• Definitive List of Dreamcast Shmups Games Shooters

    This alphabetical list of Dreamcast Shmups aims to be definitive. However, the Dreamcast scene persists, so it's possible new games will be released, so if you see a Dreamcast shmup that isn't on this list, please let us know. The amazing Rez (an on-rails shooter), Twinkle Star Sprites (a Vs shooter), Cannon Spike (a SmashTV style shooter) and Bangio-O (a multi-directional puzzle shooter) are not included in this very traditional list of vertical and horizontal scrolling shmups, but if you enjoy the games in this list you will almost certainly enjoy the above games too, so check them out! Where possible, we have included a link to our review. Some very brief information is provided for each title.

    The List:
    Border Down
    Chaos Field
    Fast Striker 1.5
    GigaWing 2
    Gunbird 2
    Last Hope
    Last Hope Pink Bullets
    Mars Matrix
    Psyvariar 2
    Radirgy (a.k.a. Radily)
    Shikigami no Shiro 2
    Triggerheart Exelica
    Under Defeat
    Zero Gunner 2

    Border Down
    Border Down is a horizontal shmup by G-Rev with the occassional bit of vertical scroll. It gets its name from the 3 "borders" that exist on each level, like alternate realities. At the start you can choose which border to assault. Choosing lower borders gives you less lives and more insane bullet patterns to get through, but give higher score potential. If you die within a level, you "border down" (if possible) to a lower border but the difficulty drops. At the start of each level you can then choose to go back up to a higher border if you milked the boss properly or a lower border if you are a nutter.
    There are only two weapons, one of which is an overly powerful laser which, when used, reduces the power of the standard shot once the laser runs out, potentially leaving you crippled. Interestingly, ship speed can be controlled by cycling button presses through three speeds. It's pretty, it's novel, and quite easy to understand the system, although going for high scores requires daft levels of risk.

    Chaos Field
    Chaos Field is a boss rush game, set vertically, by Milestone. Your choice of three ships feature standard attacks including a normal shot and a swipe which cancels bullets. In a tight spot, you can switch to the "Chaos Field" which gives a couple of seconds of invincibility and locks the field for twelve seconds, but gameplay is also more frantic and dangerous. Impacts remove chunks of energy before losing a life.
    A combo gauge can be filled and kept going for higher scores by using two power weapons: a shield defence which also cancels bullets and a lock-on laser which targets both enemies and bullets. To use the power weapons, you must pick up meta items and use of the power weapons depletes the meta stock which gradually builds up (a little faster in the normal field than in the Chaos field), but using the lock-on against bullets generates huge amounts of meta items, so waiting for the screen to fill with bullets before using it is the high score chaser's method. It looks detailed and sharp, but a little lacklustre, but the banging tunes are great.

    Drill is an unreleased vertical shmup by a group of French indie developers. It never got beyond the demo stage, but you can download the demo for free to try on your Dreamcast. Gameplay is interesting:
    A (tap) = shot and fast move,
    A (hold) = shot and slow move
    B (hold) = drill (decreasing) and slow move
    A+B (hold) = drill (increasing) and NO move
    The drill increases in size all the way up the screen on A+B and decreases in size as you just use B. Using the drill gets you the combos so points, but you are locked to slow or NO move. I would have loved to have played the full thing. Graphics are pretty ropey, but animation is cool, with lots of fairly original beetle/insect stuff. The mid level boss was completely missing when I played the demo - you just see the bullets! The end level boss fires bright green bullets - green is the way forward for bullets in shmups. If you like trance/techno, you will love the music.

    Dux is a horiztonally scrolling shmup by HUCAST.net, although you can play it vertically via an option if you fancy. Much of it takes place inside areas set out by walled barriers which must be navigated safely and there's a movable force shield. So yes, it's a little bit like R-Type.

    Using the shield to destroy bullets builds up the Hyper Soak meter, which can then be used to attact/soak bullets as an alternative type of smart bomb. Bullets soaked can be comboed if you are fast. The graphics are colourful and designed with VGA in mind, with some cool trance tunes in the background.

    Fast Striker 1.5
    Fast Striker is a vertical shooter by NG: DEV.TEAM which has a little Cave bullet-hell feel to it. However, it fill the whole 4:3 screen area. Tapping fires a spread of bullets while holding fires a laser. Bonus pick-ups will move towards you when you are not firing the laser. Some sections require you to shoot behind you with a different button.
    Graphics are colourful if a little indistinct on the foreground enemies and bullets are easy to see, but the backgrounds are fairly monotonous, with some by-the-numbers trance tunes to accompany you on your journey. There is also an online ranking via codes ( entered on the official site) for all four game modes, ranging through, novice, arcade, maniac and Omake. There is also a ranking system, so the game gets harder if you play better.

