Review: Is this an "ultimate" collection in the same way the kids used to say something cool was "bad"?
Ultimate Shooting Collection
is a terrible name for a video game. The words evoke images of a cheaply made mini-game collection, most likely of the "huntin' varmits" variety, that would be found at Wal-Mart for a few bucks. Instead, the game is a collection of three shoot 'em ups created by Milestone, a Japanese developer who specializes in the genre (the game was actually titled Milestone Shooting Collection in Japan). Obscure, yes. But shovelware this ain't. And yet, calling it the ultimate anything is stretching things a bit too far.
The three games included in the package are Chaos Field
and Radio Allergy
. All three games are vertically-scrolling top-down shooters that allow the player to step into the cockpit of a "flying suit." The flying suit of each game is basically a giant flying robot that has some kind of shooting weapon (a laser or a machine gun or a bubble cannon) and a sword that is used to deflect bullets and damage close-range enemies. Chaos Field was previously released in America on the GameCube in 2005 while Radio Allergy was in development for Nintendo's purple lunchbox, but was canceled after the Wii's emergence in 2006. Karous is notable for being one of the last games released for the Dreamcast, a full six years after the system was discontinued.
While the games look different enough on the surface (each one has a pretty distinct art style), the fact that all three games were developed by the same company is readily apparent. In fact, Radio Allergy and Karous share so many similarities it is almost wrong to consider them separate games.
The games both feature cel-shaded graphics, with Radio Allergy's being more cartoony, while Karous looks more like a comic book. Messages from friends appear constantly in a little box that pops up on the screen. They take the form of emails that detail some of each game's strategies. While other emails are labeled "SPAM" and are total non-sequiters, such as one person's multi-page description of their toothache. The messages are nigh unreadable (more so in Karous than Radio Allergy) and they're annoying. Even if the text were a decent size, reading the messages and shooting down enemies is ill-advised unless you want to get shot out of the sky yourself. The messages feature some brutal Engrish and are often just gibberish even when they relate to the game. Why they were included (and why some of them are random SPAM messages) is beyond me.
The two games differ somewhat with the types of special attacks they make available to the player. There is only one flying suit available in Karous, but it is changed and modified based on the power-ups that players collect (which level up the ship like an RPG). Radio Allergy gives players the choice of three flying suits, each with different weaponry, including the aforementioned bubble cannon. As you may have guessed, Radio Allergy is the cutest game in the collection by far. When a meter is full, players can also unleash a shield that absorbs enemy fire and ratchets up the points big time.
While Radio Allergy and Karous both scroll vertically, the playfield can also be rotated horizontally to fit into a widescreen display. However, the game cuts off a small sliver of the top and bottom of the screen and doesn't bother to rotate the text. On top of that, it just looks wrong.
While Karous and Radio Allergy are very similar, Chaos Field is actually fairly different. Instead of cel-shaded graphics, it features 3D polygonal enemies. And instead of wave after wave of enemy fighters, Chaos Field's action is all-boss battles all-the-time against giant ships that have to be cut down to size. The game also features a lock-on missile attack and something called a Wing Layer attack. I'm still not entirely sure what the Wing Layer does. Chaos Field is clearly the most polished and most amusing game of the three.
Ultimately, the game requires little more than five minutes of play time before you know whether or not the Ultimate Shooting Collection is for you. It's fun to get a chance to play some "new" space shooters, but the games in this collection feel more like fluff than full games. And with competition from the games in the rejuvanated 8-way shooter genre (such as Geometry Wars
), Ultimate Shooting Collection never quite attains that "I can't put it down!" hook like the best shooters can.