*Editor's Note: The Geek Getaway received a review copy of this game.
Psikyo Shooting Stars Alpha is a shoot 'em up compilation for the Nintendo Switch by publisher NIS America. Released on January 21st, 2020, this six-game compilation features 6 classic arcade shoot 'em ups by developer Psikyo. More information on the game and where to purchase it can be found here at the games official website. Limited edition versions of the game may also be purchased at Amazon Best Buy NISA Online Store.
The games featured in this collection include Strikers 1945 1, 2, and 3 (1995,1997,1999), Sol Divide (1997), Dragon Blaze (2000), and Zero Gunner 2 (2001). Each game has its own individual rankings, and customizable options, ranging from visual effects like adding scanlines or a retro-style filter and completely flipping the screen upside down, to changing the number of lives and continues you have when you play. You may also read an instruction manual for each game featuring explanations of controls and mechanics in the options menu. All 3 striker games and Dragon Blaze can also be played in Tate mode by rotating the screen in the options menu. You're going to need to be in handheld mode to play effectively as the screen might rotate but your controls do not. Each game also includes local co-op so you and a friend can work together to complete these challenging shoot 'em ups.
The first game in the collection is Strikers 1945. A sweet and simple shoot 'em up featuring a large and beautiful cast of World War 2 era planes to choose from. There are 6 playable planes in Striker 1945, each with their own stats, weapon, sub-weapon, and bomb. Upon picking up a power-up the planes main gun is given a power increase and you are joined by a smaller plane whose attack is dependent on your main plane. Holding the manual shot button (Y by default) will let you perform a formation attack that sends all of your helper planes ahead to attack enemies. The power of these formation attacks depends on how powerful your main gun is. At the end of each level is a shapeshifting superweapon with multiple forms that must be destroyed to progress.
The planes are the:
P-38: An American fighter aircraft, this machine's main gun fires a rapid shot directly in front of it, and its helpers fire homing missiles at enemy targets. Its formation attack places the helpers in an area where they will stay and continuously fire ahead of them. Its bomb is just that, a bomb, and it destroys everything on the screen and deals large damage to bosses.
The backgrounds in Strikers 1945 are, like every other game in this collection, wonderful and detailed. The levels range from a variety of settings, from icy coastal regions to naval and army bases, and even a rocket launch site and the moon itself.
The music in many levels is reminiscent of marching music, which really gives the impression of you raiding an enemy base to destroy their weapons. Don't be distracted by the music or the visuals because you will need to focus if you want to finish all 8 levels (the first 4 are played in a random order so each playthrough can start differently from the last.
After a certain point in the game, using a continue will not place you back where you ran out of lives in the level, instead, you will be forced to start the level over again, so staying vigilant at all times is the key to making it through this game without running out of credits, or you could set your credits to unlimited and keep going at it as long as you like, well until you reach the second loop.
In all of these games, after finishing the final level you will restart the game from the beginning with increased difficulty and being unable to use credits to continue. Overall the game is pretty good. Featuring an enjoyable, absurd contrast of WW2 era planes powered by propellers, going against massive fleets of futuristic alien sci-fi technology and somehow standing a fighting chance.
Strikers 1945 2 is the original game, but far, far better. Like the game before it, Strikers 1945 2 features 8 challenging levels and a variety of WW2 era planes.
Formation attacks have been replaced by a new option, by holding down the manual shot button (Y by default) you can perform a powerful charge attack, however, this can only be done if you have your charge gauge filled up to one of 3 levels. Losing a life causes your charge gauge to reset to level 1. Instead of gaining helper planes whenever you pick up a power-up you instead gain access to increasingly more powerful sub-weapons that fire alongside your main weapon. Like the first game, there are 6 playable World War 2 planes to choose from however only two of those planes are returning from the first game.
The planes featured in this game are
Lightning: A P-38 but a bit different from the one in the original game. The main gun is similar to the one from the original game and the sub-weapon fires missiles like the helper planes in the first game. The charge attack fires missiles that get more powerful depending on what level of charge you have reached. The bomb is a more powerful version of the P-38s formation attack from the first game, sending a fleet of fighters ahead of you to absorb bullets and fire at enemies.
The music in Strikers 1945 2 is far superior to that of the original game, while the music in the original game wasn't bad it certainly was nowhere near as good as this rock-fueled soundtrack featuring an abundance of midi guitars.
The backgrounds and environments in this game are yet another thing they've improved from the first game, once again with wide variety of locales.
Much like the first game, the bosses you face are transforming giant robots. Like the game before it, Striker 1945 2 is very challenging and by the end of it, you will need to be able to avoid a hail of bullets without relying on continues.
Striker 1945 3 is set in the distant future of 1999 so this entry in the series features much more modern planes than its predecessors once again with a total count of 6 planes, however, the final plane can only be selected by pressing up while on the random plane selection. Once again featuring 8 challenging levels spanning a variety of locales. The charge shots in this game are different from the previous installment, instead of using your entire charge gauge upon using a charge shot, it instead rapidly depletes as you continuously fire a charge attack which can be stopped at any time by letting go of the manual fire button to conserve your gauge.
The planes featured in this game are:
F/A-18: An American supersonic MRCA, It is extremely similar to the P-38 from the first game, having a similar main gun, sub-weapon, and bomb. The biggest difference between them is the charge attack, which rapid shoots missiles in place for as long as you hold down the button.
