Ah, the “Shmup” genre. Short for “Shoot ’em up”, this genre was long an arcade favorite but, alas, it has been on the decline for many years. The shmup genre still has many fans, myself included, and we still hold a deep love for this nearly forgotten genre. Being as there are so few of these games released nowadays it was quite a nice surprise when publisher Zerodiv started releasing the back catalog of Psikyo, one of the leading developers of shmup games.

In this article we look at their first three releases for the Nintendo Switch, which so happen to be three favorites of the shmup crowd.

Strikers 1945

  • Publisher: ZeroDiv
  • Developer: Psikyo
  • Players: 1-2

Reminding me of Capcoms 19XX series, Strikers 1945 is a vertically scrolling shooter. When you start you pick from six different planes, each plane has the same basic attack but each one has its own unique super and formation attacks. As you experiment and play with various planes you will eventually find one that fits your groove.

The game consists of eight stages, and you’ll find a wide range of variety as you start over land and sea before working your way to outer space and a hectic final battle on the moon. As you fly over the varied landscapes you’ll have to worry about attackers both in the air and on ground. There are gold bars to collect in order to raise your score and various power-ups that increase your offensive power as well as giving you bombs.

Controls are as follows: A fires your weapon, B or X drops your bomb, Y unleashes your formation attack in which smaller planes come in and assist briefly, and the left control stick guides your plane. Pretty standard for a top down shooter but effective nonetheless.

Considering the game was released in 1995, the graphics are crisp and full of detail. The varied locations you visit (and blow up) are detailed very well and each area stands out. The sound effects consisting mostly of heavy explosions sound great and satisfy your bloodlust. The music is tense and frantic keeping you pumped up for the carnage ahead.

The game is the very definition of bullet hell, as the screen is constantly filled with enemies and bullets. You will need every bit of skill you can muster in order to clear this game. While there are infinite continues, your score, which resets every time you continue, will tell the tale of your skill or lack thereof.

Rating: B+


  • Publisher: ZeroDiv
  • Developer: Psikyo
  • Players: 1-2


A lot of fans thought Psikyo had lost their minds when Gunbarich was released on an unsuspecting world back in 2001. Being a combination of breakout, pinball, and a traditional shmup, Gunbarich is certainly unique. You starting off by picking your character, either female witch Marion (of Gunbird fame) or Male sky pirate Grutan.

Each level starts off with you at the bottom of the screen, flippers at the ready. You can only move back and forth at the bottom and cannot advance any higher. The ball drops and your off! You can either just bounce the ball off your flippers or flip them and put some oomph behind the ball. You will need to do both sometimes and learn when to utilize the flippers properly.

The levels also introduce attackers along with the bricks to be destroyed. Their attacks can paralyze you and make you miss the ball, losing a life. You can deflect their attacks toward the bricks using the flippers.

The game is divided into worlds, each consisting of several levels and ending with a boss encounter. The bosses can move around and use various attacks so you will have to be on your toes in order to conquer them.

The graphics are in a very cutesy cartoon-like style to accentuate the wacky style of the gameplay. It fits the themes of the game well. The music is also suitably crazed with almost circus-like much like the game itself.

The game is great fun and despite its age it really keeps its uniqueness and it truly feels experimental yet familiar which even today is rare indeed.

Rating: A


  • Publisher: ZeroDiv
  • Developer: Psikyo
  • Players: 1-2

Gunbird has certainly had its ups and downs since its release in 1994. A long time favorite in arcades, many fans were outraged when the game was localized as Mobile Light Force for PS1. This version stripped away most of the story and all of the charm of the original. But now Gunbird is finally here in all of its uncut and quirky glory!

The game starts you off with your choice of five characters: You have Ash, Marion (who also starred in Gunbarich. See above!), Tetsu, Valnus, and Yuan Nang. All characters have their visual differences but basically all play the same. Each character is plowing through the games seven levels in order to assemble a magic mirror that will give your character one wish. The mirror is basically a McGuffin as the story seemingly has zero bearing on the proceedings, but most shmups don’t even bother so it was a nice change. Cute cutscenes keep the action moving and each character has its own unique ending. Also, if you play co-op you will get additional endings based on which pair you use to add a nice bit of replay value.

Another thing to note is that Gunbird is kind of hard. Depending on which difficulty you choose (there are seven) Gunbird can bury you in bullets pretty quick. The game boasts almost perfect precision in control and you will need it in order to swim through all the attacks coming your way.

Gunbird has a pretty tight control scheme that is mostly similar to other games in the shmup genre. A is your rapid fire normal shooting mode, B or X is your screen clearing bomb, Y is your special attack that is triggered by holding down the button until it charges.

The game is pretty standard for its genre and it is definitely the characters and their interactions that will keep your interest in seeing things through to the end. It plays great and looks pretty good as well considering it released in 1994. The sound effects consist of mostly satisfying explosions and gunfire but the Japanese cast puts plenty of emotion into their performances and the enthusiasm is very contagious.

Rating: B

Also of note is that all three games feature the ability to play in “Tate Mode”, which is the Japanese word for vertical. Using this mode you can sit the undocked switch on its side and play the games in their original vertical dimensions thus using the entire screen. Depending on how you have your TV mounted this is available docked as well but most will not be able to do this. This is a very nice feature and helps replicate the arcade experience.


Disclaimer: Digital copies of the three games were provided by ZeroDiv for review purposes.


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