    Gigawing is a vertically scrolling 4:3 shmup with a steampunk aeroplane look and feel. The main feature is the reflect attack which when activated will send bullets back the other way, which can be used effectively to destroy bosses and survive large bullet swarms. This attack takes a few seconds to recharge so timing is critical, as well as taking a fraction of a second to activate initially after pressing the button. Power-ups can be grabbed to increase weapon effectiveness.
    A score multiplier is increased by collecting medals. The value of the medals increases a few times, resetting on loss of life, but the score multipler persists a credit is used up, so there is a large incentive to learn to 1cc the game rather than credit feed.

    Gigawing 2
    Gigawing 2 is another vertically scrolling 4:3 shmup. Instead of the 5 ships accessible in the original, there are 10 to choose from (with some to be unlocked) differing in firepower, bullet spread, and speed. A similar medal score multiplier structure as the original makes high scores very high, with combo being reset at the start of each level or after loss of life.
    If enough is destroyed to reach 110 medals on screen at any one time, a mode is activated that splits the medals into many higher scoring green medals. Exploiting this boosts scores quickly.

    Gunbird 2
    Gunbird 2 is a vertical shmup by Psiyko. Towns, villages and
    castles are rendered in a cartoon style and are populated by little sprites running around as the action takes place above. There are many difficulty levels to choose from, so you'll find one to suit.
    Levels are quite short, and there is very little depth to the game system, so learning the game should be easier than most Dreamcast era shmups. This will make it appealing to novices.

    Ikaruga is a vertically scrolling shmup by Treasure. It has a colour switching hook whereby choosing the same colour as an enemy, either black or white, allows you to absorb their associated bullets to power up homing shot. Choosing the opposite colour while allow your normal shot to destroy them more quickly but makes you vulnerable. At first this is quite easy to follow, but after a while there are many of both colours on screen and finding a pattern through the seemingly chaotic environment is key.
    Difficulty is high, especially if you want to go for high scores by chaining 3 of a colour in a row to build a chain count, although there is a suitable beginner mode. Gameplay has been been carefully thought out which makes for a great experience, but does mean it turns into a memory test rather than a seat-of-the-pants test. Graphically it is very crisp, albeit monochrome in the foreground due to the inherent nature of the hook, with some of the best looking bosses in the genre. The music is also highly memorable.

    Karous is a vertically scrolling shmup from Milestone. It has a cell-shaded look, but contains very little colour. Power-ups can be sword-swiped to change their type, thus you have control over the levelling process. Swiping bullets also builds the shield bomb meter which makes you invincible for a short period but also sucks up bullets for the same meter, thus you could use it again immediately it runs out if you are careful on the timing.
    Bullets are rarely aimed straight at you, and it is entirely possible to see a large portion of the game by doing nothing at all, seeing very little in the way of enemy activity either, but the harder you play, the more the game throws at you, so the only proper way to play Karous is for high scores, with multipliers rising in line with your power-ups.

    Last Hope
    Last Hope is a horizontally scrolling shmup by NG: DEV.TEAM, which stylistically owes a debt to the likes of R-Type, Pulstar and Last Resort. The graphics are superbly done, with stunning pre-rendered backdrops and some seriously good-looking, old-school sprites in the foreground. The music is fantastic – a banging mixture of spaced out, ambient dance excellence. You can shoot stuff and move a remote drone around you.

    Unfortunately, it's punishing in the extreme, to the point whereby it's not enjoyable, with many deaths seeming unfair and coming as a surprise. Waves of enemies seem to move too rapidly and at far too frequent intervals, and the screen quickly becomes a mass of hostile activity and scenery to crash into. Enemy projectiles are very difficult to see, this matter not being helped by the fact that most generic enemy explosions contain shrapnel fragments that resemble bullets. It doesn't help that your main weapon is a pea-shooter either.

    Last Hope: Pink Bullets
    Due to feedback from players about Last Hope, a Pink Bullets version was released which made it easier to pick out the bullets that can kill you from the shrapnel that can't. This turned a sub-par shooter into a fun but still challenging shmup.

