Toaplan Arcade Shoot ‘Em Up Collection Vol. 1 releases to Steam and GOG promising a fresh look at four classics thanks to the work of publisher Bitwave Games. The entire pack contains Truxton, Zero Wing, Twin Cobra and Out Zone but each can be bought separately. This gives real choice to players who may wish to try one before committing to them all. Times are good for Toaplan fans, not only because of this new collection but also due to the upcoming All Your Bases Are Belong To Toaplan documentary.
Each game has been emulated with minimum input lag in mind and also features online multiplayer and leaderboards. All the quality-of-life features you would expect are here, save states, rewinds, rapid-fire and an easy mode. This also helps them be accessible to newcomers to this tough genre. Each game has different boarders and video options to tinker with including a tate mode. You’re also given full control over lives and button layout to that perfect game balance depending on your needs. But let’s get to the games and see what all the fuss is about.
Truxton, known in Japan as Tatsujin, is a vertical shooter released to arcades in 1988 before finding its way to consoles later. It was one of Japan’s more successful arcade cabinets for Toaplan but wasn’t as well received in the West. Its simple mechanics masked a deeper game that you have to learn to win. It won’t be enough to just have good arcade skills, Truxton tests your memory. It’s one of those games where you just get a little bit further with each play, and defeating even a mini-boss feels like a win.
Truxton features three different weapons that can all be upgraded by collecting power-ups. You can also pick up useful speed drops as well as extra bombs and lives. Throughout each level many mini-bosses confront you and they usually appear in pairs of threes or more. Get passed these and you may make it to the brutal end of level boss. Truxton also has no end, it just keeps looping until you finally run out of lives. This one-player experience is one tough cookie and will challenge even the toughest of shooter veterans.
Zero Wing is the most famous of the four releases due to the popularity of the meme that quotes “all your base are belong to us“. This brilliant example of mistranslation helped Zero Wing gain a cult following and find many new fans over the years. Famous or not, this horizontal shooter is tough as nails and requires lots of practice. Bullets come from all angles and each level is filled with obstacles to squeeze through. You will find the brilliantly frustrating level design just as challenging as the enemies that keep coming at you.
The most interesting feature in Zero Wing is the ‘Seisure Beam’, that sucks enemies in tight to be used as shields or projectiles. This unique mechanic will become vital as you progress and the swarms continuously descend. Some of the boss battles are outstanding as they fill the entire screen and send wave after wave of projectiles that grate and punish. With three different weapons to upgrade you get a lot to work with and different setups work better in certain situations. Zero Wing stands out the most in this collection and it certainly delivers.
Twin Cobra, known as Kyukyoku Tiger in Japan, is a traditional vertical shmup where you take control of a powerful helicopter. It caters for one or two players and centres around a military theme instead of the usual sci-fi setting. It was a big hit for Toaplan and built upon the gameplay of its predecessor Tiger Heli. This arcade hit has a difficulty that starts to ramp up quickly and never lets up. Don’t let that put you off as it still provides buckets of arcade fun and skill directed gameplay.
Featuring four different standard shot weapons, power-ups build your damage potential but are reset upon death. Twin Cobra also has bombs that can help clear the screen when you’re overwhelmed. Each of the ten levels ends with a tough boss fight and these take the guise of giant tanks or aircraft. The controls are tight with the only downside being how enemy bullets occasionally blend in with the backgrounds. Twin Cobra may not be the standout title in this collection but it provides classic arcade shooter heaven for players of any level.
Out Zone is the only game in the Toaplan Arcade Shmup Collection that doesn’t feature auto-scrolling gameplay. Instead, you creep forward as swarms of enemies descend in this brutal and varied arcade gem. This is also the freshest experience out of the four shooters and the one it’s recommended to start with. Out Zone has a slower pace and makes the perfect entry point to this unapologetically difficult set of games to finish. However, the later levels get truly brutal to slog through so be warned.
The overall gameplay has a different feel from the others in the collection but is just as enjoyable and tough. Also, the weapons feel more distinct and striking in comparison. You can’t help but admire the beautiful 90s pixel art and music, it’s captivating and feels high quality as you slowly climb up the levels. The controls can sometimes feel sticky, but it’s still a blast testing your skills in a sci-fi world. The most interesting title in the collection and probably the least known so this feels like a must-buy to those diving in.
Controlling each game feels tight and any deaths feel like your own fault. The emulation feels high quality with no noticeable lag or graphical issues. At the time of this review, there were a few niggles with the save state feature but nothing that affects gameplay. Overall, there is a lot to like about this collection although the high difficulty may put some off. These games certainly aren’t easy and are a stark reminder of how harsh coin-munching arcade cabs were back in the day. For those that do take the plunge there are hours of arcade action to indulge in.
Toaplan Arcade Shoot ‘Em Up Collection Vol. 1 is an amazing collection of classic shmups that have all the modern features you may need. This collection is highly recommended even if you have played the games before. Newcomers may find these old-school shooters tough but there are plenty of options to help with the difficulty. One thing this collection shows is we have another fine addition to the growing list of developers bringing forgotten classics back. Bitwave have created a fun collection with well-thought-out features.
This review will be updated with an explanation of how the online multiplayer performs soon. You can check out Toaplan Arcade Shoot ‘Em Up Collection Vol. 1 on Steam and GOG now. Thank you Bitwave for providing review codes for each game.