Ultimate Shooting Collection
Publisher: UFO Interactive
Developer: Milestone Inc.
Genre: Shoot ‘Em Up
Release Date: 01/23/2009
Although the title is Ultimate Shooting Collection, it really should have been Dreamcast Shooting Collection as all three games were originally on the venerable Sega Dreamcast. Contrary to popular belief, there are still games being made for the Sega Dreamcast, per my review of Wind and Water Puzzle Battles, which was released at the tail end of 2008. In fact, all three games were released after Sega stopped officially supported the Dreamcast, but that didn’t stop either developers or gamers from continuing to shot it love. Here’s a quick history of each game before we begin the actual review.
Chaos Field was originally released for the Dreamcast in December 2004, variants of the game were ported to the Playstation 2and Game Cube. This game is basically nothing but Ikaruga boss battles but instead of black vs. white bullet absorption there are two fields: Chaos and Order.
Radio Allergy, which was released in early 2005, is also known and most often referred to as Radirgy This too was ported to the Gamecube and PS2, each with their own exclusive gameplay move. Radirgy has a Jet Set Radio feel to it in terms of graphics and music. This was released in early 2006 and considered the most popular of the three shooters in this collection
Karous is my personal favorite of these games (Probably due to the fact I have played it so often I can beat it without losing a life.) Karous (Which is meant to be “Karasu, which is Raven In Japanese) was released in 2007. 2007 was an amazing year for the Dreamcast as it gave us Trigger Heart Excella and Last Hope in addition to this fun little shooter. Until WWPB, Karous was considered the last Dreamcast game.
So now we have all three for a price of $29.99, and two of these games have never seen English language releases. How do these titles stack up despite originally being released on a system nearly two generations old?
The nice thing about Milestone shooters is that they try to give their games plots. Karous for example, is about a girl who is half angel/half human and who journeys to Earth to make humans pay for their latest war which caused the death of her parents. Why a half-angel needs to drive a giant mech around, I’ll never know. There’s also a lot of story in this game where people like your sidekick Shigi talk to you throughout the game, but the problem is the text box is at the very bottom of the screen and because the action is so fast and furious you don’t have time to pay attention to it. Even worse the text is VERY tiny and the font is a pretty blurry one, making the story of the game pretty hard to enjoy or understand. I’ve beaten this game on the DC and the Wii now and even though I love playing it, I’d be hard pressed to tell you what the heck it’s about besides, “It’s a Shoot ‘Em Up. You blow things up.”.
Radirgy features an all female cast with a 16-year-old girl named Shizuru Kamigu trying to save her kidnapped father from terrorists…by using a giant mech. That’s pretty much the plot. Yes, it’s up there with R-Type‘s, “Hey look – Byrdo Empire. Let’s kill ’em.” But at least Milestone gives us something, right? Radirgy does occasionally have text bits pop up throughout the game though, especially at the beginning of the game.
Finally, there is Chaos Field, which has the least story out of each game. Basically you’re one of three characters, each with their own ship and you fight only one enemy per section. There is no story save for the three paragraphs in the manual, which is typical for most Shoot ‘Em Ups. Basically it’s humans vs the Abo at the tail end of a ten year long war.
So like most shooters, there’s not a lot of plot here. Radirgy and Karous try, but both attempts fall flat for various reasons. I’d love to be able to read the story in Karous without having to sit crazy close to the screen, but the second I take time to read the text is the second I know I’ll get blown up for not zigging or zagging. Would it really have been that hard to but the story between stages?
Story Rating: Below Average
Although these games were developed for the Arcade first, all three games truly came into their own on the Sega Dreamcast. In fact, they were ported to the system within months (or even weeks) of their arcade debut. This is because all three games were made with NAOMI board which is pretty much souped up Dreamcast technology. The only differences really when you port a game from NAOMI to the DC is a little bit of loading time and a decrease in sound quality. What this means, is that you are getting a nigh perfect arcade conversion of the visuals, and what’s here still holds up as we journey from the venerable and nearly dead Dreamcast to the current dominating system of the Nintendo Wii.
