Jordan at SwitchWatchTV loves him some shmups, and Shmup Collection just sounds like the perfect game for this man! Check out his video review below, or you can read his script here on SwitchWatch.co.uk!
Now, Shmup Collection may be a slightly generic name, but please, please don’t let that fool you. This is some good stuff! If you’re fans of shooters, stick around because I’m going to tell you why Shmup Collection is bloody awesome and worth that hard earned cash of yours!
In this collection there are three games; 3 lovely and nicely varied shooters. Armed Seven DX, Satazius Next and Wolflame. I’m not going to go into full depth for each of the games here for brevity’s sake, but let me tell you a little bit about each.
Firstly let’s start with Wolflame which is oddly touted as a bonus game. Perhaps because the Wii U release doesn’t have it for some reason, but for me, it’s the star of the show. Wolflame is the only vertical shooter in the collection, which is usually my preferred style. On the surface level it’s perhaps quite a simple example of the genre, but that doesn’t make it any less fun.
It’s one of those vertical shooters where the edge of the screen isn’t quite a brick wall and so you can pan the play field across around 30% each way. My initial thought was, why not just use up more of the screen? There’s plenty of space available to display it all and then some. But actually this proves to be a very tactical mechanic as enemies will only attack when you can see them, allowing you to selectively choose which dangers you’d prefer to take on. Maybe the left side presented a wall of enemies you didn’t like the first time around, well then you can shift to the right and deal with a different threat. Very useful for the higher difficulty levels.
Wolflame is what I like to call a fidgety shooter. It’s a game that makes you look like you’re on speed when you’re playing it because you can’t stay still. Staying still means death. While there are many standard enemies with slow, manageable bullets shooting towards you, you need to look out for the tanks and turrets. They may look non-threatening, but oh boy are they brutal. They don’t shoot often, but when they do, you best be moving otherwise you’re going to get your arse sniped. It may seem a bit mindless at first, but on normal and higher difficulties, looks can fool you. And that’s something I want to briefly mention about all these games. They each have 4 difficulty levels. I played almost entirely on normal, which I actually felt very well balanced. Providing a nice challenge that every shooter should, but without getting spitefully difficult. There are two higher difficulties for those who want a more painful test of their skills and an easy mode which lives up to its name.
Satazius Next is my second favourite. This is a side scrolling horiztonal shooter, of the more methodical, slower type, in the fashion of R-Type or Gradius. You’ll be casually blasting away at countless enemies whilst also trying to scrape through narrow passages and blasting down walls before you run into them. There’s a lot of different shot types and combinations. You select two at the beginning and can freely switch between them on the fly and you’ll definitely want to experiment with them. You can even unlock more shots as you go along and upgrade the ones that you use the most. I was quite impressed with that level of depth. I’m finding it difficult to talk about Satazius because it’s very stereotypical, it’s a slow space ship shooter with all the tropes you’d expect. But it’s does it in such a fantastic way. I would bet good money on this one being the favorite among the majority of players, especially those who are connoisseurs of the genre. It’s the thinking man’s shooter. The shooter that gentlemen play while sipping on a scotch. Obviously I’m not that cultured, I’m a hyperactive nut case and that’s why I like the fidgety Wolflame just a tad more.
Armed Seven DX
The last one to be addressed is Armed Seven. This is a horizontal mech shooter. You’re a big chunk of metal blasting at other big chucks of metal in endless explosions. If Satazius is the gentleman’s shooter and Wolflame is the hyperactive kid’s shooter, then Armed Seven is the brainless jock’s shooter. You just blow stuff up and hope to not get shot. That’s not to say this one doesn’t have it’s merits, but it is my least favorite of the bunch. I’m not a fan of having a massive sprite for your player since the hitboxes always confuse me.
It’s a game that’s just a mass of explosions and constantly using your charge attack as often as humanly possible. You have 3 weapons at a time which are customizable and nice, so it’s a game worth experimenting with and you’ll definitely have a lot of fun with it but again, it seemed more mindless of the three games here. But you know, sometimes that’s just what you need in life after a hard days work. This is a 1 credit game by the way. The other two have a check point system and enough credits to go around, but Armed 7. Nope. 1 credit and it’s back to the beginning. I actually found it tough to get through the game on normal mode. The satellite dish boss wrecked me every time, but playing on easy. Well, I didn’t die once.
What I like about all of these games is the amount of shot types and customization. Each game handles weapons very well and they are all done differently between the games. Wolflame has a node system where you pick up two nodes to your ship on each side. There’s only 3 varieties, but you can mix and match, and you’ll often find yourself needing different ones for different situations. Satazius, as already mentioned, you can choose a lot of different weapon types, and even upgrade them and unlock even more. Armed 7 has an interesting one where depending on which weapons you choose, it can affect how long it takes for your special attack meter to charge up which is a tactical balancing act in itself.
