SHMUPs: Welcome to The Curtain of Bullets


Oh god, even the bullets are shooting bullets.   
 

Introduction

 SHMUPs are one of the oldest video game genres in existance. It's true. Even before games like Ultima and Wizardy. Shooters preceded them all. It all started in 1978 with the release of Space Invaders. A revolutionary game by the Japanese developer known as Taito which still makes arcade boards and other video games. More than 30 years later since the release of the original. Now, in the year 2010. The genre has became one of the least accessible and is literally never mentioned in mainstream video games. Even Rogue-like fans who recently got The Dark Spire and Shiren The Wanderer are laughing at fans of the shooter genre. Here is a blog totally dedicated to the dying genre. I will include some recommendations for beginners, hybrid shmups, and what I think are the best games and developers in the genre.  Before I begin, these are merely my opinions and shouldn't be considered anything more than that.
  

Recommendations for Beginners

The genre is very diverse, that much is obvious. The tricky part is finding out which game is for you. First recommendation is a game called Bangai-O Spirits for the DS. It is the sequel from the original Dreamcast version. It is made by the amazing developers over at Treasure who made games such as Ikaruga, Sin and Punishment, and Radiant Silvergun. It's fairly easy to get into for the first half but the difficulty ramps up. Well worth a look. Second game is on the 360. It is called Raiden IV. The Raiden series is also a well known series on the scene. It's a throwback to old games like Gradius, Radiant Silvergun, and Giga Wing. You can find it fairly cheap at your local video game store. Finally, the last game is Castle of Shikigami III. This series goes back to the PS2 and is also pretty easy to get into if you have patience. It is notorious for the god awful voice acting that will make you cringe, and then laugh your heart out. 
 

Hybrids

Like every other genre, SHMUPs have hybrids too. Only here, they are one of the easiest games to get into. Examples of these are Starfox 64, Pilot Wings, and just about any Panzer Dragoon game. If I had to pick ONE game that is my absolute favourite, then that game is Sin and Punishment on the N64 and now Wii Virtual Console. Sin and Punishment is the perfect game in a variety of ways. It is another example of Treasure doing what they do best. It is a SHMUP combined with some aspects of a rail shooter. There are still curtains of bullets that you must dodge like all games in the genre, but there is a twist of being able to move on both axis. Sin and Punishment combines amazing set-pieces, great music, and just all-around perfect gameplay. The only dent in it's armor is the nonsensical story and voice-acting. But honestly, who plays these games for a compelling narrative? Nobody, that's who! 
 

The Best of the Best

The pinnacle of what this genre has, are the independent Japanese games aka "Doujins". An example of this is the Tohou Project. ONE guy makes a series of games including one which is my favourites, Perfect Cherry Blossom, the game in that first picture in this blog. You don't need to dig deep to find the gems, just hit up and Google and get ready for a goldmine of classic game design for free. If I had to pick TWO developers that are the best that this genre has to offer, they are definetly Treasure and CAVE. I have cited Treasure numerous times in this blog because they are just THAT good. CAVE on the other hand, is a dev that rarely releases it's games outside of Japan but most of them are region-free so you can import if you have the desire. Examples of their work are Mushihimesama Futari 1.5, EspGaluda II, DoDonPachi Daioujou, and DeathSmiles. All of these games are at the height of the genre. CAVE has perfected the concept of "bullet hell" while still being somewhat accessible due to the amount of difficulty levels. So if I had to pick three games that are my utmost favourites, they would be Sin and Punishment, Mushihimesama Futari 1.5, and Ikaruga. 
 

Conclusion

 I hope you enjoyed reading this blog and it got you at least somewhat interested into this genre of video games. So until next time, peace folks!
19 Comments
20 Comments
Edited by Aljosa15

Oh god, even the bullets are shooting bullets.   
 

Introduction

 SHMUPs are one of the oldest video game genres in existance. It's true. Even before games like Ultima and Wizardy. Shooters preceded them all. It all started in 1978 with the release of Space Invaders. A revolutionary game by the Japanese developer known as Taito which still makes arcade boards and other video games. More than 30 years later since the release of the original. Now, in the year 2010. The genre has became one of the least accessible and is literally never mentioned in mainstream video games. Even Rogue-like fans who recently got The Dark Spire and Shiren The Wanderer are laughing at fans of the shooter genre. Here is a blog totally dedicated to the dying genre. I will include some recommendations for beginners, hybrid shmups, and what I think are the best games and developers in the genre.  Before I begin, these are merely my opinions and shouldn't be considered anything more than that.
  

Recommendations for Beginners

The genre is very diverse, that much is obvious. The tricky part is finding out which game is for you. First recommendation is a game called Bangai-O Spirits for the DS. It is the sequel from the original Dreamcast version. It is made by the amazing developers over at Treasure who made games such as Ikaruga, Sin and Punishment, and Radiant Silvergun. It's fairly easy to get into for the first half but the difficulty ramps up. Well worth a look. Second game is on the 360. It is called Raiden IV. The Raiden series is also a well known series on the scene. It's a throwback to old games like Gradius, Radiant Silvergun, and Giga Wing. You can find it fairly cheap at your local video game store. Finally, the last game is Castle of Shikigami III. This series goes back to the PS2 and is also pretty easy to get into if you have patience. It is notorious for the god awful voice acting that will make you cringe, and then laugh your heart out. 
 

