I love shmups. I’m also terrible at them. An utter lack of skill doesn’t really stop me from dipping into whatever the latest Japanese shooter hotness is every so often. I’ve tried Touhou, Toaplan, Cave, all kinds of them. Still haven’t really gotten any better – I chalk any success I have down to simply playing a massive amount of shmups moreso than any actual talent. Naturally, when Under Defeat HD Deluxe Edition, the latest remaster of G. Rev’s Naomi/Dreamcast helicopter-em-up, rolled around, I had to go for it. I think it’s because I enjoy punishment. Whip me, G. Rev.
So here’s what we’ve got: you’re a helicopter. They’re an entire army of bad guys. You’re going to destroy them all and save the day. Pretty straightforward, right? Under Defeat’s spicy addition to the shmup soup is that you are in fact flying a helicopter, so you can rotate to angle your fire and hit your enemies regardless of what part of the screen you’re on. I found this to be more of a curse than a blessing – it gives the designers carte blanche to throw even more horrific bullet patterns at you than usual since you now have to set up your own firing angles. You’re also able to call on several types of option to hover and blast away at foes, including a machine gun, rocket launcher and grenade. High scoring in Under Defeat revolves around having your options handle the majority of combat for you, earning you gigantic multipliers for everything they destroy.
As this is a shmup, you’re going to proceed through several stages pretty much as you’d expect. There aren’t a whole lot of curve-balls here; it’s just solid shooting action through and through. This version of the game offers a New Order mode, basically a wide-screen reimagining of the game that plays much like the standard Arcade mode. And…that’s about it, really. It’s pretty, it sounds good and it’s exactly what it claims to be and not much more. That’s really the big downside here; in 2006 this felt fresh and original, but in 2014, well, it’s a shmup where there’s a lot of brown and gray graphical stylings and you fly a helicopter. It’s solid, it’s relatively fun, it’s just not very inspiring.
If I was going to nominate a game from G. Rev’s library for the HD remaster treatment I’d have voted for the esoteric and innovative Border Down long before Under Defeat, but there you have it. If you’re a shmup fan with nearly $30 burning a hole in your pocket, Under Defeat HD Deluxe Edition isn’t a bad choice. But shmups aren’t a genre where you need to spend $30 for a solid experience very often. Maybe in 2006 you could’ve taken that, turned it into quarters and had the best night of your bullet-dodging life at the arcade. Today? Spend it on three copies of Akai Katana instead.