Flying and shooting and dying.
Man do I suck at these types of games. I should never be a pilot. I would kill us all. Then again, in real life there won’t be billions and billions of bullets and ships flying at me. And you know the worst thing? The very worst thing? This isn’t even the hardest example of the shmup genre. There’s not that many bullets compared to, say, Ikaruga. They don’t fill the screen. But man, I’m dodging, I’m shooting, one hit kills you, it’s just…okay, maybe I should back up a bit.
Alpha Mission II is a vertical space shooter that has you flying a tiny space ship through an army of larger ships that want to blow you up. 1) That is terrible strategy. Sure, you could two player this thing, but still, two people vs. an entire army? Or navy? Would a fleet of space ships be a navy? I don’t even care anymore. 2) It’s fun in that arcade-y sense of getting into the zone, seeing the bullets and ships flying at you, weaving in between the patters of death streaming at you, never letting off the fire button. It brings back the days of arcades in pizza parlors, it really does. 3) I am terrible at it. I tried. I really did. I got to level two. I got no further alone. I will try later to get further, but man do I suck at it.
One of the things that makes this harder than a typical shmup is that you have two levels to shoot at. Your lasers shoot things on your level, but you also shoot bombs at the same time that hit things on the ground. Now you think that wouldn’t matter that much, but you power up your lasers and bombs separately. You shoot little pods and power ups come out that increase your lasers, speed, bombs and money. You can also shoot these power ups to switch them to a different power up. But while you’re looking for the specific power up you need in order to power up the item you need to power up, things are shooting at you. They don’t stop. Ever. So, while you might have maxed out lasers, your bombs could suck and you could die because the ground turrets don’t die fast enough. Or vice versa. Oh, and if you die your weapons revert back to their base levels. Son of a bitch, right?
But don’t despair just yet. You still have one ace in the hole. You can upgrade your ship into some type of crazy super ship, of which there are several different models. This is what the G items are for. You can buy new super ships at the end of missions. Not only do these super ships give you advanced weaponry, but they have life bars. More than one hit is necessary to kill you. That is so exciting for me. The only downside is that your ship becomes bigger, which makes it a bigger target. But man, you have extra life now. Suck it up and absorb those bullets.
You know, it’s kinda weird to think of how we like these types of really hard games. They’re basically giant cheats, designed to kill you quickly and mercilessly so that you plunk more quarters into the arcade machine. You’re not supposed to win. Yet we keep on doing it. Maybe it’s nostalgia. Maybe it’s just fun to slowly but steadily beat back the game, blowing the enemy’s tiny ships apart, inching a bit closer to victory. Or maybe we’re all just sadomasochists. Who knows. But if you’re one of those people who enjoy piloting a tiny ship up into hordes of enemies and their respective bullets, I heartily recommend you check out Alpha Mission II.