Gaming History 101

Know Your Roots

Shmups on a Budget

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It’s the end of Shmuppreciation 2012 and after the article that goes live at noon it will be time to stop reading about shmups and start playing them.  Unfortunately, as I’ve mentioned before, shmups aren’t cheap…or are they?  In these articles I have covered many shmups that have extremely high price tags depending on what console you want it on.  I stress the fact that most shmups are arcade ports and thus all versions you can find on home consoles revolve completely around making as perfect a port as the developers can.  For this reason, it doesn’t really matter what console you get your shmups from, just knowing which ones you can get them at inexpensive prices.  The following article discusses the buyer who doesn’t want to drop a hefty chunk of change and some of the amazing deals I have found this month.

Note: Many links in this article will redirect you to retail sites like or auction sites like eBay to demonstrate the highs and lows of purchasing games of this type.  I did this to make it easy for you to find them, especially because some deals require an inventory search in your area.

Old School Shmup

  • River Raid – you could try to get an Atari 2600 and drop $20+ for the game on eBayOR you could pay $2 at a GameStop and get your hands on the Activision Anthology on PS2 ($3 if you find one with a Gameboy Advance).  As a bonus this collection includes 40 other games like the sequel, River Raid II and classics like Pitfall!
    Lazy People: You can get River Raid for $3 on XBL’s Game Room
  • Space Invaders – Taito just basically gives this game away.  Not only has the arcade coin-op sold for mere hundreds of dollars (hint: it was super popular so there are tons of them), but Taito shares its best titles on the cheap.  You can find this along with classics like Bubble Bobble and Rastan on the Taito Legends at GameStop for $1 on PS2.  $1!  Go.  Now!
  • Galaga, Galaxian, and Xevious – Namco has been much more lucky with its collections, especially when you consider its collections will most likely have Pac-Man and other families included.  While arcade versions of these games will run you over $500, the Namco Museum 50th Anniversary Collection is a cheap way to find all 3 of these games in arcade perfect spectacles on PS2, Xbox, GameCube, GBA, DS, or PSP.  All but the PS2 and DS versions will run you less than $10 at GameStop, but for those I’d highly recommend eBay to get the games super cheap ($5).
    Lazy People: Galaga is $5 on XBL, and both Galaga and Galaxian are $5-$6 each on Wii Virtual Console.  Xevious is $5 (NES ver) on Wii VC and $6 on 3DS VC as a 3D title (looks pretty darn good too!)
  • Gradius – There are so many ways to get your hands on several Gradius games, but the easiest and cheapest is securing the Gradius Collection on PSP.  For a mere $7 you can get your hands on not only arcade ports of the first four games, but the rare Japan only Gradius Gaiden that goes for $40+ assuming you can play Japanese games.  Stray from digital and eBay though, that’s gonna cost you $20+.  If you only have a PS2 then Gradius IV (which also includes Gradius III) is $5.
    Lazy People: $5 for the Wii Virtual Console NES port (the best!) of the original, the Super CD port of Gradius 2 (Gofer No Yobo) for $9, and $8 for the SNES port of Gradius III.
  • Life Force – Not as popular in the US and has a different name (worldwide it’s known as Salamander).  Well worth a $5 Wii Virtual Console download.
  • R-Type – A bit common but easiest to just buy the first two games together in the PSN release of R-Types for $6.  Get your hands on the PSN version of the fourth game with R-Type Delta for the same price.
  • Star Wars Arcade – Again, not the Sega arcade/32x version, but the original vector graphics 1983 title.  You could purchase the arcade cabinet for like $1,000 (even more for cockpit version) or you could drop $7 for the GameCube (which means Wii can play it as well) game Rogue Squadron III: Rebel Strike, which has all 3 Atari arcade games in the package.  The only down side is you have to actually play that god awful game to unlock them.

