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Thread: 3d On-rails Shooters

  1. #1

    3d On-rails Shooters

    3d rail shooters often don't get the same respect as their 2d "shmups" brethren. Personally, I prefer the 3d rails stuff to the regular shooters overall. I'm going to use a loose definition of the term and include any game with forced forward/backward scrolling where you shoot(except for FMV shooters. I'm not including most of them because there's enough to talk about already).

    3d rail shooters originated in the arcades with Cinematronics' 1979 game Tail Gunner. I played this game through emulation and it's pretty neat. You shoot from the rear view of a ship. A sequel came out a year later.

    Atari's arcade game Red Baron came out in 1980. I'm disappointed it hasn't showed up in any compilations yet.

    There were several of these shooters in the early '80's. Mattel released Star Strike for the Intellivision in 1982 and later ported it to the 2600. These graphics were very impressive for a console game back then.

    Also on the 2600 was Milton Bradley's Spitfire Attack. I don't know the year it came out.

    In 1983, Atari continued their streak of quality vector graphics arcade games with Star Wars. This was one of my favorite arcade games as a kid. The two-handed controller for it was perfect and having Obi Wan's voice guide you made the experience even more fulfilling. Atari made a similar Empire Strikes Back game a couple years later.

    Also released in 1983 was Williams/Vid Kidz' Blaster. This shooter is a sequel(in story) to Eugene Jarvis' earlier game Robotron.

    Jaleco's Exerion was another good 1983 game. It was ported to the Famicom.

    Taito's Sky Destroyer was released for the Famicom in 1985.

    1985 marked the point where Sega become the technology leader in the arcades. One game that showed off their hardware power was Space Harrier. Space Harrier was a trippy, sensory overload and a simply a great game.

    Space Harrier had an impressive Master System port, although it was surpassed years later by other home versions. The SMS also had an exclusive game in the series, Space Harrier 3d which used the Segascope 3d glasses; it was neat stuff. Space Harrier 2 was a first-generation Genesis game and Planet Harriers was a disappointing arcade sequel that came out in 2001.

    Atari released Solaris for the 2600 in 1986.

    These kind of shooters were very popular in the arcades for the rest of the '80's. Sega followed up Space Harrier with Thunder Blade and After Burner 1 and 2 in 1987. Thunder Blade was a mixture of vertical 2d levels and on-rails 3d ones. Its Genesis sequel Super Thunder Blade was disappointing. After Burner 3 came out years later on Sega CD.

    Konami released Falsion for the Famicom Disk System in 1987 and it was one of the few games to support Nintendo's Famicom 3D System.

    Similar to Thunder Blade was Data East/Tatsumi's 1988 arcade game Apache3. Unlike Thunder Blade, it has no 2d levels and the gameplay also consists of rescuing people on the ground. I'm dying to play this game again. I pumped so many quarters into it back then.

    Galaxy Force was an impressive space shooter by Sega in 1988. Galaxy Force 2 is the same game in a less fancy cabinet. I love this game and I'm still waiting for an arcade-perfect port.

    Namco had their own arcade Space Harrier-clone in 1989 called Burning Force. I haven't played the arcade version of this one but I enjoyed the Genesis port.

    Speaking of Space Harrier-clones, Asmik released Cosmic Epsilon for the Famicom. I would go as far as saying this is visually the most impressive game on the 8-bit Nintendo due to its incredibly smooth scrolling.

    Another game similar to Thunder Blade is Taito's Night Striker.

    Also released in 1989 was a lesser-known Sega arcade game: AB Cop.

    Not all 3d rail shooters involved flying characters. Taito's Rambo 3 continued the ground-based shooting action started by Konami's Devastators except it made it more shooter-like by having forced-scrolling gameplay.

    Also worth mentioning are racing/shooters like Atari Games' S.T.U.N. Runner and Hydra. Taito's 1990 arcade game Aqua Jack is similar to these. I haven't played it but it looks awesome.

    NEC/Hudson packaged Battle Ace with their SuperGrafx console.

    In 1990, Sega made an After Burner-style game called G-LOC. A year later they made a special version in a 360 degree rotatable cockpit called R-360. Strike Fighter also appeared in some R-360 cabinets.

