Psikyo Shooting Stars Alpha (Review) Nintendo Switch

Psikyo Shooting Stars Alpha (Review) Nintendo Switch
Review Score:

Since its debut, the Nintendo Switch has become the ‘go-to’ console for everything retro. Within the past couple of years, Nintendo’s ‘portable’ console has played host to a myriad of classic first-person shooters, 2D arcade games, and retro collections that cover a wide range of genres. And this doesn’t include the release of remastered titles like the Bioshock Collection and Red Faction, to name just a few.

The six games available in this ‘collection’ are some of the best 2D shooters to ever grace arcades. They are perfect representations of their coin-op counterparts, too. The graphics are bright and colorful; the enemy types are imaginative; and the gameplay – which sees the player dodging bullets, shooting enemies, and taking on a variety of bosses – is as hard as nails. This can be said about every game in this release, which are mentioned individually below:

Strikers 1945:
Like all the shooters in this collection, Strikers 1945’s gameplay takes precedence over its story, which only exists to provide context. For example: Shortly after the end of World War II, a mysterious organization calling itself C.A.N.Y emerges to conquer the world by using super weapons the world has never seen. In response, six of the world’s best pilots come together to form Strikers, a secret group that is employed by the United States to eliminate the new threat. From there, it’s all about intense, arcade shooting in this 1945-era shmup. The game includes six aircraft (i.e. the P-38, P-51, Spit Fire, Bf-109, Zero and the Shinden), all of which handle differently. For example: each fighter has its own firing pattern (which  increases in strength via power ups); a special ‘bomb’ attack that eliminates everything on-screen; and different maneuverability. As a shooter, Strikers 1945 is a classic, and it should be played by anyone who enjoys the shmup genre. 

Strikers 1945 II & Strikers 1954 III:
Strikers 1945 II and Strikers 1945 III are direct sequels to Psikyo’s popular military shooter, Strikers 1945. Both games have vastly improved graphics; new fighter jets to pilot; and a multitude of new enemies and bosses to encounter. Despite these changes, the gameplay remains about the same across both sequels. While this may translate into ‘more of the same’, both games still manage to  provide their own experiences that help them stand out on their own.

Sol Divide – Shadow of Darkness:
A hidden gem in Psikyo’s catalog of shooters, Sol Divide is a melee-based shooter that sees the player in the role of one of three heroes, as  they battle the evil Emperor Ifter after he declares all-out war on all neighboring nations. The game itself plays very similar to the Hell-Bullet shooter Deathsmiles, as the player controls a flying ‘hero’ who relies on both both projectiles and melee attacks to dispatch their foes.

Along the way, the player can cast powerful magic by collecting potions. When used, these potions can unleash screen-clearing firestorms and lightening strikes, to name just a few. And this doesn’t include the provided melee weapons, which are effective against certain enemy types.

Sol Divide was released during a time when 2D rendered CGI was appearing in video games (i.e. Donkey Kong Country, Killer Instinct, etc.). While some may argue that fully rendered graphics from this area haven’t aged well, Sol Divide’s graphics (surprisingly enough) still look decent for their age.

As a shooter, Sol Divide is a fun game that deserves its place in Psikyo Shooting Stars Alpha Collection. 

Dragon Blaze:
Dragon Blaze is a top-down 2D shooter with four different dragons to choose between (i.e. Fire, Aqua, Thunder and Skull).  The objective is to collect four ‘Magic stones’ to reverse a spell known as the ‘curse of the devil’. The gameplay is borderline Hell-Bullet shooter, as each level is inundated with enemy bullet patterns and bright, colorful explosions.

What sets Dragon Blaze apart from other shooters is the ability to detach the rider from their dragon, and use them as a secondary, firing apparatus. For example: the dragon can be used to deal additional damage and absorb enemy fire, while the player controls the ‘rider’ independently.

Like the other shooters in this collection, Dragon Blaze’s graphics have stood the test of time. The gritty environments invoke memories of Bug Princess – Cave’s Insect-themed Hell-Bullet shooter – with its wilderness-style levels and organic-looking enemies. The bosses also fall into this category.

As a shooter, Dragon Blaze is a hidden ‘gem’ like Sol Divide, that manages to impress with its challenging gameplay and eye-popping 2D visuals.

Zero Gunner 2:
Zero Gunner 2 is a 3D multi0directional shooter that first appeared in Japanese arcades back in May 2001, and then later that year in September for the Sega Dreamcast. The game’s story centers around an organization known as Igem, and a powerful energy source they created. This ‘energy’ source eventually evolves into ONI, a weather control machine that threatens the entire world. The moment ONI is activated, the countries of the world become powerless, allowing Igem’s soldiers to invade. The Zero Gunner squad is dispatched to deal with Igem, and to destroy the ONI weather control device.

The player can choose between three helicopters, each with their own bullet pattern and special ability. The game’s objective is to survive all 7 stages and defeat the bosses that wait at the end.  Zero Gunner 2 relies on a unique mechanic that allows the player to rotate their helicopter 360 degrees. While innovative, this feature takes practice to master, especially when the screen fills with enemies that are coming from all directions.

Like most shooters, power-ups can be collected to enhance the player’s helicopter. The game uses a ‘Special Bar’ to keep track of the helicopter’s power, which slowly increases whenever ‘E’ icons are collected from defeated enemies. When the aforementioned ‘Special Bar’ reaches maximum capacity, the player’s helicopter has the capability to unleash a special attack that can destroy everything on-screen. 

Where graphics are concerned, Zero Gunner 2 was released during a time (i.e. 2001) when 3D graphics were replacing 2D sprites as the ‘norm’.  Despite all this, the graphics – including the helicopters, enemies and backgrounds – look good for their time. In fact, the graphics look their best when the game is played in Portable mode.

Psikyo Shooting Stars Alpha is a brilliant collection of 2D shmups from one of the best arcade game developers in recent memory (sans developer Cave). Fans of the shmup genre will not only appreciate the value this release brings to the table, but the effort that was made to bring these shooters together as a collection.

Mike Pittaro
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Developer: Psikyo 
Publisher: NIS America
ESRB: E 10+ (Everyone 10+)
Price: $39.99

Psikyo Shooting Stars Alpha Official Website:

Review Score
The graphics quality varies from title to title.
Like the graphics, the sound and music teeters  between fair to impressive depending on the game.
Every game in this collection has something to offer.
Psikyo Shooting Stars Alpha is a brilliant collection of 2D shmup.
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