M2’s ShotTriggers series has been an ongoing pilgrimage of preservation for some of the greatest shoot-em-up’s in arcade history. Hishou Same! Same! Same! combines an early Toaplan series of two: Hishouzame and Same! Same! Same!, known in the West as Flying Shark and Fire Shark, respectively. Both original arcade titles are presented here with a variety of modes, correctly maintained aspect ratios, screen settings, and a library of bonus features and options to tinker with. Regional variations are also present, since they have slight alterations in overall difficulty. After an initially long load, the opening menu screen blasts you like a Van Halen power ballad with a terrific arrange of Flying Shark’s ‘Against The Attack’ — regrettably unavailable as an in-game audio option.
Flying Shark (1987) and its sequel, Fire Shark (1989), are quasi-World War themed shoot-em-ups, sending up biplanes with hefty ordnance against futuristic, cannon-bristled tanks, battleship-patrolled seas, enemy bases and muted mountain ranges. Graphically, these titles are a product of their time, and all the more endearing for it, peppered with land-based details like runway strip airmen pointing you to glory, or the trailing plane that crashes on take-off, its pilot lying inert in a smouldering pit.
Toaplan sought to broaden their shoot-em-up horizons with a faster, more expansive experience in the Shark titles, ploughed with secrets, bonuses and layered scoring elements. Anyone who assumes that the modern bullet hell format is the summit of shoot-em-up difficulty doesn’t understand the broadness of the genre. In bullet hell, 90% of fire is pure periphery, obsfucating paths through tiny hit-boxes. Conversely, Flying Shark and Fire Shark are absolute destroyers of worlds, with singular aimed bullets zipping in from every direction. To ease the pain, M2 provides a finger-sparing auto-fire button — something the original arcade release didn’t have by default. Unfortunately, it’s locked at 10hz speed, which is about double what it should be, and as a result there is some break-up in the rate of fire.
Like most shoot-em-ups, powering-up is a matter of urgency, and doing so requires you to know the opening stages in detail. Flying Shark is the easier game, with just five stages in a loop, and more limited weapon options and strategies. It’s similar in feel to Tiger-Heli, though less punishing, and some may prefer its brevity and relative simplicity. More straightforwardly structured, you swat biplane formations and accrue power-ups until you’re laying out a formidable barrage. It’s an extremely enjoyable learning process, and getting through even the first 15-minute loop is incredibly gratifying thanks to its incremental nature and awesome, driving soundtrack.
Fire Shark, comparatively, is a long, 10-stage stint that’s soul-crushingly tough from its opening gambit to its snowy final third. At the same time, this was a revolutionary shoot-em-up release, not just for Toaplan’s output, but for the genre entire. It plays faster and looser but no less exactingly, requiring razor-sharp reflex and heroic resolve. It established many modern idiosyncrasies that continue to echo in today’s vertical scrollers, and is considered a highly influential work. At the same time, it’s unashamedly brutal, with bewildering bullet speeds in its latter half. That said, the second-player ship has a much easier ride, privy to both slightly slower bullets and far more extra lives, and is a widely preferred alternative among even seasoned shoot-em-up enthusiasts.
The problem is, selecting the second player ship, while doable, is ridiculously convoluted, unlike the PS4 version where it’s simply a case of a quick option-screen adjustment. We don’t know why this is, and it’s essentially impossible to do in handheld mode, making it a rare quality lapse from the usually reliable M2.
In both games, coloured icons bounce around the screen, some providing power-ups to your weapon meter, additional bombs, or upping your ship’s speed. Fire Shark offers three weapon types, including the dreaded green laser: a powerful but ineffectively narrow shot type that usually has you avoiding its circling icons in addition to a hail of bullets. But, build the blue spread shot or the ultimately dwarfing red laser flamethrower, and you’re instantly more in control. It’s great fun in both titles to get your early power-up routines down-pat: the first milestone on a road to many potential victories. But, knowing when to hug the bottom edge of the screen to demolish incoming gunboats before they can fire on you, or those tight horizontal shots that soar dangerously across your plane’s nose, is of the utmost importance.