Hybrids

Like every other genre, SHMUPs have hybrids too. Only here, they are one of the easiest games to get into. Examples of these are Starfox 64, Pilot Wings, and just about any Panzer Dragoon game. If I had to pick ONE game that is my absolute favourite, then that game is Sin and Punishment on the N64 and now Wii Virtual Console. Sin and Punishment is the perfect game in a variety of ways. It is another example of Treasure doing what they do best. It is a SHMUP combined with some aspects of a rail shooter. There are still curtains of bullets that you must dodge like all games in the genre, but there is a twist of being able to move on both axis. Sin and Punishment combines amazing set-pieces, great music, and just all-around perfect gameplay. The only dent in it's armor is the nonsensical story and voice-acting. But honestly, who plays these games for a compelling narrative? Nobody, that's who! 
 

The Best of the Best

The pinnacle of what this genre has, are the independent Japanese games aka "Doujins". An example of this is the Tohou Project. ONE guy makes a series of games including one which is my favourites, Perfect Cherry Blossom, the game in that first picture in this blog. You don't need to dig deep to find the gems, just hit up and Google and get ready for a goldmine of classic game design for free. If I had to pick TWO developers that are the best that this genre has to offer, they are definetly Treasure and CAVE. I have cited Treasure numerous times in this blog because they are just THAT good. CAVE on the other hand, is a dev that rarely releases it's games outside of Japan but most of them are region-free so you can import if you have the desire. Examples of their work are Mushihimesama Futari 1.5, EspGaluda II, DoDonPachi Daioujou, and DeathSmiles. All of these games are at the height of the genre. CAVE has perfected the concept of "bullet hell" while still being somewhat accessible due to the amount of difficulty levels. So if I had to pick three games that are my utmost favourites, they would be Sin and Punishment, Mushihimesama Futari 1.5, and Ikaruga. 
 

Conclusion

 I hope you enjoyed reading this blog and it got you at least somewhat interested into this genre of video games. So until next time, peace folks!
Posted by Aljosa15

For some reason it wouldn't let me insert this video at the end so here it is here...  

Edited by ArclightBorealis

Nice blog. Only two of the games mentioned I have played all the way through, and enjoyed. Both of them being from Treasure. Indeed they are good. 
Bangai-O Spirits I'll admit I was hesitant of, because all the reviews I saw went on about how difficult it was. Save for the Longai-Os (hated those things) I had little problems. Frantic, but not enough to make me give up. 
And Sin & Punishment...just plain awesome. Looking forward to the sequel. 
 
I definetely like SHMUPs, though admitedly I haven't played a whole lot. Maybe I should get to trying Ikaruga again on Gamecube (didn't get far last time, which was quite a few years ago).

Posted by Aljosa15
@Alaska_Gamer: Yeah I can't wait for Sin and Punishment: Star Successor. I played a bit of the Japanese import back in November and what I played off it, it looked like it surpassed the first game, and then some. The Wii-mote works amazingly well with it. :D
Edited by Geno

I am extremely jealous of people that can play these games well. I can only just barely get through Touhou 7 on Normal so yeah. 

Posted by ArclightBorealis
@Aljosa15: Definetely sounds like it does. It's rather hard to keep myself from watching the japanese version on Youtube. I'm just so excited. 
 
Dang it, now I have to replay the first game. This always happens when Sin & Punishment is brought up, it's unavoidable. lol
Edited by Altruis

Good to see someone else knows about these games. You also forgot to mention that DeathSmiles (CAVE's most accessible game) is getting a US release this year.

Posted by PNut_Buttr_Panda

lol this makes galaga look like a fucking cake walk

Posted by InTheEnd

I remember when I got into shmups a couple years back, but I've since dropped them. The problem for me was that I couldn't afford imports and fighting sticks. At the time I was like 15 and had no steady income unlike the majority of the fanbase which has been at it for years. Maybe I should get back... 

Posted by LiquidSwords

Love these games. Went to Japan with some friends and got a chance to play  Mushihimesama Futari & DeathSmiles. Glad Cave is releasing some of these games region free now. Fun and challenging!
Posted by Aljosa15
@Altruis: Oh yeah, I should have mentioned that in there lol. 
 
DeathSmiles II was officially announced as well. Can't wait. :D
Posted by Altruis
@Aljosa15: Just a question: why no freeware shmups? Kenta Cho's games are a great place to start.
Posted by PufferFiz

I love shmups
Actually I am trying to make a XNA shmup engine. But since I am doing it alone not sure when it is getting done.

Posted by Altruis

Important: March is Intergalactic Shmuppreciation Month. The point of this is to get more people interested in this rather niche genre, and every year there is also a contest. This year, the prize is a specialized arcade stick, made from all sanwa parts and made to be PS3 and 360 compatible. For information on how to enter, see here.

Posted by BeachThunder

I suppose I like shmpus in theory. I would really like to play Ikaruga, for example, but I just don't think I have the dexterity for it. 
The only shmup I've played and really loved is Tyrian. Although Parodius was cool too, if only for the lols. I just wish there were more easier shmups being produced., but that seems counter to the trend towards bullet hell shmups.
 
By the way, Spacewar! preceeded Space Invaders by almost 15 years.

Posted by Skald

As inaccessible as it is, Ikaruga remains one of my favourite games.

Posted by JerkFace

Good list.  I've been getting into the genre recently, and I hadn't heard of Deathsmiles.  Glad to see GameStop is getting this version stateside in June.

Posted by Romination

I love a good schmup. Especially entertaining the idea that i could ever be even decent at one of them.

Edited by Al3xand3r

Bullet hell shmups are a sub genre themselves, plenty of good/classic/popular shooters don't have anything resembling bullet curtains (even some of your mentioned favorites). I wouldn't call them the pinnacle of anything, sure there are damn good ones, but there are damn good ones of any sub genre.

Posted by Quater

Man, forget Ikaruga. Mars Matrix... now that game is hard. Walk straight up to you, tell you 'you look mighty cute in them jeans' while jamming a rusty shiv between your ribs kind of hard.