Modern Shmup

  • G Darius and Darius Gaiden – This series is hard to emulate and hard to find on classic consoles (each game is like $50-$150 for the port).  Not only that, it doesn’t hold up all that well.  Instead of the hundreds you’ll spend getting import versions of the old ones, why not try playing the newer 3D rendered games that have unlimited continues and immediate respawns?  For $2 both of these games can be yours in the Taito Legends 2, which is amazingly more common to find than you think.  It also includes Rastan 2 and dozens more arcade ports.
  • R-Type Final – IREM has been making this series by itself since the first title, so the quality of the R-Type series has never been stronger.  Throw in polygonal graphics and about 100 ship combinations and why wouldn’t you want this game for the low price of $2?  That’s how much GameStop wants for it, assuming you can find one in stock of course.
  • Gradius V – Not as significant a find as the above two, but this shmup by developer Treasure is a treat.  For only $13 used at GameStop, if you can find one in the area, this is a steal even in disc only form.  Finding a decent conditioned copy with box, instructions, and possibly the bonus high score/history DVD would be the find of the year.
  • Sin & Punishment – This trendy little Treasure on-rails shooter only came out in Japan for the N64 and it’s addictive as I’ll get out.  It used to go for more than $100 online (and sometimes still does) without even delving into getting a Japanese N64 game to run in the US.  Why not pick it up for $12 on the US Wii Virtual Console?  It’s there right now.
  • Radiant Silvergun – Damn you Saturn!  Every decent game that ever came out in America is worth nearly $100 and this title isn’t even a US game.  That makes its rarity and price skyrocket to starting at $150 used (and apparently $4,000 sealed).  Then again, for 800 MS points ($10) you can get a pretty decent port on XBL.
  • Ikaruga – Here we go again, another Treasure title that costs more than $100.  Granted, this one was a bit more common and the GameCube version was always on store shelves and never peaked over $30, but on native console Dreamcast this guy fetched a pretty penny back in the day.  It, like its spiritual predecessor (above) was re-released on XBL for the same $10 price tag and should be highly considered.
  • Deathsmiles – Cave made a horizontal shmup on the 360 and Aksys was dumb enough to release not just a regular, but a special edition over here!  I love that they did it but I doubt it generated much revenue.  Thankfully you can now get your hands on either for the respective prices of $14 and $25.
  • Otomedius – Speaking of under $14 shmups, Otomedius Excellent! just can’t seem to drop in price.  It’s $40 used at GameStop, not in stock anywhere else, and despite being out for more than a year is still $30-$40 with online retailers.   Given the so-so reviews and brutal difficulty that’s a steep price for me.  Luckily Amazon seems to have gotten a small shipment and is unloading the game for about $13.  If you’re going to bite, do it now because this game was $30 the last time Amazon had copies.

Japanese Love

There is value in loving the Japanese version of games but mostly just high cost.  Fortunately for PS3 owners, the PSN/SEN doesn’t know or really care where you are located when signing up for an account.  Aside from games we never see in the US and free earlier demos of upcoming releases, you can also get access to a huge catalog of very cheap digital titles we never saw here.  Just create a Japanese account on your PS3, pick up a yen points card (due to currency exchange it’s like $50 for 3,000 yen, but oh well) and start buying.  On the PS3 you can even play these games under the US PSN on the same console but if PSOne games ever make it to the Vita, you’ll probably have to do the memory card swap trick.  Here are the great games available for a mere 600 yen apiece:

Alright, well now you’re equipped (and tempted) to spend tons of money as well, but at least you’ll know you’re getting the cheapest version.  Hope you’ve enjoyed this Shmuppreciation month.  Stay tuned for the Shmuppreciation podcast that will be coming out in the next few days.

Written by Fred Rojas

March 31, 2012 at 11:17 am

2 Responses

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  1. I see a lot of love for the home console, but why leave the Genesis out, Where is MUSHA Aleste?


    April 19, 2012 at 9:43 pm

    • Totally understand, but this particular article is based only on finding cheap games and, like it or not, M.U.S.H.A. (Aleste) is not a cheap Genesis game. It’s actually one of the more expensive on the console and I don’t really consider Virtual Console games (because it’s on there) as a “deal” per se. On the plus side, my Shmuppreciation 2012 coverage was over 31 great shmups on home consoles, including Genesis, and you bet MUSHA was on that list:


      April 20, 2012 at 8:31 am

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