    Mars Matrix
    Mars Matrix is a vertical shmup by Takumi. The first level is pretty tame. Come the second level, the firepower intensifies until the whole screen is full of deadly blue blobs, all going in different directions and all going at different speeds. Excellent, but daunting for newcomers. Your craft is equipped with a standard laser, fired by continual taps of the firebutton - nothing new here. The 'piercing cannon', a very powerful short-range attack, is fired with less frequent taps of the firebutton, which will allow the cannon to charge.

    Finally, your ship has a bullet-catching shield which doubles up as a handy smart bomb; holding down the firebutton causes the shield to become effective and the counter at the bottom of the screen to drop. Let go of the button before the shield counter reaches zero and all the bullets you've caught will fly off and back towards the enemies. Let the counter get right to the bottom, and the Gravity Hole Bomb will be launched - a powerful strike which will destroy most bad guys, but will leave you unable to use your shield again until the counter is fully charged.

    Psyvariar 2
    Psyvariar 2 is a vertical shmup by Skonec. It is by far my favourite shooter on any platform. You use the Buzz system to scrape your mecha against bullets etc. Buzzing raises your level gauge at a speed dependent on the type / colour of thing being scraped - buzz the wrong thing and it will reduce your gauge speed. Once it is full, you level-up and for a brief moment, you are invincible. If you think quickly in certain situations, you can level-up again before losing your shield, displayed by a rapidly shrinking circle around you. Therefore, compared to most other shmups, there is far less shooting and far more hooning about trying to chase bullets around the screen.

    Buzzing is also affected by spin speed. A flick of the stick will start a spin so that you buzz each bullet many times. Spin can be kept up by pulling back down the screen, or flicking again as it starts to slow. Once buzzing the game engine subtley draws you along the right path which can be confusing at first, but just go with it and you will soon get addicted. There is a hidden rank, so if you aren't doing so well, it gets easier, and the hard modes are totally mental and worth trying. Total gaming crack.

    Radiry is a vertical shmup my Milestone. It's cel-shaded visuals appear to have lead many to dismiss it, but whilst they are basic, they are functional in that you'll only ever feel that a loss of life was your own fault due to the ease of identifying each object. The main shot is a standard shooting attack for destroying enemies, but here it takes a backseat to the sword and ABSNET barrier. Enemies drop blue tokens that fill the blue ABSNET gauge which is filled more quickly when using the sword rather than the main shot. Using the sword means getting up close to attacking enemies but it is this risk/reward mechanic that is key to achieving monster scores.

    The ABSNET barrier can be fired when the gauge is full. Enemies caught within it produce green pills to fill up the green multiplier gauge, whilst providing invincibility. The multiplier falls when not being actively filled. It's a great system that promotes risk. It's not as hard as other shmups on the normal difficulty if the system is exploited fully.

    Shikigami No Shiro 2
    Shikigami No Shiro 2 is a vertically scrolling shmup by Alfa System. Here, the hook is the Tension Bonus. You are rewarded with a score multiplier the closer you get to enemies or enemy fire. The hit box for each character, where they need to be damaged in order to lose a life, is dead centre, so bullets, enemies and scenery can be ‘buzzed’ for the maximum reward of an x8 multiplier. Buzzing not only increases score, but also player firepower; the colour, sound and velocity of the main shot and character aura are altered adding a passionate intensity to the wanton destruction.

    Huge scores lie in allowing each boss to unleash their fearsome attack, then polishing them off amidst a rain of fire. Hammering the fire button does not make for high scores. Holding down the fire button activates the Shikigami attack which vary immensely for each of the 8 characters, making for essentially 8 versions of the game.

    Sturmwind is a horizontal shmup from Duranik. It started life as an Atari Jaguar game but ended up on the Dreamcast. It is sensationally good looking, with fully animated pre-rendered backgrounds and many lovely graphical effects. You start the game with a choice of 3 weapons being a Vulcan type that’s heavily inspired by Axelay in that you can spread the fire around your craft by holding or releasing the fire button. A wider spread / wave style shot and the good old green laser style shot. Each can be fired forwards or backwards thanks to a quick tap on the weapon direction button which soon becomes a necessary part of the game play mechanics.

    Each weapon can be powered up by power-up icons dropped after destroying certain enemies. Every icon dropped is the same, however by shooting them they will change power property allowing you to charge up each individual weapon type. Your ship can be equipped with option drones a little like the ones found in R-Type. The drones can be set to fire forwards or backwards.

