Psikyo Shooting Stars – Alpha is the first of two new packaged Shoot ‘Em Ups (Shump) / Bullet Hells to release on the Nintendo Switch. Combining the action of six titles in which several are sequels to one another, there’s more than enough vertical and horizontal side scrolling action to keep you busy for a while!
Starting with the main interface, you can select each of the six available titles and then dive right in through their main menus. Splitting the six titles up into three groups, you have the 1995-97-99 releases of Strikers 1945 and Dragon Blaze which are your vertical Shumps, you have Sol Divide which is your horizontal Shump and then you have Zero Gunner 2 that while it moves you on a track, you can switch the direction that you are shooting at will. The menu makes it easy to dive straight in and come right back out of any of these titles so with six to choose from, where do you start?
Starting from the obvious Strikers 1945 (1995 Edition), I set out to basically blow up the most amount of flying objects from my path until hitting the first boss. Growing up I used to play these a lot starting all the way back with 1942 on the NES but there’s one thing that even that didn’t prepare me for. Giant. Mechs. Oh yeah, the bosses in Strikers 1945 (95-97-99) aren’t just hulking mammoths of flying military prowess, they are mechs that as you attack them break off into parts requiring a lot more effort than you originally thought necessary. And I thought Jonestown was tough at times…
That’s what made these titles fun though. The stages themselves are short and sweet and then you’ve got an epic leveled boss fight hopefully bringing out your bullet hell skills in order to dodge everything coming at you. With a few lives in reserve and a couple of continues in the bank, how far you make it and how large of a score you accumulate for the leaderboards is up to both luck and skill.
In comparison to the tech based Strikers 1945, Dragon Blaze is a fantasy based affair in which you can choose from four different dragon riders in about the same overall concept. The difference here is that you can detach from your dragon to keep them attacking forward while you zip around and dodge incoming fire. With different ultimate abilities that can be used, each dragon rider plays differently enough that it could take a bit of time to figure out what works best for you before once again going into mega multi partitioned boss fights.
Sol Divide is the only present title that scrolls horizontally and because of this, acts as a whole different ball game to the other five. Set in a fantasy world, you get to pick one of four adventures that is off to save the world from obvious destruction at the hands of some powerful sorcerer. Constantly moving from left to right except for boss fights, you can launch ranged attacks at your enemies, slash or smash them with your melee weapons or truly hit them hard with magical abilities that require Mana from your pool. Keeping in line with the same quick and easy stages before going into the mega boss fights Sol Divide was perhaps my favorite of the bunch with cheesy dialog and just an overall good gameplay system.
Finally, the last on the list of titles is Zero Gunner 2 which is basically like Strikers 1945 but you get to aim wherever you need to in one of the weirdest ways possible. One does not simply turn to aim in this title, instead, you have to hold a button and turn in almost a spinner kind of sense. In all of the available titles, this was perhaps the one that took the longest to get used to because of this method of turning but when you really think about it, even in regards to controllers it comes from an age where there weren’t two thumbsticks available. I know what you’re thinking, those were some dark times. Just think about us growing up where there weren’t any! All hail the arcade joysticks and the d-pad! Just kidding, but honestly, once you get used to it, Zero Gunner 2 is probably the prettiest of the package.