I’m never, ever going to get a chance to fight that thing. Whatever it is. And it’s too bad, because I’ve always kind of liked shooters. Good old-fashioned shmups just kind of appeal to me. I think it’s the intricate dance around the bullets, the adrenaline, and the wicked power-ups. Unfortunately, I’ve also come to realize that I’m really not all that good at them. Actually, check that: I really suck at shoot’em-ups. When it’s me in one spaceship against the world, the world wins. Every single time.
That hasn’t stopped me from trying, though. When I was a kid, I considered it an accomplishment if I made it past the third level of 1943 for the NES. I never did, of course, because that plane was a real bastard, and I always seemed to be out of fuel at the end of the level. Getting hit all the time does that to you.
It was the same story with R-Type Delta on the PlayStation. Great game, quite nice to look at, too hard for the likes of poor little me. And don’t even get me started on Mars Matrix. That game was indeed bullet hell, and I was its chief damned soul. Now here I am with the Gradius Collection and Metal Slug, butting my head against that same old wall. You would have thought I’d learned by now.
I’ve had a quick run through all of the Gradius games now (well, except for Gradius III, mostly because Kishi’s article made me actively terrified of it), and the results have been pretty consistent. I pick up some power-ups, start to move faster. “Hey,” a voice in my head says, “maybe you can actually do this!” I’ve got some Options now, my lasers are filling the screen, and I’m popping those little alien bastards left and right. Then, all of the sudden, wall. Bang, I’m dead. Or bang, there’s that phoenix at the end of Gradius II’s first stage. Or that caterpillar thing in Gradius Gaiden. Or hell, pretty much any wall of bullets will do it.
Bang, bang, bang, you’re dead. Game over.
But unfortunately for the citizens of the universe, I’m going to keep hopping into that cockpit. And when I’m done, I’m going to pick up an RTS. Or god forbid, a fighting game. I guess there are some games that I just can’t quit.