    Triggerheart Exelica
    Triggerheart Exelica is a vertical shmup by Warashi. After a few levels the screen is swamped with closely packed enemies that refuse to die. The only way to make it through to the end is to understand how to use the Anchor Unit. This locks on to ground units for quicker dispatch, or grabs hold of airbourne units either as a shield to fling into other enemies for more damage. Grabbing large craft takes longer, but deal out more damage (or defence time).

    It’s a pretty baffling system at first glance, even to the hardened shmup fan, but give Triggerheart a chance, because once you’ve got it nailed, it will thrill to the core. In addition, enemies shot or bullets blocked release yellow score bonuses. Letting go of the shot button will suck them all in, but if they can be left drifting down the screen for a bit, they level up from 1 through 5 with correspondingly higher scores to be notched up as well as a visible rank for the next boss battle, which gets harder if you have sucked up a lot of high value multipliers. All good stuff, and smashing a path through an armada with a giant captured spaceship is an experience that everyone should try.

    Trizeal is a vertical shmup by Triangle Service. High scores are achieved by collecting bonus items dropped by destroyed enemies. These can be chained to give big bonuses (1000 points a item), but missing any bonus items drops the combo score back down to its starting level of 10 points. Weapon power can each be upgraded individually by collecting power-ups to a maximum of five levels. The power-ups apply to the weapon currently activated, so to balance the power of each weapon switch weapon types accordingly.

    Graphically the game is not groundbreaking, the 2D sprites being well detailed and the backdrops ranging from flying over roads in space to grass and trees. In-game music is very good and easily listenable on its own merit. Due to the lack of major gameplay hooks, Trizeal has a pure "get on and shoot stuff and dodge bullets" feeling.

    Under Defeat
    Under Defeat is a vertical shmup from G.Rev. Since the player controls a helicopter with some degree of rotational movement, comparisons with Psikyo's Zero Gunner 2 are inevitable, but ultimately, pretty wide of the mark once the game has actually been experienced since both games share little else in common. A more appropriate comparison would be with Toaplan's helicopter-based shooters of the 1980s such as Tiger Heli and Twin Cobra since G.Rev have also gone for a similar militaristic feel and realism for Under Defeat.

    The slightly tilted viewpoint, lends the game something of a pseudo-3D feel; for example, buildings, walls and other tall objects can obscure the player from hitting ground-based targets. Graphics are truly magnificent and offer an unprecedented level of detail; enemy tanks bob up and down as they roll across bumpy terrain, trees sway from the downforce of the chopper hovering above them and also shake violently as a result of nearby explosions. The core gameplay in Under Defeat has a distinct "old-school" feel, devoid of modern scoring hooks like bullet-scratching, complex chain/combo systems, or even power-ups since the main weapon remains unchanged throughout the game. It's a great game, but the levels all feel a little similar and maybe if it wasn't so damn good looking, it wouldn't have scored so highly. However, if you like a straightforward shooter, this is a top choice.

    Zero Gunner 2
    Zero Gunner 2 is a vertical AND horizontal (and diagonal!) shmup by Psikyo. After destroying certain enemy crafts a power-up icon, or Energy Bomb icon, will be dropped. Obviously, the power-up increases the firepower of the craft. The Energy Icon adds power to the vertical bar on the left hand side of the screen. Fill the bar, and another energy bomb will be at your disposal.

    There is a very appealing twist in the gameplay. Each craft has the ability to rotate either left or right. This is extremely useful since it means that you are no longer restricted to shooting upward. In later levels it is a necessity if winning is to be an option. The majority of the enemy craft are small, with some bland textures, but overall the graphics impress. The enemy boss craft are much more interesting, and have the ability to transform into a mech robot or creature after a certain level of damage is attained. Overall it is great fun and very accessible for all abilities.

    We hope you enjoyed our round-up of the Dreamcast shmups. Please click the links in the list at the top to read the reviews and sign in to post comments below.

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    Comments 5 Comments
    1. S3M's Avatar
      S3M -
      charlesr, no Cannon/Gun spike surely that should also be on this list?
    1. charlesr's Avatar
      charlesr -
      It's not really the same type of game. It belongs in the opening statement though. I'll mention it there.
    1. MisterBubbles's Avatar
      MisterBubbles -
      No Rez either?
    1. averybluemonkey's Avatar
      averybluemonkey -
      In the first paragraph.
    1. charlesr's Avatar
      charlesr -
      Yeah, I put a disclaimer in the opening paragraph about a few titles I knew people would mention. Obviously the list itself is so exciting that everyone bypassed that paragraph.
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