While the difficulty level across both games is steep, it’s also an art-form. You are unkempt metal, pitted and warped, like that from the wing of a battle-worn Spitfire, and the conflict will temper you over days, weeks, months or years, until you’re factory-curved and polished to a shine. Dedicating yourself to learning either of the compilation’s titles is to commit to mastery. You need to remember what’s coming and when; how to deal with specific formations on the fly, and sudden curveballs in the form of a measured quantity of RNG. Either way, you can expect to be pipped out of existence thousands of times, stripped of power and sent back remorselessly to the last restart point until you learn to turn the tide. Fighting your way through tens of increasingly difficult loops is akin to wrestling an actual shark — if that shark were buttons and directional inputs — but there’s genuine elation in overcoming the challenge.
For those who drill down into the core, there are plenty of scoring tricks and secrets to mine, too. Differently coloured enemy planes come in waves, seemingly dependent on your performance, and, while there are a lot of random elements in Toaplan’s early games — and it’s still not clear exactly what produces the white 1up-carrying biplanes — there is still some method to the madness. To help break this down, the now familiar M2 gadgets, which provide information on what’s happening beneath the game’s surface, offer a mini-map and display panes detailing bullet speed, weapon levels, and even the colour of upcoming formations.
In the event it all gets too much, a Super Easy Mode offers a welcome, casual diversion. Featuring auto-bombing and lots of extra lives, it’s both an exciting and relaxing way to spend an afternoon. Elsewhere, Custom Mode and Arcade Challenge — the latter a practice area where you can can get granular with game parameters — offer alternative time-sinks.
Several home ports of the games are also on board, but sadly locked behind DLC barriers. Realistically, we think they should have been included, at this price, in the base game — but if you can only buy one, make it Fire Shark’s superb Mega Drive port. It offers a console-friendly take on the arcade game, cracking audio, and a more reasonable difficulty curve, making it both encouraging to clear and a blast to try and master. And, should you find yourself in a fit of gnawing rage and done (temporarily) with shooting things, Toaplan’s Wardner, a fun side-scrolling fantasy platform game, is also available as a (somewhat random) DLC extra.
Toaplan Arcade Garage: Hishou Same! Same! Same! is wonderful, historical stuff, conserving two beautifully designed roadmaps for the future succession of the genre. Antique, yet savagely modern in their viciousness, there are few titles that brew with as much energy beneath a late-'80s vintage aesthetic, driven intrepidly by Tatsuya Uemura and Masahiro Yuge’s incredible soundtracks.
Despite this, it would be misleading to cite the package as something for everyone. It’s a perfect addition for people collecting M2’s series, and for those with an interest in the preservation and best possible representation of notable arcade titles. As shoot-em-ups, Flying Shark and Fire Shark require a specific approach and methodology, and won’t necessarily be to all tastes. If you revel in the thrill of old-school hardcore gaming, it’s a duo that potentially offer years of service. For everyone else they may feel a bit samey, samey, samey.
My physical from Playasia is still being delivered. Can't wait.
Why are they not publishing them in the West? The translations are already done.
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incoming Apex Predator
Now THAT is some incredible cover art... sharks, planes, fire, tornados... simply amazing.
I'll just get the physical package which will contain all the games though I'm glad they put both console versions as separate download as I am only interested in the NES version which had that superb soundtrack and tight control.
I thought for a second this was going to be a game where you fight sharks in a biplane, and I got really, really excited.
@HIGHscores85 we are 'Waiting Game' bros.
I literally play nothing but shmups. My favorite genre, by far.
This is overpriced. These games should be Arcade Archives releases for 8 bucks.
Compare the content/price to the competition - Mushihimesama. Crimzon Clover. Dodonpachi Resurrection.
It's not even close. Not. Even. Close.
If you're waiting on english translation, stop waiting. Not gonna happen.
M2 shottriggers haven't released a decent product since esprade in 2019 and there is no sign that they are going to anytime soon. And esprade STILL hasn't gotten a western release. Probably never will.
Bit rubbish were not seeing a western release for these games i know you can import but we shouldnt need to.
Man I remember Flying Shark on the Amstrad way back in the day (a pretty good conversion from what I gathered) — be nice to play the original
For those that need it "same" is pronounced something like "sa-may" and means "shark."
Hm, shoot em ups? All the same same same...
I absolutely love Wardner. That's a lovely little bonus.
