A few years ago I was exploring the lesser-known* corners of the SNES library, explicitly avoiding platformers, shoot-em-ups and standard sports games**. Then several years (and one accidental in-store game play) later, I found a game
that got me trying out platformers again (despite it being a pretty bad game).
*: lesser known by me, at least.
**: as opposed to these sports
I bring this up because I've only recently got back in to playing Shoot-em-Ups; or more specifically, the granddaddy of them all, "Space Shooters". But while I can't quite pinpoint game that made me stick my toe back in the shoot-em-up pool, I can say that I've been enjoying a fairly middling NES Shoot-em-Up lately...
a title screen that screams mediocrity!
And I've been thinking a little bit about why I've enjoyed this game, despite its many unremarkable parts...and the surprising idea that it might be that it features a GOOD kind of memorization. Join me, now, in a picture-heavy analysis of what I'm talking about***
So, Onwards! First we'll document the game's Blandnesses:
You're a bland ship with bland projectiles. ...though at least you have built-in auto-fire, if you hold the button down. (But it's at a much slower fire-rate than you can achieve by rapidly pressing the button, so you'll still have to hammer the "fire" button during most enemy attacks).
As you'll see below, almost every enemy is a orange-ish ship with brown and white highlights.
These are the optional 'bonus targets' that live on the background: SQUARES!
They're either blue bunker-y things, 2x2 blue bunker-y things squares, weird letter "H"-s, and the letter "B". Also, occasionally there'll be a series of green "<->" signs.
EXCITING GROUND TARGET NOT PICTURED ABOVE: lower case letter "b"!
...but the one "super exciting" background formation is a series of green "?"s, ONE of which turns into a Smiley-Face for a 1-up, and the rest turn into :P-s.
(and given that they take 3 shots each to break, if you're lucky you have time to shoot 2 or 3 of the 8 "?"s...meaning you have about a 25-40% chance of getting the 1-up)
Periodically, these (orangey-brown) thingies fly together,
...to form this deadly thing and/or flower:
it's game's one Mini-Boss!
(also he is bland and basically poses no challenge).
Did I mention there's only ONE power-up? It's available every other level, following the mini-boss fight.
It starts life as a little orange pellet, but when shot, looks like a tiny version of your ship, and when collected, gives you a "piggy back" fighter that somehow gives you full-speed auto-fire!
No more sore thumbs!
It helps greatly for the levels, but perhaps you'd like to use this power-up against the game's bosses?
Well, sad to say -- every boss fight is the same:
A shape with a letter on it, plus two immobile gun-shapes on the side And the side-guns only have enough time to shoot twice before the screen scrolls past them, at which time the drifting Letter-Boss is just a big stupid target.
I am not a great video game player, but after learning the side-gun's patterns (they shoot at you from both sides; so, be ready to move after they do so), I have never died during the boss fight.
Ok, blandness documented. But what's the catch?
I think the basic enemy waves are distinctive enough to overcome all the bland extras (limited bonus targets, minibosses, bosses, power-ups) and make the game kind of fun. Though all enemies are small and orange-y/brown, most ships look different enough and/or have a distinctive-enough movement-pattern that you learn each KIND of enemy and know how to recognize and react when a wave of Enemy X appears.
I'd say this is the GOOD kind of memorization: you memorize TYPES of situations, and how to react. As opposed to what I consider the BAD kind of memorization: where you have to memorize SPECIFIC actions to take at SPECIFIC points in the game...because there are specific stages/levels where you barely have enough time to see AND respond WITHOUT memorization.
Pictured above: bad memorization.
So, here's the enemies you see in the first two levels:
Sine-Wave Gunners: snake back and forth, sometimes shooting downwards
Jump Donuts: slide towards the bottom of the screen, but when they start to pass by you, they fly diagonally backwards half-way up the screen, after which they may shoot downwards.
Doodle Balls: They fly forwards a few ship-lengths, then drift to the left or right about twice as many ship-lengths, then repeat. Also they may shoot at you.
Centering Blades: Zig-zag back and forth in a tight center-screen formation, shooting at you.
Bland Fleets: Large static formations that drift slowly downwards. But because they're so scattered, you'll have to swerve across a lot of the screen to kill them all, and if they start firing it might be trouble.
Slidey Disks: Fly straight downwards, but when they start to pass you, they side-slip left or right towards you, and then shoot at you.
Circling Disco Balls: Circle the center of the screen in a large orbit, firing.
Scatter Mines: Drift slowly towards you, but if you shoot them they each divide into 4 pieces of "spread shot" shrapnel that fly diagonally downwards. If that's not bad enough, they're one of the only enemy formations I've seen that will follow you faster than the screen scrolls, so you can't just avoid them.
Edge Dingers: Gather in a tight formation on the far edge of the screen, eventually (if not shot) they start firing and crossing the top center of the screen.
Dive-Bomb Birds: Drift about half-way down the screen, then dive straight for you.
Et cetera, et cetera...
Anyway, that's my take on it.
I've been known to get obsessed on bland or aggressively pointless games, but I don't think just any Space Shooter would be worth playing (though, with my current NES fixation, I haven't sought out any SNES space shooters).
For example, despite promising explosive high-flying action and spellbinding sound
, Sky Shark
was chock-full of cheap kills and bad memorization. On the opposite end of the spectrum, I found Image Fight
to be a bore, despite its 'gear shift' speed up/down feature and plentiful assistant Option-s: it suffers from totally unbalanced power-ups (where some are great and some are terrible) leading to feast-or-famine gameplay; it also has a few almost impossible boss fights.
But I'm usually willing to play some Star Force, either as a quick game, or playing 4-5 times in a row, to see if I can get farther after each Game Over.
So that's my argument; feel free to agree or disagree in the comments below. But just remember that, if you don't believe me,
A BIG LETTER ON AN ORANGE SHAPE MAY COME TO GET YOU!
— carlmarksguy, 2015-11-23