Like so many Neo Geo games, there's little doubt that some of Blazing Star's appeal lies in the fact that, at one point in time, it was almost totally unobtainable unless you were comfortably rich. Even so, Yumekobo's esteemed shooter has enough quality to entertain even when stripped of its lofty status as a collector's item; the action is fast and challenging, while the controls are tight and responsive. The three shot types add tactical depth to the gameplay and some of the boss encounters will have you sat on the edge of your seat. Our biggest complaints are the rather inconsistent pre-rendered graphics and the way in which the difficulty level smashes through the roof in the latter stages of the game, but these are minor issues when you consider how downright enjoyable Blazing Star is. One of the most famous Neo Geo shooters is an essential purchase on your Switch, especially at this price.
Another M2 joint, this time the port wizards take on Taito's classic side-scrolling shmup series and collect all the 2D games on one Switch cartridge. And unfortunately, it is available exclusively on cartridge in Japan at the moment. We're not sure why exactly it's physical-only, but if you're too impatient to wait for a western release, it's easy enough to import and pop in your Switch right now. Regardless of the peculiarities surrounding its release, Darius Cozmic Collection is a glorious compilation of some stone-cold classics presented in various configurations and modes, with all the attention to detail we've come to expect from M2. Enthusiasts will probably want to import the costly Special Edition which includes an extra five home console games (including the super rare PC Engine Darius Alpha), but newcomers to the genre are probably better off waiting for a western release.
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Directed by ex-Cave dev Daisuke Koizumi, who worked on Deathsmiles 2 and Dondonpachi, amongst other great entries in the genre, Rolling Gunner has pedigree, and it shows; this is one of the most addictive, accessible and downright fun shmups currently available on Nintendo’s system. It plays beautifully, looks amazing and is overall one of the most engaging side-scrolling shmups released in recent memory. Kudos to developer Mebius for creating an entry in the genre that does so much to welcome newcomers into the fold whilst at the same time offering a blisteringly difficult challenge with plenty of hidden depth for hardened warriors looking for their next shooter addiction.
Pawarumi is a tough-as-nails shmup with a unique central mechanic that takes time to master. Stick with it though and you’ll be rewarded with a slick, fast-paced shooter that looks and sounds amazing and will test your skills to the max. There’s really nothing else like it out there right now and, even with slight reservations over the difficulty, a lacklustre story and paucity of game modes, this is an easy recommendation for fans of the genre looking for a proper challenge.
Hyperlight Ultimate is a great little arcade shooter that was good on 3DS and now arrives on Switch in a much more complete and satisfying form, bringing it up to date with a nice lick of paint and handful of new multiplayer modes. The subtle gameplay tweaks here help make things a little less hardcore than in the original game, but this is still pretty tough stuff that comes highly recommended to fans of the genre who like a stiff challenge, so long as they stay away from the ill-advised Panic mode. It nails that hypnotic, one-more-go vibe that makes the best of this genre - games like Resogun and Geometry Wars - so endlessly addicting to play.
This is an old-school 2D shooter that serves as an effective tribute to the classics while successfully managing to inject some fresh ideas of its own. Super Hydorah doesn't reinvent the side-scrolling shmup, but it does kit it out with some cool new gadgets.
In the Hunt is an excellent shoot-'em-up and a great fit for the Switch. It offers something comfortingly familiar in the genre but shockingly, joyously different in execution. It stands out as a high-quality deep cut in the Arcade Archives catalogue of retro classics.
Even if you're not a 2D 'shmup' veteran, or are looking for something a little off the beaten, side-scrolling track, there is plenty to enjoy here - tight controls, plenty of unique monstrous bosses to defeat and exploration of a broken but beautiful submerged world. While it lacks a few options, has occasional boss fight difficulty spikes and is not the relentless action that some genre fans prefer, Earth Atlantis has enough old school shoot 'em up substance to back up its glorious and organic style.
Gunbird is a lot of fun, both in its gameplay and the use of a wacky cast of characters. A single-credit mode similar to the Hi Score (with online leaderboard) one that features in Hamster's ACA Neo Geo/Arcade Archives series would have been a good inclusion, but the game is still very replayable. The co-operative/competitive two-player mode works particularly well, whether on the big screen or playing undocked in TATE mode. There's a good challenge with the default settings, and tweaking the options can make things easier if you'd like to see all the ways the story can play out. Gunbird is another great option for shmup-loving Switch owners.
Aces of the Luftwaffe - Squadron provides plenty of action as you do the standard thing of shooting anything onscreen while avoiding getting hit yourself, and variety is provided by squadron's various troubles and the optional side missions. It's fairly easy to begin with, but the challenge steadily increases as you progress without being too difficult - as long as you keep upgrading your skills, that is. Two additional difficulty settings provide a tougher challenge, and fun boss battles add to the enjoyment. With support for up to four players, Aces of the Luftwaffe - Squadron is a good pick for those seeking multiplayer shmup action.
When you consider how much the Dreamcast version of Zero Gunner 2 changes hands for on the secondary market these days, the fact that you can download a superior version on your Switch for a tiny fraction of that cost is worth celebrating; in that regard, you might want to purchase the game purely to feel smug about the amount of (hypothetical) cash you're saving. Perceived value aside, this is a refreshingly unique take on the shmup genre which has some neat ideas but also builds on Psikyo's other good work – the amazing transforming bosses the company is famous for reach their pinnacle here. The biggest problem is that Zero Gunner 2 lacks longevity, even when you take the two-player mode, multiple difficulty levels and (offline) high score table into account. With that said, it's still an essential download for shooter fans and is creative enough to be recommended to those who have a passing interest in the genre but want something a little different.
Incredible presentation, tight gameplay, high difficulty, and lots of replayability combine to make RIVE an unforgettable experience that we would highly recommend you check out. Two Tribes outdid itself with its final game and although the company will be sadly missed, it couldn’t have gone out with more of a bang.