Karous, having just been released two years ago ios by far the most visually stunning of the games, but the visual beauty is more that the game has so much action going on without any slowdown than anything truly revolutionary for graphics. Indeed, many of the ship designs and visual effects are pretty generic. Character portraits are a bit blurry and underwhelming for today’s technology. Even compared to other Dreamcast shooters like Ikaruga, Bangai-O or Mars Matrix Karous is a bit dull, but as I said earlier, what it lacks in detail and design, it makes up in a complete and utter lack of slowdown. It’s the fastest paced of all three games and the constantly changing weapons are a sight to behold.
Radirgy looks and feels like a cell shaded game, and its visuals remind me of a shooter version of Jet Set Radio. There’s a nice anime cut scene opener that still feels like it is PSX or PS2 level in visuals due to the jaggy graphics, but it’s still nice to see. The in game visuals are pretty unique for a shooter due to the graphic style and I really love the backgrounds, but they are a bit distracting at times when you’re trying to judge the qualities. I also like how different the three shot styles in the game are. I prefer the look of the bubble shot, even though I’m better with the spread. The visuals are still beneath what the current systems can pull off, but Radirgy was considered quite pretty when it first came out and it still holds up decently.
Chaos Field is a hard game to judge visually. After all it’s a tiny ship, a very big ship and a ton of bullets. Chaos Field does suffer a bit of slowdown and this version of the game is the GameCube port rather than the DC or Arcade one. As such it’s not as pretty as the Sega originals, but considering Chaos Field was already translated and brought stateside to the GCN, it makes for smarter business sense to go for this version. I enjoy the designs here and although this is my least favorite of the shooters includes, I feel CF’s graphics hold up the best. This is especially telling as it’s also the oldest of the three games.
Graphics Rating: Decent
I’ve always loved the music of Karous and Radirgy and after playing through the Wii versions of these games, I still do. Yes, the sound quality isn’t as great as the arcade or even the Dreamcast versions, but that’s because NAOMI boards didn’t have to spool redbook audio through the GD-Rom like the DC and as much as I love the little Wii, it just doesn’t have the audio capability of the Dreamcast (Of course, neither did the PS2 and that won last generation so hey).
Seriously, listen to the music playing during both of the aforementioned games. The tracks have great beats to them and you could almost dance to them. They’re a bit funky, a bit techno-y, and a lot of fun. Chaos Field‘s soundtrack isn’t as great as the other two games, but it’s still enjoyable for what it is. The music has a darker, brooding tone to it compared to the more upbeat happy music of Karous and Radirgy
The fact a tiny little company like Milestone’s music is still comparable to say, Treasure made games speak volumes about the audio quality here. Shoot ‘Em Up fans will be quite pleased here.
Sound Rating: Very Good
4. Control and Gameplay
For the most part, all three games handle exactly the same. You maneuver your mech around firepower and either use your gun or sword to kill things. Your ships also have a shield that is triggered if you’re not shooting, but hey, why wouldn’t you? Each game does have their differences so let’s look at them.
Karous is the only game that doesn’t give you an option about either firepower or ship type. Instead, Karous is a lovely shooter/RPG hybrid where all three of your weapons earn individual experience akin to the first Grandia. As your weapons level up, they get more powerful. Truthfully, only the shot is worth leveling up. By the end of Stage 3 I’m at an overall level of 103-105 with 90 something of those levels coming from my shot. Trust me on this. Use the shot constantly and relegate the shield and sword to rarely used. This is how I’ve gotten as good at the game as I am.
Karous also features a special attack called the “D.F.S.” when your special gauge is filled, hit the X button to trigger the D.F.S. You’ll be temporarily invincible and a parasite will attach to any enemy you touch. Kill a parasite inflicted enemy for roughly quadruple points. Again, using the D.F.S. in conjunction with the Shot means you should have your gun maxed out for the last two levels of the game, making it a cakewalk for long time shooter fans.
Radirgy features three types of shots: Wide, Laser (which is actually almost as wide as Wide Shot) and Jumbo (Bubble) shot. I find I’m best with Wide, but Laser is probably the best choice for those new to the game. Jumbo Shot is fun, but at times it will get you killed because the bubbles stay on the screen and obscure enemies and their firepower. The special attack in Radirgy is the Azubo Network Gauge. Press your X button to trigger your stored electrical energy. For a short time you’ll be invincible and can absorb both enemy firepower and draw power-ups to you. Nice!
