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.
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.