I've been meaning to post in this thread for quite some time now. I vividly remember lurking the forum and this countdown in particular several years back, probably about 2009 or thereabouts, leafing through the pages here with alacrity. At that point, I've only heard of a handful of these games, it was quite a fascinating journey. Such a shame all the pictures are irrevocably gone.
Now, after having collected my own experiences, I thought I'd chime in, too. Such a list will naturally be extremely different for everyone, one cannot discard his own propensities, inclinations, proclivities. Accordingly, whenever I'm uttering dissent, I'm in no way doubting Rob's initial impressions. I think he made a fantastic job with this highly entertaining countdown even though I strongly disagree with some of his choices. I'm also aware that some of the games probably weren't nearly as accurate in MAME back then as they are now which is also an important factor. Without further ado:
- I'm a bit confused about the placement of those fairly generic verticals. Some of them are near the bottom of the list (Ghost Pilots, Blue Hawk), others are somewhere in the middle (R-Shark, Flying Tiger) while Super-X somehow secured itself the 22th spot. Generally speaking, all things Dooyong belong in the rearguard. They're all either shockingly bland, completely trivial, conceptually entirely wrong or shoddily programmed, or all of that. R-Shark has the worst bullet wobble I've ever seen in a game, the enemies in Flying Tiger have way too much health, Blue Hawk has a weird framerate and enemies constantly fire from off-screen, Gulf Storm might as well be an 8-bit game with that horrendous gameplay etc. I've read in a few places that Super-X is also a Dooyong game; I don't know if that holds any veracity or not, it sure plays like one of their games. The only Dooyong shmup I'd call average is The Last Day, ironically their first one and as such not even subject of this list. Not a Dooyong game, I nonetheless want to specifically mention Varia Metal here which is the worst arcade shmup I've ever played, even Gulf Storm is better.
- Viewpoint. I'm aware this is somewhat of a running joke in this thread, it's not justified at all. I will concede that the fifth stage where you have to refight the first four bosses all over again was a terrible decision, there's not much else you can blame the game for (and it's not like Rob even played the game that long). Yes, it is a memorizer, and yes, the perspective can be confusing at first, both of which nothing that couldn't be mended with some familiarity. It also has very exciting, frantic boss fights which is not necessarily common in memorizers, accordingly worth quite a bit of praise. I would place it somewhere in the middle at the very least.
- Acrobat Mission. Not gonna conceal that I somehow have a soft spot for it, it's not a case for the bottom 10 games regardless. It's short, has fairly solid stages, some rather competent boss fights and a decent scoring system. The final boss is definitely a major issue, besmirchingly so. Not sure why Rob had so much trouble even with regular enemies, sounds to me like he wasn't setting up proper autofire or using the charge shot. Also a game I'd put in the middle.
- Not feeling quite as strong about Hacha Mecha Fighter and Metal Black, especially the latter leaves me indifferent, but both would deserve some 10 or more spots, they're great compared to the likes of R-Shark and Super-X, for sure.
- Thunder Blaster, which is really misleading. From his description I gather that Rob was playing the much, much, much […] easier Western version Lethal Thunder. Thunder Blaster will tear you to shreds even with 30hz autofire, it's a tough, brutal game. In spite of that, checkpoint recoveries are a non-issue, the pacing is tight, the stages are almost as cunningly crafted as those in Image Fight. I'd put it in the higher echelons.
- Daioh below R-Shark and Strike Gunner S.T.G is a disgrace, booh! It's one of the best games on the list, worthy of the top 10 for sure. Have to confess that it took me a while to get to that assessment myself, Daioh comes across as unassailable at first. I really like Toaplan, but credit where credit is due: Daioh is better than quite a few of their own games. Some games do manage to elevate the plagiarised idea (see also Mad Shark), after all.
- Not quite sure, but I'd probably have Nostradamus about 10 places higher, it's pretty good.
- Tatsujin Ou should be lower, I find. While the checkpoint recovery is mostly surprisingly fair, it just doesn't save the game from this awkward combination of high challenge and immense boredom, a union that couldn't be worse. The soporific music doesn't help matters either, or the fact that you have to painfully time out one boss and die on another if the rank is too high because it is virtually impossible otherwise. It's a sad tale, all things considered, yet with sober judgement I don't see many redeeming qualities in this game. Gradius III, even though it has more clear flaws, does the grandiose experience unfathomably better.
