March is the Unofficial Shmup Month

Broadcast Gamer, one of the better independent gaming-themed podcasts, points out that March is now National Shmupreciation Month. And I say: “sure!”

The shmup genre, short for “shoot em ups”, is an interesting one because, in a way, it’s a living dinosaur. It has survived and bred over the decades without ever really changing. Obviously, newer games have incorporated the latest technologies, but the fundamental designs of the game are unchanged. They are almost exclusively 2D (any 3D is mostly just on a plane), they are excruciatingly hard and demand constant repetition, and their primary focus is the accumulation of a high score. Most shmups rely solely on twitch reflexes, joystick precision and rote memorization. Clearly, the appeal of these characteristics is limited, but the genre lives on servicing a very small niche of masochistic, but devout, game players. I think I am one of these players.

The sad thing is that I’m not very good at these games. Ikaruga, for the GameCube, kicks my ass repeatedly but I always return for more. It shouldn’t be fun but somehow it manages to be. Coincidentally, last week was the first time that I’ve turned on the GameCube in half a year and it went on specifically for Ikaruga. With it being Shmupreaciation Month, and with a new GameCube shmup supposedly coming out this month (!) — Radio Allergy — that old purple cube might get more play in the next four weeks than all of last year combined. Hell, I can dust out Chaos Field too.

Supposedly, XS Games is set to publish Raiden III (!!) this month too, but I won’t believe that one until I see it. If it does, it might be reason to power on the PlayStation 2 again. A reason other than this one, at least. I am a Lumines whore.

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