PSIKYO SHOOTING STARS BRAVO / DEVELOPER: CITY CONNECTION / PUBLISHER: NIS AMERICA / PLATFORM: NINTENDO SWITCH / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
The first collection of classic 90s arcade shoot 'em ups from Japanese developers Psikyo, Shooting Stars Alpha, was released just a few short weeks before this second installment, and included some of the company's most revered titles, notably the Strikers 1945 series and Zero Gunner 2. The sequel, Shooting Stars Bravo, might not quite benefit from featuring as many big names, but still packs a ton of fun into its six-game package.
The Samurai Aces series, which includes three games originally released between 1993–2005 (the third title, Sengoku Aces, finding itself cast as the odd one out, having been developed by an outside company after Psikyo's demise and released on Sony's handheld PSP rather than to the arcades), forms the first half of this collection, sending players to feudal Japan where various cult-like leaders are threatening to sacrifice the local princess in order to resurrect ancient demonic forces. Beyond this, we also have both of the main Gunbird titles as well as its third iteration, the lesser-known Gunbarich, another oddity (in this collection, at least) as it isn't really a shoot 'em up at all...
Five of the six games are fairly standard fare as far as shmups go. Collect power ups, lose power when colliding with enemies or die in a single hit by an enemy bullet (of which there can be hundreds on screen at any one time), blast away at everything in sight and see how long you can last. The last game, Gunbarich, plays like pinball-infused Arkanoid / Breakout, with added power ups, environmental hazards and even boss fights. It's super colourful, extremely addictive, and an unexpected highlight of the overall collection.
There are selectable difficulty levels for each game but even on the lowest setting things get pretty crazy – luckily, if things get too much, you can increase your lives and continues pretty much infinitely in the settings menu. There's also a TATE mode if you want to flip your Switch sideways (perfect for vertical shmups) but you'll need a separate grip accessory to play this way as there are no built-in TATE controls.
Every single game is enjoyable in its own way – Samurai Aces 3 is possibly the least enjoyable of the bunch (the 2D sprites over 3D backgrounds haven't aged well, and the camera swings about so wildly that it almost feels like you're playing in a hurricane), but nothing else would score less than 7 out of 10 if we were going to review everything separately. There are no extras or new features to speak of at all, making this a rather bare bones release, and it's worth noting that, with the exception of Aces 3, all of these games are available individually on the Nintendo eShop. But if you're looking for some super shmup excitement and don't own any of these titles already, this is absolutely a worthwhile collection.