- Fire Barrel could go either way, I suppose. I liked Vimana (which fills the same niche) better but can see why someone else would have it lower. I'd nonetheless place Fire Barrel a notch lower.
- I have to applaud Rob for placing Zing Zing Zip that high, it's a unique choice for certain. An inner voice also tells me that a kusoge with plenty personality leaves a stronger impression than a stalwart, if forgettable mediocre game. However, such mercy was not reserved for Acrobat Mission (which is overall the better game) which makes ZZZ a weird precedence. It really shouldn't be in the upper third of the list.
- Mad Shark on the other hand is a clear candidate for a top 10 game even though it would not inevitably appear on mine. By far Allumer's best, it takes the Raiden formula and easily transcends it, as Raiden did with the Toaplan influence. Great, great game. Only problem it has is the randomized item drops from the carriers (as far as I know), that can make a vast difference which just shouldn't be the case in an otherwise splendid game.
- Three Wonders has not nearly enough substance to warrant such a high place. It could've been great, sure, but it ain't. No stage design to speak of, a dry boss rush at the end of the game to somehow extend the running time, one of the worst, luck-based scoring systems... Perhaps even slightly below average, though with marvelous visuals.
- Not sure about In the Hunt/Kaitei Daisensou. Love Irem in general, this one not so much. I am impressed to see that Rob placed it there despite the fact that he himself didn't get that much enjoyment out of it, that's a classy move. Compared with Irem's very own Mr. Heli, say, or even Atomic Robo-Kid, it feels overtly glacial. Not only is the manual scrolling slow (which is understandable), boss fights take forever, especially the final boss, which is entirely unnecessary. Hard to say.
- Rezon fucking sucks. Away with thee. How to not copy Irem. Maybe not in the lowest 10 games, but in the bottom 20 without doubt.
- Gekirindan has a lot of variety going for it in terms of stage design, but it still feels extraordinarily average. One of the iconic run-of-the-mill vertical specimens I can think of, even. I'd rather play Vimana or Fire Barrel, truth be told. The weird focus on boss milking is also entirely unasked for.
- P-47 Aces and Hyper Duel I can understand, though I don't share the sentiment in the same extent, making this a quantitative assessment. Both have silly scoring systems, too, especially the former. Poor bullet visibility (P-47 Aces) is also always a significant minus for me. I'd put both somewhere in the top 30, I would think.
- I feel really mean for saying this, but I'm not sure about Rapid Hero. Don't get me wrong: it's an excellent game which achieves in almost everything it sets out to do (aside from the broken scoring). It's my third-favourite NMK game after Valtric and Thunder Dragon 2, too! But I don't personally find that this is enough for a second spot on the list, not with the lack of challenge. Reasonable it may be, but I would degrade it a bit.
Maybe someone can convince me regarding these:
- Turbo Force seems almost like a jest. The concept is indeed great, the execution on the other hand... One of the cheapest games in existence, is this Turbo Force. Enemies cloaked in stealth camouflage, homing missiles/projectiles you cannot hope to avoid with the slow car, an extremely strict limit of ammunition (Rob did complain about that when he talked about Sonic Wings 2 & 3 where it is a much less pressing issue), an absurd rank system, a highly random power-up distribution that can easily screw you over... A bit much for the third place.
- Macross II is indeed essentially a Caravan game, meaning I'm immediately biased against it. It's great for what it is, though. No real point mentioning it here, I suppose.
- Maybe it's just me or the fact that I'm using a stock Xbox 360 controller, I can't seem to find any precision in Cybattler, activating the shields in the later stages is completely dependent on luck for me. I would love to love the game, but can't. Quite possibly my own fault.
- Koutetsu Yousai Strahl looks really good on first glance, then you find out that you have to fight the same enemy formations countless times in a stage. They had about two minutes worth of ideas for each stage yet decided to stretch it out to four or five minutes so that they could have a complete game, with a corresponding result. You can even sit all the way to the left during the first boss fight without ever moving again, just watching for a minute or so how the boss slowly succumbs to the constant damage. Neat axelayian weapon system, somewhat bogged down in all the repetition.
- I feel I should like War of Aero; however, it feels to me like the equivalent of Rezon (which makes sense, both of them being Allumer games). It looks and sounds really great, but it plays like a poor imitation of Image Fight, being enormously strict (stage 4!) without any of the elements that make Irem games great. It's like Saint Dragon, where at first, everything kills you and after learning all the threats, nothing will. No real experimentation or wonderment, just rote. Am I overlooking something?