Both Armed Seven and Satazius include their original release as well as an updated version. I’m not sure if these are exclusive to this re-release or not, but I know they aren’t exactly widespread. These two have tweaks, especially in the graphics and sound department which means there’s no reason to ever play the originals since they are so much better. Especially Satazius. Satazius and Satazius Next are night and day in terms of their presentation quality.
I just want to reiterate that none of the games here do anything particularly fancy or revolutionary for the genre. You can see there’s almost a fan-made element to them. All 3 are basic enough examples of mechanics we’ve seen before. Where these excel, however, is in their understanding of the fundamentals, of what makes the classics tick and they really nailed it. This deeper knowledge of the genre is what propels these 3 games from being basic knock-offs to fantastic homages. They’re budgeted but brilliant. They’re obviously heavily inspired by arcade and Mega Drive shooters of the 90’s and they absolutely nail it.
It’s not 100% perfect however. I do have a few gripes with the presentation which is more barebones than I would have liked. I feel like I’ve been spoiled before with options found in the Arcade Archives series and the Psikyo Shooters, but some meta options would have been nice. Button mapping would have been greatly appreciated, even basic things like being able to adjust the sound levels is missing. This is for all of the games. Each of the 3 is lacking in any customization, with only being able to choose between the difficulty levels.
VISUALS & PERFORMANCE
The visuals are perhaps the weakest aspects of the game. All the artwork is made by one guy, and while they serve their purpose, perhaps made with weaker hardware in mind, many of the assets can look a bit like cardboard cutouts. It does not detract from the core gameplay, but when we’ve been spoiled by glorious sprite work from other shooter classics it’s easy to look down on these just a little.
While I could barely notice the difference between Armed Seven and it’s DX version unless put side-by-side, Satazius and its updated version are night and day as the updated version looks just so much better.
It’s also worth noting that as Wolflame is a vertical shooter, you can put your Switch in vertical mode to Switch the perspective if you own a Flip Grip or you want to go to the next level and turn your TV on its side which I can’t help but do.
Musically however, all 3 games are pretty awesome. Satazius Next received a new, updated soundtrack compared to the original and it is such a massive improvement. I love the opening level theme, super spacey and chill. Wolflame features some strange quirks in its soundtrack like music not looping correctly, awkwardly starting again, but the songs themselves are awesome. I especially love the dirty, grunge-y bass in the run up to a boss fight. Armed Seven is less noticeable, mainly due to the overpowering sound effects which is why I lamented the lack of audio options earlier in this review. I’m sure if I could hear the music, it would be awesome too.
In terms of pricing this collection will set you back £13.49 in the UK, 14.99 in Europe and probably the same in US dollars, but I can’t check at the time of writing. That’s less than a fiver per game, even less so if you count the variants. For me, for 3 very good shooters, I think that’s a fantastic price. Yes, it may lack the bells and whistles of other shooters on the Switch, but you’re getting quality and I would rank this as even better value than the Psikyo collections.
You can also purchase them individually if you so choose, although if you end up buying them all, it will obviously cost you more than buying them as a collection. And I think there’s no point in being them individually as they are all good quality. It’s not like you’re getting some lame ones in the package or anything. You might as well go for the Collection.
And do you want even better news? The Shmup Collection is available physically! Oh, yeah, baby. You can pick it up on Pixel Heart’s website if you’re in the UK or VGNY if you want the ESRB version. You can also find it at some select online retailers, despite it being limited to just 5000 copies per region. For example in Europe, you can find it on base.com. For me, I definitely want to get my hands on a copy of this. It’s obviously much more expensive than the digital release, but it’s also not a full priced physical either. You’re looking at less than £30 which for me is worth it. If you’re into shooters then you will definitely need this in your physical collection for sure. If you already picked up their release of Gigantic Army, then you owe this one a purchase to go alongside it. I think it’s great value for 3 great shooters.
Alright, guys. That’s my Shmup Collection review! Now perhaps check out another shooter collection review of Psikyo Shooting Stars Bravo. Equally excellent shooter goodness. All right. Thank you very much. See you next time!
Story - 8.5/10
Gameplay - 8.5/10
Audio - 8.5/10
Visuals & Performance - 8.5/10
Value - 8.5/10
Overall, in terms of shooters on the Switch. I really very much enjoyed all three of the offerings here. I love that they’re accessible but challenging, that they take all the good bits from the classics and smash them together, knowing what the true essence of a shooter is. They’re not revolutionary or evolutionary, they’re just the perfect homages to the classics. There’s only 3 games, but they’re all varied enough and are essential for any shooter fan out there. I wish there were more options available, even just basic stuff like sound levels, but you can’t have everything.