Ultimate Shooting Collection

Space shooters: where the art is in the execution.

Publisher: UFO Interactive
Genres: Action, Multimedia
Price: $29.99
Multimedia: Ultimate Shooting Collection
Platforms: Wii
Number of players: 1
ESRB rating: Everyone
Developer: Milestone
US release date: 2009-02-02
Developer website

When one wants to make the point that games should be placed alongside other forms of media when it comes to artistic merit and enriching our lives, there are a number of what have become stock examples from which to draw favorable comparisons. Far Cry 2 and Bioshock are held up (if debatably so) as examples of games with compelling narratives. Grand Theft Auto allows us to live out a gritty and realistic, if highly implausible, fantasy. Passage and World of Goo are indie upstarts, small productions highlighted as shining examples of what an independent mind or two can do with an interactive medium.

They're fine examples, all, but there's a common thread -- there are many layers to these games. There are texts and there are subtexts, many instances in which we can ask ourselves what it all means, what the developers and writers were trying to say, and they are all ripe for analysis in the ways that our actions as players drive what happens on the screen in front of us.

So what, then, is the place of the space shooter, that straightforward, constantly scrolling, entirely linear bastion of the old-school? Ultimate Shooting Collection, a very quietly-released, destined to be forgotten collection of old arcade-to-Dreamcast (Dreamcast!) conversions has me wondering.

It's true, there's very little audience for these types of games anymore. It takes a true standout performance from a bullet-hell game to get people to stand up and notice, and even then it can take years for the general public to come around. Look at Ikaruga, perhaps the only shooter in recent memory to pull any sorts of accolades from the gaming press. This is a game that looks utterly beautiful -- the clean lines of the enemies, the distractingly beautiful backgrounds, and even the detail put into the tiny little good guys is emblematic of the time and love put into the game. The music is majestic and attention-grabbing while still staying firmly in the background, and then there's the polarity mechanic of the game, which allows you to run into half of the bullets coming after you at any given time, making the concept of "bullet hell" seem just a little bit more palatable. This is a game that first appeared in Japanese arcades in 2001, showed up on American GameCubes in 2003, but only really saw the attention it deserves when it was re-released last year on Xbox Live Arcade.

Aficionados of the genre deride Ikaruga a bit because its challenge doesn't approach that of the genre's hardest games, but the sheer beauty and relative accessibility of the game allows it to stand out even to gamers who haven't played a space shooter since Life Force.

None of the shooters on Ultimate Shooting Collection reach the heights of Ikaruga, though players introduced to the genre via that particular shining example shouldn't by any means find themselves disappointed. These aren't the prettiest space shooters out there, nor are they the most innovative, but all three are solid examples of the genre that will give you plenty of opportunities for pattern recognition and being blown up by tiny bullets. There are big bosses, bullets of all sizes, and complimentary impossible odds. The single-pixel player-death spot in each game makes sure that the player understands that nothing was to blame for a loss other than that player's ability (or, specifically, the lack thereof) to properly compensate for the oncoming bullets and enemies.

Chaos Field is the most immediately impressive (at least in a conventional manner) game of the three, which makes sense given that it's the only one that has previously been afforded an American release -- it had a short run on the GameCube back in 2004, probably hoping to build on the little bit of momentum that Ikaruga provided the genre at the time. It's something like the space shooter version of Shadow of the Colossus, all boss fights and no filler sections with waves of tiny enemies. Every time you destroy something, you can be assured that something bigger, with more guns, is on its way. Radio Allergy (also known as Radirgy and Radilgy, but here it's Radio Allergy) is a silly little game with lots of pastel colors and a light-hearted storyline that comes off as easier than the other two, but by the time you're working on the endgame, you're dodging just as many bullets and having to find at least as many good uses for the "sword" (basically a short-range sweep attack) that the ship in each game gets as in any of the other entries.

Finally, there's Karous, whose visual style is very much like that of Radio Allergy, but whose color palette is largely limited to black and white. This isn't for any reason other than presentation, but it does serve the purpose of separating the active participants in the battle from the background, which offers more than black and white, but is often muted. By the time you're flying over the city in the fourth stage, however, the sense of the colors opening up is palpable, and it's hard not to get swept in by the scenery as you try desperately to stay alive.

Perhaps the only true disappointment to be found is in the presentation afforded the part of the package that ties them all together. The cover art is atrocious, the title screen is an ugly mess, and the interface with which to select a game is barebones to a fault. It's almost as if the folks behind this title are putting great big "WARNING!" and "GO AWAY!" signs on the game in order to make sure that the only people who play it are people who know what it is in the first place.

So where is the art? It's in the design. It takes a true artist to turn this many bullets into something playable, and it takes a true artist to convince you to look at something other than those bullets. There is barely any narrative to speak of other than "destroy the little baddies until you have to destroy a big baddie," but it doesn't matter. There's no subtext, no questions about the greater nature of humankind, and not even any sort of imaginative mechanic. For shooters like these, the art is in the execution; it may not be obvious, but it certainly exists.

That said, none of the shooters in Ultimate Shooting Collection could honestly be called great games (though Karous comes close), because they don't snare players in the way that Ikaruga (or Gradius 4, or Silpheed, or Axelay) does. They're passable, and they're enjoyable. Not all art must be great, after all.


The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

Keep reading... Show less

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.