During boss fights the boss will reveal a blue orb, if you can avoid bullets and get close to the orb it will turn red, firing at the orb at this point will instantly destroy the boss and give you a large point bonus.
Much like how the second game greatly improved on the sound and visuals of the first game, this game has vastly improved both aspects here as well. Once again featuring a variety of levels from desert canyons to bustling cities.
The next game in the collection is Sol Divide, an oddball in the collection as it is a fantasy-themed, side-scrolling hack and slash/ shoot 'em up hybrid. Unlike the other games in this collection, this time around you are given the ability to use melee attacks as well as ranged shots and instead of bombs you use magic spells that can be collected by defeating enemies. Each of the spells come with their own unique animations and effects. More powerful spells cost more magic which can be recharged by using melee attacks and collecting magic restoration items from defeated enemies.
You play as one of three characters.
Kashon: A blue-skinned birdman who is great at close range and long-distance combat. Easiest strong melee combo of all characters.
Vorg: A powerful swordsman who excels in melee combat, but struggles to do sufficient damage from afar. His strong combo is difficult, but it tears through enemies and bosses with ease.
Tyora: A mage who more then makes up for her lack of physical strength with powerful magic shots, the opposite of Vorg in playstyle as you will stay back and shoot at the enemy. Fastest, but also weakest melee combo.
The bosses in Sol Divide are amazing in concept, however when it comes down to it some of them look like poorly implemented stop motion playdough monsters, which could have been a cool concept if it weren't an out of place mess that clashed with every other visual aspect. The music is passable but some tracks sound a bit too compressed. The backgrounds are varied, some amazing, some atrocious, but most are unremarkable.
While the visuals and sound aren't the best, Psikyo tried something new with this game, and while it didn't all work out for the best, the mix of hack and slash and shoot 'em up gameplay is unique and definitely worth giving a shot.
Next up is Dragon Blaze, the other oddball game of the collection and easily the most difficult, though there are only 7 levels in this game. A return to the vertical shoot 'em up style of the other games in the collection. Instead of being a pilot in a warplane, you play one of 4 characters and their partner dragon. Like usual each character has their own unique shots, bombs, and charge attacks. Similar to the formation attacks in Striker 1945 you can press the dragon button (X by default) to send you dragon in front of you to attack enemies.
The characters are:
Quaid: A young knight joined by a fire dragon. Quaid himself attacks by throwing javelins, while the dragon fires rapid shots directly ahead. The charge attack causes them to throw flaming javelins that cut through enemies. The magic bomb causes a storm of fire to rain down damaging everything on the screen.
Sonia: A princess joined by a water dragon. Sonia herself uses an automatic crossbow, while her dragon joined by two baby dragons fire bubbles. The dragon's attack is wide, but it does not spread out. Her charge attack fires a wide spread of magic arrows. The magic bomb causes Triton himself to appear and charge the enemies, damaging everything in his path.
Rob: A dwarf joined by a two headed thunder dragon. Rob himself attacks by throwing maces, while his dragon fires spread shots. His charge attack throws flaming hammers forward damaging everything they hit. The magic bomb causes a ball of plasma to shock everything on the screen.
Ian: An edgy knight joined by an even edgier bone dragon. He throws daggers that home in on enemies while he is mounted, however, they are just sent forward when he is by himself. His dragon fires large ghostlike shots. His charge attack fires a large laser that tears through enemies and his magic bomb calls forth two knights to slash in front of him, the area that hits the enemies is narrow but it deals great damage if you can master it.
While dismounted from the dragon your character will use a weaker weapon, so placement of your dragon is important when playing through this game so you can deal decent damage and avoid the storm of bullets coming from all sides.
Like the Strikers games before it, the visuals and sound in this game are great, featuring a medieval fantasy-themed soundtrack, and bizarre detailed landscapes that house equally as bizarre enemies and destructible terrain.
The helicopters are:
Apache: An American attack helicopter, Its main gun is a rapid shot type, and its sub-weapon fires powerful missiles. The option attack fires multiple powerful homing missiles.
Comanche: An American stealth reconnaissance helicopter, its main gun is a rapid shot, and its sub-weapon fires a pulsing laser. The option attack places a small plane that fires in place for a few seconds before disappearing.
Hokum: A Russian attack helicopter, its main gun is rapid forked shot, and its sub-weapons are small homing missiles. The option attack gives you 3 helper planes that you can shoot with 100 times.
The bosses of this game follow the formula of Striker 1945s bosses in which they are enemy superweapons that shapeshift into other forms. The variety and design of the boss enemies are amazing and the fights happen in interesting, changing locales.
In the display options of this game, there is an option to enable a retro-styled screen filter. This filter turns the game from looking good to looking amazing.
While lacking in the vehicle department, the visuals and solid gameplay make this game an excellent addition to the collection. The music is extremely catchy, but not much of it really stands out.
Final Verdict: Recommended
Overall, this collection is amazing, featuring 6 classic multiplayer shoot 'em up games from a renowned arcade developer. The pick up and play nature of arcade shoot 'em ups make these games perfect for a quick session, or a way to pass time. The Tate mode and multiplayer compatibility also make this a great game to play with a friend, working together to beat the game and competing for a higher score anywhere you want. I recommend this collection for anyone looking for simple pick up and play games, shoot 'em up fans, and anyone looking to have a good time with friends or family.