The NeoGeo is home to many fantastic shmups and now that you can play them on modern consoles, let's revisit 7 stand-out titles.
Last Resort Review Switch ★★★☆☆
SNK's 1992 Last Resort was clearly inspired by the phenomenal R-Type but is it as enjoyable as Irem's classic shooter?
It's true; Last Resort is played a lot like R-Type in that you fly around, shoot, and can lock on an optional unit which is very similar to the R-9's Force power-up. A welcome inclusion here is that you can play cooperatively with a friend which makes the action a lot more enjoyable. As you play, you can equip 3 different weapons which feature a few power-up levels each. Whether you're battling viruses with the laser, homing missiles, or ground missiles; the action is rewarding and challenging. However, it's incredibly irritating that you have to restart from predefined checkpoints whenever you lose a life. That being said, it's fun to strategically position your unit and perform charged attacks with it. Finally, the graphics and sound effects are fairly generic and the music is forgettable, too.
Although Last Resort is a solid shoot 'em up, it's nothing more than an R-Type wannabe that definitely hasn't aged as well.ACA NeoGeo: Last Resort gameplay video →
Aero Fighters 2 Review Switch ★★★★☆
Also known as Sonic Wings 2, 1994's Aero Fighters 2 is an arcade shooter that's as action-packed as it is hilarious.
The Aero Fighters series was created by a Video System team who would later go on to create Psikyo and it shows as Aero Fighters 2 feels like a precursor to future classics such as Samurai Aces, Gunbird, and Strikers 1945. Anyway, you select from a collection of 8 wacky characters including a dolphin, a baby, a pop star, and a robot. The dialogue between stages is downright hilarious and it makes for a fantastic reward. Aero Fighters 2's gameplay is fairly simple as all you do is shoot and deploy a bomb whenever you're in a pickle. You can also play 2 player co-op, collect power-ups to increase your firepower, and pick up currencies to earn points. Although the challenge isn't particularly difficult, playing through as each character is a ton of fun and makes the campaign feel fresh every time.
Aero Fighters 2 is an enjoyable and funny shmup that's perfect for genre newbies as its degree of difficulty isn't very high.ACA NeoGeo: Aero Fighters 2 gameplay video →
Zed Blade Review Switch ★★★★☆
Little-known developer Nihon Maicom Kaihatsu created Zed Blade back in 1994 so let's see how well it has held up.
Zed Blade came out in Japan as Operation Ragnarok and it's one superb shoot 'em up. For starters, it looks and sounds great complete with unique and well-animated enemies, a highly energetic electronic music soundtrack, and satisfying effects. Its gameplay simply involves shooting and deploying bombs and there are power-ups that enhance your various weaponry and even your bombs which is something that I've never seen in any other shmup. A second player can join you and considering you can choose from 3 pilots as well as 3 different kinds of front, rear, and missile weapons; there are a lot of variations that you can tinker around with. Unfortunately, the challenge isn't that rewarding because it's an overall easy game but the awesome music and clever enemies more than make up for that.
It may not be as recognizable as many other retro shmups but Zed Blade is definitely worth playing in this day and age.ACA NeoGeo: Zed Blade gameplay video →
Pulstar Review Switch ★★★☆☆
Here we have yet another R-Type copycat so let's see if Pulstar has what it takes to stand out from the iconic shooter.
Pulstar was created by Aicom who would later move on to become Yumekobo, the developers of Blazing Star. In fact, Blazing Star is essentially a sequel to Pulstar. Anyway, Pulstar features pre-rendered sprites and environments which look great and apparently, it was the first NeoGeo game to include such visuals. Controlling your ship involves shooting, positioning your IO satellites, and charging your Voyager unit attacks which is a lot like Last Resort. Speaking of which, the annoying aspect where you continue at a checkpoint whenever you get hit is unfortunately in place here, too. Plus, you can't even play simultaneously with a second player. There's also an interesting shot gauge that can make your attacks more powerful but it doesn't add much to the gameplay.
It's certainly a good-looking and challenging shoot 'em up but Pulstar isn't quite as fun as many other NeoGeo shooters.ACA NeoGeo: Pulstar gameplay video →
Aero Fighters 3 Review Switch ★★★★☆
This shmup sequel from 1995 is as crazy and action-packed as its predecessor but is it enough of a step up?
Aero Fighters 3 (AKA Sonic Wings 3) is played a lot like Aero Fighters 2 except it's even more over-the-top. Now, you can choose from 10 characters as well as 2 special hidden characters that you can access via a complicated code. Another awesome enhancement is the music which sounds like a combination of mid-'90s drum and bass and a SNES Mega Man X game. However, the greatest addition is that you can select various routes each time you play through the campaign. Considering there are so many stages and characters as well as cooperative play, there's a ton of replay value here. In the end, if you enjoyed Aero Fighters 2 then you'll love this sequel.
If you have a fondness for Psikyo-style shmups then Aero Fighters 3 will make a perfect addition to your gaming library.ACA NeoGeo: Aero Fighters 3 gameplay video →
Ghost Pilots Review Switch ★★☆☆☆
Going all the way back to 1991, SNK's Ghost Pilots is a clear 194X copycat but can it live up to Capcom's classic?
I don't know what's with SNK and making shoot 'em up clones but they sure did it a lot. Ghost Pilots is played by shooting and dropping bombs while piloting a seaplane. The most frustrating part of its gameplay is that it's a vertical shoot 'em up yet the stages are so wide that you can scroll them left and right. The fact that there's so much room to move around combines with the lengthy and tedious stages to make one repetitious and uninspired shmup. On the plus side, you can play simultaneous multiplayer with a friend and whenever you get hit, you start again right where you left off which is convenient. I also enjoy experimenting with the variety of different bomb types but other than that, Ghost Pilots is a monotonous arcade shooter that hasn't aged well at all.
With so many must-play retro shoot 'em ups available on modern consoles, Ghost Pilots ends up being one disappointing game.ACA NeoGeo: Ghost Pilots gameplay video →
Prehistoric Isle 2 Review Switch ★★★★☆
Releasing in 1999, this follow-up to SNK's goofy dinosaur-themed 1989 shooter is one heck of a fun shmup.
Although SNK developed its predecessor (Prehistoric Isle in 1930) a decade earlier, Yumekobo created Prehistoric Isle 2. Its pre-rendered graphics are reminiscent of Pulstar and Blazing Star but the visuals here are much more impressive with awesome effects, engaging camera movement, and ridiculous scenarios that make every moment of its dinosaur-slaughtering campaign a blast. One awesome gameplay element is that you have to rescue citizens at certain points by guiding them to a helicopter while fending off dinosaurs. Factor in epic boss fights, memorable stages, and a spot-on orchestral score and you're left with one must-have arcade shooter. Oh, and there's a cool Bonus Time mechanic where you can gain score multipliers whenever you power-up a fully powered weapon.
If you want to see how fun NeoGeo shmups can be then you need to play Prehistoric Isle 2. It's one of the best games in the genre.ACA NeoGeo: Prehistoric Isle 2 gameplay video →