Chaos Field is a fun game, but it’s also a poor man’s Ikaruga. I think if I wasn’t such an Ikaruga mark, I’d like this game better, but as it’s got the polarity flip-flop and is just boss fights, I find the game to be a bit lackluster. Still, it offers three different ships: one balanced, one fast, and one overloaded with firepower. Choose the latter especially if you are new, as the firepower combined with the temporary invincibility you get from flipping fields will help you out a lot. You also get two special attacks. One deflects enemy bullets while the other homes all your shots in on the enemy. I prefer the former, but both are quite useful.
Chaos Field gets its name from the ability to shift from the Chaos Field to the Order Field. When playing on order, the enemy is weaker and its firepower isn’t as frequently, but you score less points. In the chaos field the enemy is more powerful, but you can get a higher score. The nice thing is, you do more damage in the chaos field as well. So it’s a matter of timing your switches to stay alive as well as taking advantages of the enemies patterns.
All three games are solid shooters, sporting excellent gameplay. There are control schemes for the Numchuk, Classic Controller, and Gamecube controller. I’d advise one of the latter two options. Shooters plus the default Wii controls never sit well with me. I suppose I’m too conditioned to 30 years of traditional controller gameplay for this genre.
Control and Gameplay Rating: Great
With three traditional shooters to pick from, each with their own unique special offerings, you can get a lot of enjoyment out of this $29.99 game. It’s less than ten dollars per shooter. I wish I’d paid that little for each of my Dreamcast copies…
Some gamers fight find the fact that all three games are similar in gameplay to be a bit tedious, but with different graphics, soundtracks and special abilities, I’d disagree strongly on that point. Other gamers might find the limited amount of credits to be a killer because they don’t have the skill to beat a shooter without unlimited credits, but don’t despair. USC does keep track of your playtime and maybe if you keep trying and improving your skills, you’ll get a bit of a reward from the game to help get you a little farther.
With three games, two of which that have never been released in English or stateside before, shooter fans will be able to spend a lot of time with the game. Let’s just hope it’s not the only traditional Shoot ‘Em Up to hit stateside this year.
Replayability Rating: Good
Shoot ‘Em Ups by their very nature are arguably the hardest genre in all of gaming. Shooters designed for arcades are even HARDER because you’re meant to get so into them that you put coin after coin into the cabinet in order to keep playing and hopefully finally beat the game. All three games contained in Ultimate Shooting Collection are no exception to this rule. I find Chaos Field to be the game that will probably be hardest for the average gamer due to the field manipulation and the game consisting of nothing but boss battles. Karous is probably the easiest since there are no weapons or ships to choose from. You have one option and then you just master that. Radirgy is a tough little game as it is the only one that contains enemies that can only be killed by the sword and enemies that can only be killed by your gun. Thankfully the sword only enemies are jaundice yellow so you’ll see them coming.
Yes, these are hard games. The average gamer will have a tough time getting past these games even on easy. Even an experienced game will grit their teeth while playing these. Shooters are meant to be crazy hard and merciless. People who cut their eye teeth on shooters will be able to deal with the bullet hell aspects of these games and the limited credits. After all, if you’re a passionate fan of the genre, you’re used to all of this by now.
Balance Rating: Decent
This is probably where all three games suffer the most. By putting all three into a collection together, you really feel how paint by the numbers all three titles are. Even the special abilities of Karous and Radirgy are similar and the fields of Chaos Field are a massive rip-off of Ikaruga. In truth, as much as I enjoy all three games, they are fairly generic shooters with only one or two things that separate them from the pack. Karous has the fun experience point system and the best “crazy flying around the screen blowing stuff up” aspects, but compare it to the very innovative Trigger Heart Excella that came out the same year and Karous ‘ weak points become very apparent.
Again, don’t get me wrong. All three are very fun shooters, each with some interesting bits, but when it comes to originality, all three games just don’t have it.
Originality Rating: Bad
Go back to the second sentence I wrote under the “Balance” category. Like all arcade shooters, these three are designed to suck in a gamer and keep them shoveling money into the coin slot of an arcade cabinet. This aspect of the games still holds up, but due to a limited amount of credits, some gamers may be put off. After all, they’ll WANT to keep playing, but the game won’t let them. You’ll have to earn extra credits to do that and that means starting over from the beginning and playing, improving and making sure the game clocks your progress.
