I've said it before and I'll say it again: retro nostalgia will never die, and Toaplan has just released their third volume of iconic shoot 'em ups for your perusal on PC. Including Tiger Heli, FixEight, Vimana and Batsugun, there are a whopping 110 achievements to pop and a massive amount of updated features to introduce a new generation of players to some certified classics.
Four Distinct Titles Spanning a Decade of Gaming
Starting our historic journey in 1985, Tiger Heli was a pioneering title that launched bomb-based aerial combat into our homes.
Vimana is the next entry in this selection coming in at 1991. With an Indian mythology-based theme running through it (which I didn't pick up on through the gameplay honestly) Vimana uses shield orbs and gradual upgrades to bolster your abilities through your journey.
FixEight is 1992's entry, a spiritual successor to 1990's Out Zone features eight distinct characters to choose from and has OG run and gun vibes as opposed to vehicular combat. With more mazed-based vertical levels that see you negotiate your way around the terrain taking down monsters and bosses along the way. It also features a three-player cooperative mode (because it's one better than two-player) and character customisation along the way to make your soldiers the most fearsome they can be!
Batsugun from 1993 is an absolute belter of a game. This package sets you up with the addition of the Special Edition of the game that overhauls the GFX, adds different enemy patterns, and FOUR gameplay loops! I have to say that though each game pioneers something in its genetic makeup, Batsugun is hands-down my fave of the four, with a more Don Pachi/Ikaruga vibes which I really dig!
Faithfully Rendered, Diligently Updated
Each bullet hell title gives you one objective to kill the invading bad guys and survive as long as possible. Sometimes this doesn't go to plan simply because the action on screen is so incredibly miniscule or massively obscured by the sheer amount of projectiles on screen at one time that you constantly have to restart or continue.
Don't get me wrong, I remember these games in the arcades and Fish and Chip shops of yore, and their goal wasn't to provide you with hours of entertainment, it was to force the change out of your pocket and into their machines whilst you had ten minutes to spare.
The addition of quick save and quick load means that you can negate using coins at all if you're clever, but also you can hammer through these titles in record time. Not only this but each game has a slew of refreshed options to enhance your experience with alternate bezels, tutorial info overlay, rate of fire, auto dodge, hitbox scaling, number of hits allowed, and rewind functions to name but a few.
My favourite additions are the capability to rotate the screen in 90-degree increments to set your screen up vertically for maximum impact, and the ability to connect a controller to play them with the comforting feel of a modern USB or Bluetooth-enabled gamepad of your preference.
Where Are The Bonus Extras?
Notably, this selection doesn't have a front end, at all and therefore each game is a separate entity in your library with no fanfare or exuberance to the whole thing.
Perhaps this is a purposeful move by Bitwave to focus on gameplay and QOL updates, but there is something to be said for extra content such as concept art, sketches, art galleries, and even a bit of first-party-nuanced developer history.
I would have loved to see something more than a bezel to explain the game, and perhaps some more soul injected into these titles because they are definitive cornerstones within arcade evolution history!
Retro Gamers Rejoice!
Toaplan Arcade Shoot 'Em Up Collection Volume 3 follows suit of the prior two volumes to give a tasty coin-op experience in the palm of your hands. Playing primarily on Steam Deck I have to say I was blown away at the replayability of these titles, after almost 40 years!
Each game holds up on its own and looks superb whichever way you choose to play it, though on Steam Deck (undocked) I noted a lot of teeny tiny projectiles were easily missed due to how small the screen is making it harder to play on the go than hooked up to a TV or monitor screen.
Batsugun is easily the standout title in this selection though, and I can only put it down to being the most refined and vibrant of the three. The addition of the ultra-rare Special Edition of Batsugun is also the cherry on top of the already super sweet cake!
My verdict is that this bundle is highly recommended for retro gaming enthusiasts, especially with the additional practice modes, online leaderboards, vertical orientation options and pixel-perfect scaling.
These games have never been so good, and Volume 4 is now being touted with Truxton II, Dogyuun, Grind Stormer, and Twin Hawk coming soon!