Saturday, March 12, 2011

Mommy, Why is That Man Taking Pictures in the Washateria? (and Strikers 1945 Plus)

When I was a kid I spent a decent amount of time in arcades - when I could actually get to them. But in my pre-driving days I was more often relegated to the offerings within walking distance of my house. The primary destination of my strolls in those days was the neighborhood washateria. I played several great early 80's games there like Gorf, Astro Blaster and Star Castle. And the convenience store next door had more classics like Defender, Tempest and Pole Position so it was a decent little gaming corner.

I visited that same washateria a while back when I was in the old neighborhood and although it still displayed the same "Video Games" sign out front I was disappointed when I went in and discovered it was a lie - no video games in sight.

So I struck out there, but it stirred a curiosity within me which has led me to develop a rather odd habit of late. If I'm driving around in no particular hurry to be somewhere and I happen to see a washateria I will often pull in and go inside to see if they have any arcade games. And more often than not they do. What kinds? Well it varies, but I can tell you that I have had more than enough of Ms. Pac-Man and Neo Geo Puzzle Bobble.

I pretty much never see any games from the 80's (other than Ms. Pac-Man and the occasional Galaga) but every once in a while I stumble across an uncommon find from the '90s. Last weekend Mrs. MP and I were driving down Westheimer in Houston and I spotted a washateria so I ducked in and saw an arcade machine in the back with a Windjammers marquee. Windjammers is kind of a glorified pong with frisbees - not a GREAT game but I'd never seen one in the wild so I went over to check it out. Turns out it wasn't actually Windjammers but was something better - a dandy little vertical shoot 'em up from Psikyo called Strikers 1945 Plus.

Strikers 1945 Plus is sort of a cross between 1944: The Loop Master and Gunbird 2, which is pretty high praise in my book. If you've never played any of those 3 shooters I suggest you add them to your list of games to check out.

At the outset of Strikers 1945 Plus you choose between 6 different planes each with signature attack moves and special weapons. The gameplay is pretty much standard 1942 fare - nothing particularly innovative but great execution of the formula. You acquire various weapon power-ups by shooting the red enemy planes, pick up bombs to use and gold bars for points. In addition to your regular shots - which depending on your power-ups can be a very impressive display of firepower - you also have a "supershot" which gets charged as you shoot enemies and you deploy by holding down the fire button for a second or two and then releasing it. The bombs call in some sort of squadron or giant bomber - again depending on your plane - that typically block enemy fire for a few seconds while also shooting away at the baddies.

Like most shoot 'em ups there isn't really a story - just blow the hell out of everything unlucky enough to get in front of your guns.

If you've never played a "bullet-hell" game before then you might be intimidated by the huge amount of glowing death slowly making its way toward your plane, but Psikyo makes their bullets large and glowing pink or blue so they stand out well against the background to help you avoid them. And this game isn't quite as hellish as some I've seen. Colliding with any of the bullets is instant death, but if you collide with the enemy fighters it doesn't kill you it just progressively removes any power ups you may have acquired.

You can continue by pumping in more quarters which is fine, but it also keeps adding to your score which is an approach I always disliked. But the final number on your score is increased by one with each continuation so the high score table will tell if your score was a result of crazy skill or deep pockets.

All-in-all it is typical Psikyo - pretty graphics, chaotic fire, nice sound, and the most impressive 2D explosions you'll see on any arcade game.

Strikers 1945 Plus was also released for the PSP in 2009 although reviews were not very positive. Personally I can't see how you would be able to successfully navigate your way through all the bullets with the small screen and d-pad or tiny joystick nub, it's challenging enough with a full-size arcade screen and controls. So if you have a gamepad or joystick to use I suggest you check it out on MAME. The ROM file is rather large - about 75 MB - if you want to download it you can get it here.

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Fallguy40 said...

You're like an arcade game prospector; scouring the city laundrymats and convenience stores hoping to strike classic gold.

You should pick up the Playstation Mini shooter: "A Space Shooter for $2." I think you'd like it.

MadPlanet said...

Yeah that's a pretty good analogy. More often I only find fool's gold instead.

I was actually considering buying that game and probably will since it is only $2. I'm still not completely comfortable using the little gamepad analog joystick on those games since I'm so used to the full-size arcade joystick.

Fallguy40 said...

You can play Minis titles on your PS3 too.

MadPlanet said...

Yeah I was referring to the PS3 gamepad joystick. I haven't played enough console shoot 'em ups to feel very comfortable just using my thumbs to play instead the hold hand. But for 2 bucks I'll give it a go. Is there online play for a match or co-op or whatever?

MadPlanet said...

on second thought for only $2 I'm guessing not on online play...

Mik said...

Washing machines and video games? What a combination! Say, have you ever asked a Washateria owner if those cabinets were on sale?

I'd really like to try Strikers 1945 on PSP since I love Gunbird. And I love Windjammers too, even if rounds are too short.

MadPlanet said...

Nope, I've never tried to buy one. The only interaction I've had with owners is the odd stares and the one time when one approached me as I was snapping a pic and asked me if I was from the health department.

Mad props to you Mik for being familiar with Windjammers - not too many people know it. It's a good 2-player head-to-head game. And Gunbird - or more specifically Gunbird 2 - is one my all-time favorite arcade shooters.

Mik said...

"I have a camera, and I'm not afraid to use it!"

Well, ok...

I didn't have much time to play Gunbird 2, and the PS2 version I own doesn't seem too faithful to the original: maybe I should get the Dreamcast one? As for the first episode, it could be one of my next posts since I put on the Saturn version every now and then.

Oh, and I played Windjammers a lot back in 90's: did you know there's a very similar game for PC? Too bad I can't seem too find it around the net..

MadPlanet said...

I play Gunbird 2 on MAME sometimes, but I also have the Dreamcast version and as far as I remember it plays prety much exactly like the original arcade except it adds a little content like an extra character or two to choose from. It also has the unique feature of enabling you to rotate the display 90 degrees, so if you have a widescreen monitor or HDTV and want to spin it on its side you can shoot it up vertical-style as God intended. So yeah, I think I would put GB2 on my personal must-own list for a Dreamcast collection. That and Ikaruga would round out the vertical shooter piece of the collection very nicely.

MadPlanet said...

...oh, and no I haven't heard of the PC version of Windjammers. If you think of the name of it let me know and I'll check it out. Thanks!

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