Can't wait to get this. Love the M2 Shottriggers series. They're pricey but they're worth it Love all the gadgets on the side even though most of them are not really needed. Makes the games look and feel premium.
It's strange that they've locked auto-fire to 10 shots p/s. Normally they let you choose from a few different speeds.
@BloodNinja Ahh, so this must be a sequel to that Intellivision game, Shark! Shark!
@KoopaTheGamer LOL Probably..?
I'm sorry but this looks pretty run of the mill in terms of shoot em' ups. I have a hard time believing it is an 8/10. It kind of waters down your review curve....
I'm still puzzled why these vertical shooters aren't given a horizontal option to the fill the screen properly. Instead of flying up the screen, you're flying to the left. It wouldn't make any difference in the gameplay, especially as it would be an option. Vertical fans can still play the traditional way. I just don't like so much screen space wasted so don't bother with these games.
@NintendoJunkie To some people this would be a 10. Totally depends on your gaming sensibilities. An 8 is accurate to its quality, in relation to the genre.
@HalBailman Just rotate or flip-grip your Switch, or turn a monitor on its side.
@Tom-Massey Sure, I can just spin my 60 inch TV vertical.
LMFAO! 😅 😅 😅
These games should support horizontal play, end of story.
@HalBailman But it came out in 1987 in an arcade machine where the 28” monitor was vertically oriented. Regardless, this Switch release can be rotated horizontally both ways, so your wish is granted. In fact 95% of vertical scrollers released today have this option built in.
@Tom-Massey Come on, man! Be serious. You can't expect people to rotate 60 inch TVs. Who cares about 1987! Games should be updated for today's home TVs. If I can't play it in a horizontal perspective, not interested.
I think some shmups on the Switch support what you're asking for, i'm pretty sure i sometimes see shmups having options to rotate the controls with the screen so people can play vertical shmups horizontally.
Another excellent effort from M2. I'm not one of these people who just offers blanket praise because it's the current orthodoxy (the Konami Contra collection is a disaster and the original G Darius HD was at best half-assed before the update), but they've done a great job here. I bought it on PS5 since that's where the rest of my Shot Triggers games are. With this and Ultimate Tiger out of the way, I wonder what the next package will include? My prediction is Slap Fight/Alcorn, VV and Demon's World.
@OorWullie I agree some are unnecessary compared to the Shot Triggers series, but it does look great and they've updated these games so they are the definitive versions going fwd.
We begged M2 for Toaplan games and we got them, so I'm keeping up my end and buying them.
@Satan I'm hoping for a Hellfire / Zero Wing collection next. I love Hellfire, it's one of the games responsible for getting me into shmups. Other than a brief go on my hacked Wii some 10 years ago, I haven't played it since the early 90's. I'm curious how I'll feel about it now, having played so many other classics on Switch. Zero Wing I have never played. I know it's not supposed to be one of their best but it makes sense that it would come together with Hellfire.
Cheers for the info on G-Darius HD. I've been waiting for this update. I was also a little underwhelmed at the port. Reading the update details, it seems they've gone even further than they originally intended to.
@OorWullie I bought the Japanese G-Darius HD release which cost $60 when Play Asia's cut is factored into it. I got the update earlier than those who bought the Western release and while it's welcomed, it looked like an ultra cheap minimal effort release.
Also, I know the Shot Triggers and Toaplan Garage packages are Japanese releases, but to leave Twin Cobra - the version most if not all Westerners are used to (it has respawns not checkpoints) w/out Gadgets is a bit of an oversight on M2's behalf. If not a little cheap.
Also, if you like shmups on Switch - the Live Wire Cave ports are pretty mega with some of the best input response on Switch. Get those.
@Satan The work they put into remastering G-Darius I think is pretty impressive but elsewhere it was pretty lacking. I wish there was an option to remove the slowdown like the Aleste Collection has. I remember watching some gameplay from the arcade Version 2 a while ago and it seemed to have less slowdown. Hopefully that's the case.
The Live Wire Cave ports are great. I have Mushihimesama and Espgaluda 2. I still need to get Dodonpachi Resurrection. Mushi is my favourite Cave game so far. Love it.
I absolutely love my shmups on Switch. I have a fairly large collection....
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