Monday 26 March 2018

The Fine Art Of The Shoot 'Em Up by SEGA LORD X

This month on the Junkyard we have the extreme honour of featuring the musings and opinions of YouTube legend and Saturn devotee, SEGA Lord X!!! Not only does Sega Lord X produce the finest no-nonsense
video-based insights into the Saturn's hidden gems, he is also a generous supporter of our growing Saturn community. That being so, he has allowed us to reproduce his recent Facebook post here on the Junkyard. On our last Titancast
we discussed Shmups... Here SEGA Lord X shares his thoughts on the subject...

"The shoot'em up has been a staple of gaming for over 30 years. I can remember vividly playing Eugene Jarvis's Defender in the arcade at just 7 years old, in fact. The horizontally scrolling screen, flashing graphics, and iconic sounds, stick out as a pivotal moment in my gaming memories. It berthed my love of what would become one of the hobbies most prominent genres for years to come. 

Things weren't always sunshine and flowers, though. Over the years the shoot'em up genre would change, grow, and splinter into many different types and sub genres. Mastering one shooter did not mean you could play the next exactly the same way. Some would completely throw away horizontal scrolling and go vertical, while others would hide systems(scoring, difficulty, power ups) that would work against you if you didn't know they were there. There are even shoot'em ups that fill the screen with so much death they seem impossible. In effect, if you wanted to be good at shoot'em ups, you needed to do your homework and put in a little effort, as going in blind often meant an unpleasant experience.

This is perhaps the biggest turn off for many about the genre. Dying can come literally seconds after starting a new life even for seasoned players. I've seen friends that were good gamers wiped out in Radiant Silvergun in no time. Did they suck, or are these games a lot deeper than most give them credit for?

I started to understand the genre better back in the mid 90's. I had been a fair player in the genre before that, besting games like R-Type, Gradius, Life Force, and Thunder Force II, without much trouble. New shooters began hitting arcades and consoles around 1995 that really began kicking my ass, though. I had gone from competent in the genre, to having trouble beating the first few stages. What happened?

These games began to employ certain systems under the surface that added a ton of depth and replayability. Some would get harder the better you did. Some would spit out power ups more often if you played a certain way. Still others would string score bonuses together in a big way, allowing you to get the extra lives you needed to beat the game. They began to go well beyond the simple "learn the enemy patterns" of the 1980's. 

That leads me to my advice to anyone wanting to experience this genre today. Take some time and read up on whatever game you want to play. Learn how its systems work, and play the game with an open and patient mind. You are going to die a lot at first; nobody beats a shoot'em up the first time they try it. These games are often short, comprised of only 4-8 levels even in the longest of examples. You are meant to be challenged, meant to try them multiple times, and ultimately, meant to die a lot as a newcomer. Like the modern day Demon's Souls and Bloodborne games, the reward comes in perseverance and figuring out how to overcome its challenges. 

If you are the type of gamer who has shunned the genre as simply too hard or not your type of game, I urge you to not give up. Shoot'em ups can be incredibly rewarding experiences. Not only do many have incredible art and graphics, but some of the best soundtracks the hobby has ever produced has been attached to a shoot'em up. These games are a lot more than just bullets flying around a screen; they are testaments of skill, patience, and recognition. Go into them knowing that, and I'm positive you can succeed.   

Fun shooters to start with on the Sega Saturn: Gunbird, Strikers 1945, Darius Gaiden, and Gradius Deluxe Pack."


Now why not enjoy the opinions of your Junkyard Crew by checking out the Titancast Shmup Episode!

1 comment:

Blondejon said...

Splendid write up