5 of our top shoot ’em ups on Evercade
There are several hundred Evercade games available now — and with each new cartridge release, more titles are added to the library!
We know that sometimes it can be a bit daunting to be confronted with such a vast number of games to play, so every so often we’ll be highlighting 5 of our favourite titles in various different categories.
This week, it’s the turn of an all-time classic video game genre: the shoot ’em up. It’s perhaps more accurate to say that it’s a collection of subgenres, since over the years we’ve had all sorts of variations on the theme, including fixed shooters, horizontally scrolling shooters, vertically scrolling shooters, top-down shooters and plenty more besides. So today we’re going to pick out a mix of our favourite shoot ’em ups for Evercade from our lineup of current and upcoming cartridges.
Let’s get to it!
The shoot ’em up genre is easy to pick up and understand, but demands a level of skill second only to fighting games in order to truly master. And, like fighting games, a great means to learn the fundamentals of the genre is to explore its earliest entries — of which several great examples are available on Evercade.
Galaga, found on the Namco Museum Collection 2 cartridge for Evercade, is an example of the fixed shooter format. In this type of shoot ’em up, your spaceship is confined to a single axis on the screen and can only move left and right. You are also limited in the number of shots you can have on screen at once. Thus, rather than trying to rapid-fire your way to victory, you need to find a good balance between carefully aiming your shots and avoiding incoming attacks. These skills are fundamental to all types of shoot ’em up, and Galaga is a great place to train your basic skills.
Plus it’s a fun game with some of the most memorable musical snippets from all of early gaming! And don’t forget the twin fighter trick — let one of the Galaga Commanders capture your fighter in their tractor beam when they swoop down, then rescue it with your next life. If you succeed, you’ll have twice the firepower — but you’ll also be twice the target!
Xeno Crisis, found on Evercade’s first “modern retro” indie game dual cart Xeno Crisis/Tanglewood, is a great example of how diverse the shoot ’em up genre really is. While the game has you running around on foot from a top-down perspective rather than flying a spaceship, the core mechanics are pure shoot ’em up — it’s all about aiming carefully and nimbly dodging.
Xeno Crisis is an example of a multidirectional shooter, a genre codified back in the 1980s with Eugene Jarvis and Larry DeMar’s classic Robotron 2084. Its beautifully presented pixel art also draws heavy inspiration from the work of H.R. Giger and sci-fi horror movie classics, making for a truly memorable 16-bit blasting experience, and one of the most visually striking games on Evercade.
The multidirectional shooter genre can be argued to be something of a progenitor to the modern first-person shooter genre, since that, too, allows you to move in one direction while shooting in another. But games like Xeno Crisis still have a very distinct appeal — and a stiff challenge factor, so be prepared to put in some practice!
Gates of Zendocon
We know a few of you thought that the horizontally scrolling Gates of Zendocon from the Atari Lynx Collection 2 cartridge for Evercade deserved to be included on our list of favourite Lynx games. And so here it is — because it’s a great shoot ’em up in its own right.
The Atari Lynx, like most other Atari consoles, played host to a variety of arcade-style experiences, albeit often with a bit more substance and length to them than classic coin-ops. There was no need for Lynx games to go after your pocket change, after all — they already had your money! To that end, Gates of Zendocon is pretty vast by shoot ’em up standards, with a whopping 51 levels in total — though the game’s non-linear nature means that you probably won’t visit them all in a single playthrough. And with Evercade’s save game feature, you don’t have to take on the entire challenge in one sitting (or set of batteries), either!
Gates of Zendocon is noteworthy for its varied (occasionally psychedelic) levels and its enjoyable weaponry system. Your ship’s default powerful laser can cut through enemies and obstacles alike with ease, but taking a knock can damage your ship and make it inoperable rather than immediately destroying you. You can also recruit the assistance of alien allies in various levels, who will support your journey of destruction in various ways. For a bit of fun, use password TRYX, then hold down and right on the D-Pad after launching but before the actual level starts. You’ll pass safely through the floor and, after a bit of fancy flying, find a secret level!
You know you’re in for a good time with a game whose villain is called Zz Badnusty and looks like she stepped right out of a ’90s anime. That’s what you get with Gaiares from the Renovation Collection 1 cartridge, a fan favourite from the Evercade library thanks to its lineup of games that are rare and expensive to collect in their original formats!
Gaiares is a horizontally scrolling shoot ’em up with a challenging difficulty level and a distinctive power-up system. Rather than collecting capsules as you do in many other titles, in Gaiares you fire out your ship’s “TOZ System” in order to actually steal abilities from enemies. Pinch the same ability multiple times in succession to max out its power, and experiment with different enemy types to find your favourite weapons!
In total, there are 18 different weapons to find, and all of them are useful in one way or another. There’s a tough challenge ahead of you, though, so you’ll almost certainly need every one of them! It’s worth making the trip, though; Gaiares has long been regarded as one of the best ever 16-bit shoot ’em ups, attaining perfect scores from GamePro magazine in March of 1991 and retrospectively described as a “masterpiece” by Game Informer magazine in 2002.
Finally, we come to a great title from our upcoming releases: Truxton from the Toaplan Arcade 1 cartridge, set to arrive alongside the Evercade EXP and, conveniently, a great showcase for the new handheld’s TATE mode! This is one of the most beloved vertically scrolling shoot ’em ups from the maestros at Toaplan, and with good reason: it’s a really good time, though like most games in the genre, don’t expect an easy ride!
For gamers of a certain age, Truxton — and particularly its 16-bit home console port — was made famous by Mark “Classic Game Room” Bussler, one of the first people to make online gaming videos. His ongoing obsession with Truxton became a running joke on his channel, and is doubtless where many people who didn’t play it back in the day first became familiar with it. Sadly, Classic Game Room ceased production a few years back, but we can all continue to rock the universe apart with our spaceships of red, blue and green in Mark’s absence. (EDIT: He’s back!)
Truxton is relatively conventional in its design, but it’s simply a really solid example of a shoot ’em up that is tuned well and beautifully crafted. Your first couple of attempts will doubtless see you getting destroyed pretty quickly — but put in a bit of practice, memorise those enemy formations and you’ll be romping through the alien hordes in no time!
So that’s 5 of our top shoot ’em ups on Evercade — now it’s over to you! What are your favourite shoot ’em ups on Evercade? Stop by on Twitter, Facebook, Reddit or Discord and come tell us all about your top picks!
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