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Toaplan Arcade Shoot’Em Up Collection Volume 1 Review

Game: Toaplan Arcade Shoot’Em Up Collection Volume 1
Genre: Action, Arcade
System: Steam (Windows & macOS)
Developer|Publisher: Toaplan | Bitwave Games
Controller Support: Yes
Price: UK £TBC | US $TBC | EU € TBC
Release Date: January 15th, 2023

Review code provided with many thanks to Embracer Free Mode.

Retro Goodness

Toaplan is a game developer whose games have strangely eluded me through my retro career dispute being a Mega Drive fan. So, of course, I wanted to correct this, and it appeared I would get my chance with the launch of the Evercade EXP, a portable system which plays retro games on good old-fashioned carts. I pre-ordered the system in 2022 and eagerly awaited the launch in December of the same year to enjoy some Toaplan goodness. But as fate would have it, thieves ended up intercepting the lorry carrying my console (as well as several other people’s pre-orders), and so no Evercade EXP and no Toaplan, at least until sometime in 2023 if all goes well.

So I was a bit bummed about that. At least until now, when LadiesGamers would kindly allow me to review the Toaplan Arcade Shoot’Em Up Collection Volume 1. A rather long title for a retro collection but most certainly a way to enjoy some arcade retro goodness for those not looking to hunt down old retro carts or those who sadly had their Evercade EXPs stolen. 

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Small but mighty ship (Truxton)

Shooty Bang Bang

The collection pulls together four arcade classics in the shoot ’em-up genre or, as I like to call it the shooty bang bang genre. All of these games are arcade ports with solid emulation across the board and responsive controls. Insert a metaphorical coin alone or bring in a friend to lay some local co-op. The soundtracks for these titles are absolutely awesome, really taking me back to that early 90s era of video games. Let’s quickly do a quick summary of each. 

Zero Wing: A side-scrolling space shooter where you take on an alien cyborg menace. In fact, this is the game that spawned the famous internet meme ‘All your bases belong to us,’ when the game would port to consoles. Zero Wing looks like many other scrolling space shooters, but one mechanic that made it stand out is using a tractor beam.

You can use it to grab an enemy, use them as a shield, or if you prefer, a projectile to fling back at another enemy. You also have multiple weapons to use and a flurry of baddies to take on while you weave your way between the bullets. My favourite part of this game is the gritty art style. The boss fights are a gross mess of robotic and organic material, making them pretty terrifying but also memorable.

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What big teeth you have (Zero Wing)

Truxton: This time, a top-down space shooter scrolling vertically. Once again, you’re a one chap/chapette ship taking on the aliens in their larger-than-life space crafts. It’s a lot different from Zero Wing when you try it, feeling more mechanical in graphical style. Once again, you have an assortment of weapons to acquire and upgrade; you can also activate a bomb powerup when you’re in a pinch to wipe out any enemies unfortunate enough to get stuck in its radius. Truxton may not stand out as much as the other titles in this list, but it’s still a solid arcade experience.

Twin Cobra: Another vertical scrolling shooter, except for this time, the setting is more military, and you control a helicopter. In a way, this feels similar to Truxton, with different weapons that can be upgraded and a bomb power-up that feels pretty familiar. The noticeable difference is you swap giant alien spaceships with tanks and battleships. I much preferred the level design in this game, with a mixture of enemies coming at you from the air and ground and then those larger-than-life boss encounters that never gets old. 

OutZone: But who needs spaceships or helicopters when you can be a cyborg mercenary on a one-man mission to destroy alien baddies? OutZone scrolls vertically at the player’s pace and contains similar features to the previous games, with unique weapons that can be upgraded, although OutZone does have the most deadly yo-yo-like weapon in a video game ever.

A feature a little different here though is the energy bar you need to keep topped with energy power-ups to avoid a nasty case of sudden death. These cyborgs don’t power themselves. OutZone was the hardest in terms of difficulty but became my favourite. With its over-the-top premise and brilliant soundtrack, I was instantly hooked on this experience and still have the soundtrack buzzing in my head while writing the review.

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Cyborg-man VS giant machine (OutZone)


When you play each game, you have a nice array of options available to tweak the experience to your liking. You must save states and a rewind feature to correct those little whoopsies. You can even hold down a button to slow the game down, which is very helpful when navigating the hell of bullets descending down on you. Additional options are available; such as taking a few hits before losing a life (quite handy since in most of these games, you die in a single hit). The option is also available to display the enemy hitboxes so you can better learn the game’s mechanics; this is something I don’t think I have seen in other retro collections and would be nice to see again in the future.

Of course, all this stuff is optional, and you can still play the game in its authentic original presentation. You can also adjust the display screen with various filters and even flip the screen into TATE mode if your PC screen is compatible. This really recreates the most authentic arcade look. If you’re looking to play this with family, I would say there’s nothing gory in their games. Whenever an enemy is defeated, it explodes, making it a pretty safe bet if you want your kid jumping in on co-op.

Each Game Installs Separately

A critique I have with the steam version (and likely GOG version, for that matter) is when you purchase the collection, each game installs separately, making this not feel like an actual retro collection where you can jump in and out of each game with ease. The game does not take the opportunity to provide any history of the games presented, which feels like a missed opportunity. My other niggle is that the option to map the controls is more complicated than needed, showing odd symbols for the button mapping, which look more like keyboard keys rather than looking more simple.

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Now exactly a casual flight (Twin Cobra)

Conclusion – Top Stuff

Toaplan Arcade Shoot Em’Up Collection Volume 1 is fine retro goodness to enjoy on the PC. If you’re a fan of retro gaming and your shooters, then this is well worth picking up. Four games feels a touch light since Toaplan has many more arcade titles in their backlog, but I guess they are saving that for Volume 2. Now that I finally dipped my toes in the Toaplan collection, I can safely say it was time well spent. For a quick arcade fix to play alone or with a friend, you can’t go wrong with this shooty-bang banger.

Final Verdict: I Liked it a Lot

I like it a lot


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