The Save Point – My First Shmup
There have been countless videogames that have come and gone from my meaty hands over the 31 years that I’ve been alive on this planet. I’ve tried damn near every style of game there is, from naughty, to trippy, all the way from sedentary “press X to win” types of games to the type that require special dance mats, I’ve gamed it up for a good 28 years of my existence.
The one game type in particular that I’m going to focus on today is one that is near and dear to my heart, if for no other reason than I feel better than most people at playing shoot ’em ups, or shmup to use the vernacular. If you’re not a serious gamer and have never heard of this genre before, please…edumacate yourself through the link below.
To give you a quick definition, in the best way that I possibly can, shmups are basically games that involve the gameplay mechanics of you versus the universe as you work to blast your way through the multiple waves of enemies. I know it sounds vague, but if you’ve ever played anything as ancient as Space Invaders or Galaga, you’re on the right track. Don’t let the use of these classics make you think that the genre hasn’t progressed since then. Just take a gander at Treasure’s library of games, most notably Radiant Silvergun and Ikaruga (both on XBLA as I write this). GO GET THEM BOTH!
Anyways, this isn’t so much my current obsession with the modern games of the genre, but the earliest memory that I have of playing my first shmup, Time Pilot. Hop in the way back machine if you will to the early 1980s, I think if you set the time for 1984, you’ll find a very happy little child playing games on his old man’s Commodore 64…see the picture above for an example of what a gaming PC used to look like.
The home version of the game wasn’t too drastically different from the arcade version that Konami launched in 1982. The basic premise is that you have a futuristic ship that goes back in time for some reason to battle aircraft of that era and rescue downed pilots, for points (because that’s what games used to do to motivate you). After you shoot up enough of the era’s bad guys you are forced to fight that level’s mothership which is also usually based in that era. Once done, you travel to the next time period…rinse and repeat.
The game is pretty damn simple as is, until you get to the latter levels featuring planes that look something like modern fighter jets and the last level featuring UFOs, because UFOs are the natural progression from bi-planes. The game featured a centrally mounted fighter as your character that pivoted along the center depending on the direction you wanted to go. In the later levels, you tend to find yourself moving in a zigzag pattern more often than not because of the cheap ass tactics of the enemy planes and their bombs, guided missiles, or apparent suicide tactics.
The reason this game sticks out in my mind as one of the first games I can recall that was a knock off of the original, as you see, Time Pilot was never actually released for the C64. A clone of the Konami code (snicker) was released under the name Space Pilot and was essentially the same game. Seriously, it was 99% the same damn game which is why I consider it the same thing. Any copy that allows you to rock hard at the stand-up arcade cabinet is deserving of ‘same as original’ status. Keep in mind that I was a whole whopping 4 years old when this game came home to my dad’s computer game collection.
Do I suggest you go out and try to emulate this classic piece of gaming on a C64 emulator? Nah, because you can always play it on MAME, or if you prefer to actually BUY your classic games, there is a port of the arcade version that came out on Xbox Live Arcade back in 2006 for $5. That version even had a remix mode where some of the graphics were vastly updated for modern consumption. Not a bad way to spend a few bones and gain 200 gamerscore points.