collection is pretty great, especially Karous and Radio Allergy. I am very much looking forward to Milestone's next Wii release, Arcade Shooter: Illvelo. These aren't my favorite type of shmup, but I'll take what I can get until a new Lords / Gate of Thunder comes out :-)

Sean_Aaron

#5

Sean_Aaron said:

@JamieO: Thanks for the kind words. I'll have to see if the soundtrack is available when I'm in Japan next year!

@Stargazer: Just in case you're unaware UFO is bringing Ilvelo to North American shores in February. Looks like a bullet hell cute-em-up?

outrun2sp

#6

outrun2sp said:

Respect Sean. This is a good site so im glad to see games like this getting reviews because people in the industry do read it. Hopefully, it will be picked up by somebody.

Im with Jamie in that I would get this to give a sale although I already have better games than this.

Now I hope to see this and castle of shikigami 3 popping up on the european ratings board (optimism.....).

Europe is having a real shocker with shooters though

On Wii - No Castle of Shikigami 3
No Ultimate shooter collection

On 360 - No Raiden Fighter Aces
No Raiden 5

All the above available in usa.

Shocking

bro2dragons

#7

bro2dragons said:

sounds good. i was torn between trying to grab this or castle of shikigami III when i finally beat ikaruga, but i think Sean just made my decision in favor of the latter (though this still sounds good). thanks!

JamieOStaff

#8

JamieO said:

@Sean_Aaron No worries at all bud, I've noticed that your writing style is exactly what I look for in a gaming review, you are obviously a nut for retro genres and you take that perspective to concentrate on the details, which I appreciate.
Three words and two hypens and with "bullet hell cute-em-up", I am already sold on Ilvelo. I headed to you tube and found a super vibrant cel-shaded shooter with a completely wacky art style, I like the busy colourful backgrounds with lego pieces, pencil crayons and huge bunnys. Nice!

RichieTheSignPainter

#9

RichieTheSignPainter said:

Hope it does come to europe. These games always suck me in a bit but I'm never any good at them.
Might motivate me into buying Ikaruga for the Gamecube.

3230ru

#10

3230ru said:

Because smups are so few on both Nintendo consoles outside Japan market I think every release in genre must recvieve 10 out of 10 like a glass of water in the desert !!! This release is for sure a rear gem for the collection. I would like to admit that shmups have a lot of fans in Europe for sure and while they can export a game(I think it is only one particular game at the moment) for DS, to play a shmup on Wii there is no other way then brake your console with a homebrew tricks :-( so the only question is WHY?...

SwerdMurd

#11

SwerdMurd said:

1) Worst Title Screen that has EVER BEEN. Seriously--there is no excuse, in today's age of effortless photoshopping, for an in-game title this awful to make it into a final release.

2) Too easy. Karous, while the "best" game on the collection, is waaay too easy on all difficulty levels. Radio Allergy is a bit tougher...but still, these games are entirely too forgiving for the bullet hell genre in my opinion.

3) Chaos Field is a slowdown-riddled mess, and is as close to unplayable as any recently-released shmup. Every time you use your lock-on laser, the game chops. Every time, without fail.

It's still a must-buy for lovers of STGs, but I felt these 3 points where pretty important.

LEGEND_MARIOID

#12

LEGEND_MARIOID said:

@Jamie

Ooops, I meant "Wii" retail library...typo, my mistake. Was just e-baying some of my ds games prior to typing that i think.

@Aviator

I don't know if that was directed at me, but I did read the revw actually. I have also read a revw of this game in n-gamer too i think.

JamieOStaff

#13

JamieO said:

@LEGEND_MARIOID That is cool, we all make typos mate, I recently submitted a sentence in a review which stated that N64 Super Mario 64 was released in 2006! Remember that awesome N64 Mario game, it was only released three years ago and it had all those additions like the yellow cape, spherical planet gravity, hovering with the water pack, raccoon suit and where you pluck out the vegetables?
Nah, it was just me not noticing that I had typed 2006 instead of 1996. We all make typos, 'cause we're all human, except sometimes when I pick up a controller I am a red and white trainer sporting, blue spiky hedgehog! ;)

Rerun

#14

Rerun said:

Excellent review. I love SHMUPs! I'm just waiting for this to go on sale then I'm buying! I hope we get Radiant Silvergun and Raiden for the Wii (keeping fingers crossed)!

CanisWolfred

#16

CanisWolfred said:

I've been meaning to get it for a while, not sure what's holding me back.

@megaboomface

I'd be more surprised if you had heard of them, because all the games came out on the Dreamcast when the Dreamcast was already dead.:P For most people, it'd be like getting 3 new games for the price o' one.

jbrodack

#17

jbrodack said:

Mostly good review except for needlessly mentioning Ikaruga. Also, I think this game does show creativity in the design especially in radio allergy.
I got this and its a really good collection though karous and radio allergy play extremely similar. Chaos field though is pretty different from those two. I still have to get shikigami 3. the dialogue in 2 was some of the most hilariously bad I've ever heard.

brokenpavement

#18

brokenpavement said:

Nice review; I got this soon after launch. I was one of the few that was waiting feverishly for the GameCube release of Radilgy, but I was not too disappointed when it finally made it to the States along with two other games (albeit on a different console...) For the price, it's a top-notch collection. It ranks with the Williams Pinball Hall of Fame for best bargain software on the Wii.

nix

#20

nix said:

Yup, want this!!, can't have this, sort it out EU publishers, too many games like this are not getting released. Thankyou N.

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