Toaplan Arcade Shoot Em Up Collection Vol. 3 (PC)

Last September we took a look at the second collection of Toaplan classic shmups, and just a few months later a third collection is hot on its trail with 4 new games to sample. Available together as a bundle or on their own, there’s surely something for every shmup fan here given the roster. Another worthwhile blast from the past? Lets take a look.

Batsugun – Lets start with the pick of the litter, maybe even the best of the games I’ve sampled in the two collections reviewed so far. You start off by picking your ship, there’s a few variations that could impact how you play as each has its own firing style What I like about this one is the XP system as, not only can your weapons power up from pickups, defeating enemies adds to a bar at the bottom which will level up when filled – finishing a boss off gives a huge boost that powers you up for the stage ahead nicely. No doubt the game can be tough tho, mobs are a breeze but boss fights will take everything you have to survive unscathed as shots fire out from everywhere & anywhere. Its Saturn roots mean its visually busy and the soundtrack provided by one Yoshitatsu Sakai is a treat, combined with everything else creates an at times dazzling 2D presentation. Worth purchasing on its own outside of the collection.

Fixeight – This one is a bit of a curiosity within the collections so far given its an early 90’s run & gun shooter instead of a shmup. Sure it does still play out in a vertical fashion, but the additional control, or firing lines, afforded by the genre give it a different feel to the other games. Plenty of variety is on offer with 8 heroes to choose from at the start, each has their own weaponry and special moves that can offer a little change to how the game plays out. As you blast your way through the stages, pickups can be collected which can only up the power or your weapon, but change it completely – this can be irritating when picked up in the heat of battle and the fire mode is one you ain’t liking. Probably the highlight of the game is co-op. Not content with an extra buddy, Fixeight allows for up to 4 players which can look pretty hectic with those flashy 90’s arcade visuals – still makes for a lot of fun too.

Vimana – What can I say about this one? Honestly not sure. Its not bad or anything, nor is it great, just felt pretty mid to play. It’s a simple enough shmup to get to grips with, the usual vertical kind that has you disposing of foes while dodging shots and grabbing those all important pickups to build power. There are some more unique aspects to the game such as the rotating shield system that can be gradually upgraded for maximum protection, as well as the visual design and some enemies having unusual attack patterns. Granted it is primarily sci-fi and seems as such for the most part, but the game does have some Indian mysticism leanings visually which helps create some unique foes and areas. There’s also a great soundtrack by Toshiaki Tomizawa and a decent co-op mode, so there is plenty to like about Vinama and it will know doubt have its fans given how accessible it seems – just didn’t really resonate with me much.

Tiger Heli – I’m just gonna be straight and to the point with this one. I didn’t really like it. Part of that would be down to it reminding me a lot of the weakest game on the last collection I looked at – Slap Fight. Just as with that you have a limited fire range with enemies attacking from all directions. Here they are tanks, boats etc and generally follow roads or routes, but again they can shoot 360 degrees and can drive into the scene behind you for cheap shots. Later stages have emplaced enemies well outside of your range to deal with too and its here the bombing aspect of the game comes in as you pretty much resort to hit & run tactics to get through. There’s some fun power ups for your bombs, and getting those extra mini chopper wingmen never got old, but there’s not really much else to the game. It is from 1985, also widely regarded as laying the foundation for vertical bomb-shooters, so maybe its just a case of it not ageing too well. Sacrilege to some I bet.

While the presentation varies between game, mainly depending on age, there is still a consistent feature set between all 4 – just like the previous collection. Emulation is good yet again and there’s some good filters to get that fuzzy retro look, nothing to worry about on that part, and the settings, such as original modes, will allow you to run the games over 100 fps if your hardware can take it. My system (R7 5800X3D/32GB/RTX 3090) was way too overkill for arcade ports like this, even the PC used at work (i5 2500s/16GB/R7 260X) breezed through each game to hit the frame limits (60 or original), again almost anything really should be able to run the emulator used without issue – perfect on the go with Steam Deck.

One aspect I used a little more this time (thanks Batsugun third stage boss in particular) is the assist menu. This will have game specific options for each game you play, and can range from simple power & health boosts, all the way to enemy weapon fire and hitbox sizes. Purists will scoff, and the assists can change how the game will play, but they can also help ease you into a game instead of jumping in at the deep end. For someone like me that’s pretty casual with shmups, picking the right assist (hitbox size only usually) can make it a little more forgiving at least, as some of these arcade shmups are more suited to veteran players.

It would be a bit unfair to call this collection a mixed bag given Batsugun is the best I’ve sampled from all the collections so far, even over my nostalgia fuelled Hellfire, but this Vol. 3 does indeed also have the worst I’ve tried as well in Tiger Heli. Vinama is a decent enough accessible shmup, and while not a highlight like Batsugun, Fixeight is at least an interesting curiosity as a co-op run & gun shooter surrounded by shmups. It’s a rounded enough collection, but as these games can be purchased separately you may just want one or two. If so, buy Batsugun. You must buy Batsugun.



While I tried to explain that it isn’t, the third Toaplan collection really is a mixed bag isn’t it?

The following two tabs change content below.

Geoffrey Wright

Rocking the world of gaming since the Atari 2600, has now settled down to bask in the warmth of moe. Moe is life for a moe connoisseur.

Latest posts by Geoffrey Wright (see all)