Super Nova

Shmups are interesting. From a contrivance standpoint, they are one of the simplest games to make. Along with platformers, they’re likely to be the most common type of game created by just one person. This has a couple of interesting consequences. It means

  • The shmup has had a lot of opportunity to evolve and improve due to the simplicity of the form.
  • There are a lot of them, and some of them are awful.

Super Nova, also called Darius Force, is not awful. It is, however, the sort of game that’s nearly too arcade for a console, the kind of game I can’t ever imagine pouring a whole lot of time into. With most shmups, it’s just a matter of pattern recognition and memorization and this one is no different. It’s a process that traditionally was limited only by the availability of quarters, but by console release only by the amount of time the player had. I could understand it at the arcade, certainly. There you could play and talk smack and beat high scores and what not. At home in front of a console there’s none of that, just sitting silent with the odd curse when you make a mistake or see the next wave to be negotiated.

It’s a genre that for all intents and purposes died in North America, on account of the lack of arcades. It did well enough in Japan, where there were still arcades, but the expense and difficulty of producing boards and cabinets likely prevented any amateurs from making any.

Eventually, with the market saturation and availability of PCs, groups and individuals started to make their own; the most notable examples are Japanese. There are a stunning array of vertical and horizontal shooters released by Japanese groups, a couple that even reached a reasonable amount of popularity here. Warning Forever is a great example of a strong attempt to create something simple and pure as well as fun, even when there’s nothing on the line.

While Super Nova is a good example of something that isn’t far from the arcadey roots of the shmup, the genre has become something quite compelling. There’s a wealth of gameplay ideas that have been tried and tested in that environment.

Additionally: mechanical fish.

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