A Brief History Of Shmups: GENETOS

Edit – well, damnit. This is what happens when I spend 70% of my time on trains. I leave the post here anyway, for the sake of the Major Stryker stuff.

This is cute. Also smart. Also tight. [TIGHT! – Quinns-in-exile] GENETOS is a free shmup which tells the history of shmups, evolving through various eras of shooty-spaceship action as you play. You start with Space Invaders, you end up with Ikaruga-esque psychedelic bullet hell and breathless reflex-based puzzles. En route to that is a cheery nod to early 90s fare – over-the-top, but with neat, semi-predictable waves of enemies. Which reminds me of Apogee’s Major Stryker.

Major Stryker.

I haven’t thought about Major Strker in a decade. I can’t tell you how hearing that music and those pew-pews makes me feel. I played the shareware version not just to death, but to a point beyond death. A point called Not Doing As Well As I Should Have Done At My GCSE Exams And Suffering The Infinite Wrath Of My Parents. In tribute to my foiled education, I must at least embed a video before I return to jabbering about Genetos.

Awesome. And available in full, for free, from the mysteriously still-existent 3D Realms site.

Anyway, Genetos. The visual escalation is fantastic – it never goes 3D as such, but it apes it well. Here’s its five generations (number 3 is at the top of this post):

It also picks up the stylistic tics of whichever era its stages are aping, most notably the crappy ethereal pretension and excessive Kanji characters of Dreamcast era shooters in its final stage. It’s as much affectionate mocking as it is heartfelt tribute. Best of all, it hangs together rather wonderfully as its own game. It’s like Upgrade Complete without the sneering. It is also, I hesitantly suggest (due to my limited experience with the genre’s latter-day output) a pretty good shmup, largely thanks to difficulty settings which range from ‘A Cat Could Play It’ to ‘Oh God Oh Christ Oh No.’

Most peculiar/wonderful is to go back to the first stage immediately after playing the last. Inept as I was at the high levels, I felt a genuine shift in my brain upon returning to the glacial pace of Space Invaders, almost freaking out at the sparsity of bullets and threats. That this could be the same genre seemed simultaneously self-evident and impossible.

Charming and clever stuff from Tatsuya Koyama (don’t worry, the game is in English), and a deft commentary on just how far and how little one of gaming’s most quintessential bloodlines has come in thitty years. Gaming history in 27Mb.

33 Comments

  1. Wilson says:

    Aww, 503 error. I’m guessing capacity problems. Still, can’t wait to try this out when I can download it :)

  2. Dominic White says:

    Genetos is pretty good as an all-round history lesson, but it’s nowhere near as tight and refined as the games it’s paying homage to. Definitely reccomended for people who aren’t genre fans, though. It’s very easy and accessible compared to the more hardcore-oriented stuff.

  3. gerafin says:

    This is the first time I played an obscure game before I read about it on RPS. Sweeet :D

    Also, the music on this is excellent. Also also, from what I can remember, there was some attempt at a strange, slightly hallucinogenic attempt at a storyline (maybe only in the later levels?), told in words that appeared at the bottom of the screen. Although I don’t really remember what it was, since in a ship shooty game you really shouldn’t be looking at anything on the edges of the screen.

  4. Polysynchronicity says:

    If I ever make an indie game, the difficulty settings would totally “range from A Cat Could Play It to Oh God Oh Christ Oh No. “.

  5. Hyperion says:

    MAJOR STRYKER

    YESSSSSSSSS~

    First top down shooter I have ever played.
    I also remember they released the whole thing for free some time ago.
    link to 3drealms.com

    • Veret says:

      “YESSSSSS” about sums it up for me; Apogee just about owned my childhood. The day I learned you could shoot faster in Major Stryker by mashing the fire button is the day I got my first repetitive stress injury. Good times.

    • Mr_Day says:

      I played Major Stryker, but couldn’t remember much of it.

      Then I saw him go from two upgrades down to the basic gun in one hit and it all came back. The sheer rage of getting the good upgrades, then a single hit and plop.

      for some reason, that face of his reminds me of Ace Rimmer.

      “Oh, Stryker, did I ever tell you how much I love your eyes?”

      “I’m wearing sunglasses.”

      “What a guy!”

    • subedii says:

      For me it was Xenon 2. Came out a few years earlier, but actually looked a lot better than Stryker.

      link to youtube.com

      What was cool was that you started off with a dinky ship and upgraded over the course of the game with your selection of armaments from the end-level shop. By the end your single-shot forward firing spacecraft had turned into a flying death fortress with bolt on giant laser beams and missile launchers.

      I actually played the shareware version of Stryker as well, but I think this was after I had discovered Raptor, so I just went back to that.

      Man, Xenon, Raptor, Tyrian, good times.

      RPS ought to do a segment on Commander Keen sometime, if they haven’t already.

    • Tye The Czar says:

      I love the scrolling in that game. *LAME STATEMENT ALERT* It actually makes you feel like you’re in the air! I wish more shmups would do that nowadays.

  6. LewieP says:

    BZT!

    Kieron beat you to it:
    link to rockpapershotgun.com

  7. Lachlan says:

    It’s nice to see Major Stryker again. It was the first game I ever purchased, from a stand in PC World back when it sold Apogee shareware in little cardboard packets. I too played it to death and back again, only really laying it to rest when my parents ditched the 486 in favour of something with Win98 on it (why yes, it took them a while to upgrade…)

    • Lambchops says:

      I loved Apogee shareware discs in their little carboard packets!

      I had both the Duke Nukems 2D games and some other 2D platformer called Halloween Harry, which I was completely rubbish at.

      I never actually bought any of the full games at the time though and it wasn’ till about 3 years ago that I discovered the cool looking vehicles in the episode pictures of the Duke Nukem games were actually no fun at all. Kind of glad that my childhood self didn’t have to face up to that disappointment as he probably wouldn’t have dealt with it well.

  8. BooleanBob says:

    It was no Raptor: Call of the Shadows, I’ll tell you that.

  9. EthZee says:

    I have nothing to add, except to reiterate:

    TIIIIGHT

    Your turn.

  10. terry says:

    My cat loves this.

    • Mr Labbes says:

      Mine complained that it was too easy and went on to play some Modern Warfare 2.

  11. pimorte says:

    @BooleanBob

    Raptor got a lot more fun once I figured out there was a “switch weapons” key.

  12. MultiVaC says:

    How are you supposed to download this, anyway? I click one the link to download and it just sends me to a mostly empty page with a few things written in Japanese and “-DL Ranking 1.00-“

  13. Colthor says:

    “A point called Not Doing As Well As I Should Have Done At My GCSE Exams And Suffering The Infinite Wrath Of My Parents.”

    You can’t get a job playing computer games, you know!

  14. Antlia says:

    Can’t even find out how to download this… stupid me.

  15. Chewy says:

    I guess no ones a touhou fan? Pretty bullet patterns + focused movement and shot patterns were used.

  16. Chewy says:

    I guess no one plays touhou then? Pretty bullet patterns and focus movement were used, but maybe this game focused on the western shumps rather then east?

    • Dominic White says:

      This game really only covers the mainstream/retail stuff. Despite being huge by indie standards, Touhou is still indie. Genetos doesn’t really touch on Cave-style shmups either. It’s a pretty solid overview in general though.

      For someone wanting to get their teeth into something a little more meaty, here’s a couple of really good freeware shmups, both done much in the style of Caves later ones like ESPGaluda or Mushihimesama.

      link to www004.upp.so-net.ne.jp

      Eden’s Aegis and Blue Wish Ressurection Plus are both well worth the download.