    Namco released Galaxian 3 in 1990 and Starblade in 1992.

    Sega's Rail Chase came out in the arcades in 1991. This one literally takes place on rails. A sequel was made five years later.

    Konami's 1992 arcade game G.I. Joe was another great ground-based one.

    Nintendo and Argonaut collaborated to bring the polygon shooter Star Fox to the SNES in 1993. Although blocky as hell, the game was quite good. After abandoning work on a 16-bit sequel, Nintendo made Star Fox 64 for the Nintendo 64, which came out in 1997.

    Also released in 1993 was Crystal Dynamics' Total Eclipse for the 3DO. The graphics were excellent but the game was dull. Later versions appeared on the Saturn and Playstation.

    Namco followed up Galaxian 3 with Attack of the Zolgear.

    The Mega Drive's hardware was pushed to its limits in 1994 with Sunsoft/Success' Panorama Cotton. A similar game, Rainbow Cotton landed on the Dreamcast years later.

    When the Saturn came out in North America in 1995, the launch title that impressed me most was Panzer Dragoon. Home rail shooters had been taken to another level. The atmosphere and music was beautiful. Panzer Dragoon Zwei and Panzer Dragoon Orta were even better.

    The Playstation got its own Panzer Dragoon clone in 1997 with Gamera 2000.

    Also from 1997 is Tetragon/Virgin's Nanotek Warrior for the Playstation, a Tempest-inspired shooter.

    Similar to Nanotek is Fox/Gremlin's PS1 game N20.

    In 2000, Treasure and Nintendo combined forces to create Sin and Punishment for the Nintendo 64. This fantastic game resurrected the ground-based 3d rail shooter and mixed in some jumping and melee combat. I even love the game's elevator music most people seem to dislike.

    3d rail shooters returned to their vector graphics roots in 2001 with Sega's Rez for the Dreamcast and Playstation 2. Rez mixed trippy TRON-like imagery with techno music and Panzer Dragoon-style lock-on shooting.

    Anything I missed? What are your favorites?

  2. In 2000, Treasure and Nintendo combined forces to create Sin and Punishment for the Nintendo 64.
    *humps* Quite possibly my favorite game of all time. Sweet Jesus I love it so.

    That is all.

  3. Lots of good stuff here... my favourite? Definitely Rez!

  4. It would be cool if Solaris had something to do with Tarkovsky's film, but I doubt it does.

    Star Fox has quite possibly the best theme music of all time. I gotta play that game again sometime soon.

    I sort of think the atmosphere of the Panzer games are a waste in the shooters. I don't find the gameplay exciting, and Saga was just so much more interesting in every way.

    Does 'Nam 1975 belong to this genre?

  5. Nice write up.... Bravo.

  6. Sin and Punishment and Space Harrier are definately my favorites, with Galaxy Force close in tow. Star Wars and Thunderblade were awesome as well. But it's a great genre. I'm a little disappointed not to see Sega's first entry into the series, Buck Rogers and the Planet of Zoom. Zaxxon 3D was neat too. Also cinematronics Web Warp, and Narrow Escape on Vectrex were favorites.

  7. #7
    Damn, I didn't think I missed any of Sega's. Thanks for the additions. Buck Rogers, especially, is a pretty big omission.

  8. Nice thread. I've been playing S&P for the first time recently and I'm really enjoying it so far. My favorites are Starfox 64 and PD Orta.

  9. 3D on-rails shooters don't get the respect of 2D shooters because they're generally not as good and don't stand the test of time as well. Games like Galaxy Force, for example, were mind-blowing in their day, seem awfully simplistic today.

    Still, Space Harrier is probably my favorite game of all time.
    The spirit of liberty is the spirit which is not too sure it is always right. -Learned Hand

    "Jesus christ you are still THE WORST." -FirstBlood

  10. Has anyone ever played either of the Rail Chases? The preview in Next Gen made it look real good.

    Originally posted by Kinopio
    It would be cool if Solaris had something to do with Tarkovsky's film, but I doubt it does.
    Yippee, Tarkovsky!

    And it actually is based on the film/novel. In one level, you have to sit through ten minutes of traffic, and in another, you have to look at Solaris's pink clouds and the ocean for an hour. Pressing the button at any time during the game results in automatic game over.


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