Some gamers, by their very nature, will complain about starting over or the lack of saves between levels, but then those gamers are obviously new to Shoot ‘Em Ups, or insane. Still, anytime a game is both difficult and not jaw-droppingly beautiful, there is a section of gamers that will cry foul. It’s life.
I find Karous to consume the most of my time out of the three, as I love the gameplay, experience earning concepts and the boss battles to be the most enjoyable. Radirgy has the best music and sound, but it’s never been a “MUST PLAY” shooter for me. Chaos Field has it’s moments, but there are many other shooters I’d rather play.
These are fun Shoot ‘Em Ups, but there are certainly better ones out there.
Addictiveness Rating: Above Average
9. Appeal Factor
You know there was a time when Shoot ‘Em Ups were one of the biggest genres in gaming along with Beat ‘Em Ups and 2-D fighters. My how the landscape has changed. In North America, all three genres have been regulated to niche fandoms at best. Most US based gamers probably didn’t even know this collection was coming, much less the history of all three games or their Arcade/Dreamcast roots. There’s nothing wrong with this per say; tastes have changed. Still, in the 16 bit era you could find plenty of gamers to explain to you the different experiences you would have playing say, R-Type on the SNES, Genesis and Turbo-Grafx 16 and why the TG-16 version was ultimately superior and how the SNES was the worst system ever for playing Shooters due to the hardware’s inability to process all the action on the screen leading to slowdown the likes of which had never been seen before and thankfully have never been seen again. This was common middle school knowledge amongst gamers. Now I could mention Dux which is coming out in a few weeks (or months) and 99% of gamers wouldn’t know what that was, who was publishing it or what console it is coming out for. Pity the poor Shoot ‘Em Up Genre, for it is underappreciated and in need of much love.
If you’re looking for a nice bit of nostalgia, a reminder of why this genre was once beloved, or a real challenge for your Wii, then by all means, pick up Ultimate Shooting Collection. if you’ve never played a Shooter before, then this probably isn’t the best collection to cut your eye teeth on, especially Chaos Field. Still, three shooters for $29.99 is a tempting package and a nice way to see why fans of this genre love Compile and Milestone. I can see older gamers having a blast with this once they remember when games used to be cruel , but younger gamers will probably wonder what is wrong with us old fogies.
Appeal Factor: Mediocre
Three shooters for thirty dollars. This is a great deal, especially when you realize each of these games were between thirty and fifty bucks when they were first released. Kudos to UFO Interactive for localizing Karous and Radirgy. I remember how excited I was when Radirgy was announced for US release, but then it was cancelled at the last second due to Nintendo politics regarding smaller publishers for the Cube. It’s a long annoying dramatic story and I’ll spare you the details, but I can’t tell you how happy I am to see some of the last Dreamcast games make their way stateside. Finally US shooter fans can experience some of Milestone’s best games and really test their mettle as a gamer. Maybe someday we’ll see Last Hope and Dux get the same treatment.
Big thumbs up to UFO for giving us this compilation and a nice tribute to both Milestone and Sega.
Miscellaneous Rating: Good
Story: Below Average
Sound: Very Good
Control and Gameplay: Great
Addictiveness: Above Average
Appeal Factor: Mediocre
FINAL SCORE:ABOVE AVERAGE GAME
Short Attention Span Summary
I balk at the name Ultimate Shooting Collection and wish this would have been called Milestone Shooting Collection or even Dreamcast Shooting Collection, as both would be better titles. Ultimate Shooting Collection is a bit too braggy as none of the shooters contained in this collection are amongst the best ever in this genre. That being said, all three games are a great deal of fun, and I’ve been touting my Karous love for about two years now. Having that ported and localized is a great treat, and getting the much beloved Radirgy and the cult classic Chaos Field are simply icing on the cake. At thirty dollars, you could certainly do worse as the other shooters for the Wii are that much for a single game. As a long time fan of Shoot ‘Em Ups, I have to say that my Wii collection wouldn’t be complete without this title, but the majority of you will probably feel different in that regard.