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In Memory
Sean Pettibone


Ultimate Shooting Collection (Wii)
Combining three classic vertically scrolling shooters in a single package, Ultimate Shooting Collection from UFO Games on the Wii offers gamers a solid dose of high-intensity bullet shredding action. Each title delivers a unique spin on the genre, with elaborate power-ups, multiple shooting planes and excellent play mechanics that are challenging and highly entertaining. Visually, the games run the gamut from high-tech sophistication to light-hearted humor. The games share certain play mechanics and styles, making for a cohesive collection that brings solidly entertaining arcade shooting to the Wii in a diverse and affordable package.

Ultimate Shooting Collection offers three distinct and challenging shooters from developers Milestone in a single convenient package. All three games originally appeared late in the Dreamcast's development cycle as boutique titles that received limited distribution in Japan and almost none in the US, making the original versions highly sought after collectibles. Fortunately, for players on a budget, these cult-favorite shmups are now available in a simple and accessible form of a Wii compilation. Each of these titles shares the post-Radiant Silvergun philospophy of throwing dozens of enemies and hundreds of bullets at the player simultaneously, while providing over the top shields and power-ups to aid them in battle. For the Wii edition, the games have largely stayed true to their original form, though there are some minor changes. The biggest comes with the sword technique, which is now implemented by waving the wiimote around, and steering with the nunchuck. This approach is pretty cool, though it doesn't really add much to the proceedings. For players who want a more standard experience, the game offers support for the classic controller as well, which doesn't require any waving. For players looking for an authentic arcade experience, TATE modes are included if you have special monitors or want to turn your monitor sideways. This is all fairly standard as far as features go, but the games themselves stand out in terms of their design and approach, which proves that the somewhat neglected shooter genre still has plenty of life and innovation left in it.

Chaos Field is probably the most polished and sophisticated of the shooters in this package, and it's unique play mechanics carry over to the other titles as well, so this is a logical place to start. The game gives you some fairly interesting options as you battle foes. First, you have your normal shots, which gradually strengthen as you collect power-ups and defeat foes. As you face waves of screen-filling bullets, you'll find that avoiding them is probably going to be fairly difficult. Fortunately, you can use your sword to destroy many of these bullets, which helps you to play defensively and reduces damage to your ship. As you defeat enemies, they'll drop Meta icons, which add to your special attack powers and help to charge up your meters, as well as increasing your score. There's a balance between collecting these, which increases your score and the danger it presents, though good players probably won't have to make this choice consciously. Chaos Field presents shooter veterans with relatively straightforward play mechanics. More elaborate weapons are available if you want to use the game's additional special attacks. These include lock-on missiles which target nearby enemies at a safe distance. These can be fired by pressing two of these fire buttons at the same time. Another attack that you can use creates a temporary shield that deflects the enemy shots and offers protection for a limited time. Chaos Field's attack patterns are quite elaborate, but they are somewhat predictable, making level memorization a key to success. In addition to these standard mechanics, the game allows you to switch between modes, called Fields during each battle. In the standard, or Field of Order mode, the enemy shots aren't as powerful, but are less predictable.

Switching to the Chaos Field mode makes your attacks increase in damage, but the enemy's attacks become more potent. Knowing when to switch between these polarity modes and timing is essential to winning the game, and most players will have to learn when to do this in order to succeed. Chaos Field's unique play mechanics are fairly intense, but most players should be able to make it through the early levels without much trouble. This makes for quite an interesting shooter, and it can be quite difficult, especially during its long and involved boss battles, which will test even the most skilled shooter player. Chaos Field will take quite some time to master, there are many intricacies and nuances you need to understand. Knowing when you need to switch between Fields is probably the main cause of concern, and most players will probably need some time to master this technique. The game doesn't give you unlimited continues and is still quite difficult even on its easy setting. It's definitely a hardcore shooter, and one that will satisfy fans of this genre. One thing that players will immediately notice are the game's beautifully rendered visuals, driving techno score and fluid character animation. Unlike the other games, which are either squashed down in letterbox mode, or use TATE if you have the monitor, Chaos Field offers a robust full-screen presentation. Its also far more elaborate in terms of backgrounds, enemy design and visual polish. This makes it the most immediately accessible title in the collection. This is also the one you should play first, because its approach carries over to the other two games in this package.

If Chaos Field offers Milestone's basic approach to the genre, then the next two games are probably best described as spin-offs on the same premise. Radio Allergy takes an almost humorous J-Pop look at the shooting genre with brightly colored, cel-shaded graphics and a light hearted approach. The plot is somewhat confusing, thanks to the minimal translation of the original Japanese game, but the basic play mechanics and system make for an entertaining play nonetheless. You can select from three different ships, each of which offers a unique attack style. Your objective here is to destroy all the electronic waves which are causing allergies among the technology saturated population of Tokyo. As you fly through the game's levels, you collect a number of icon power ups which can increase your score, add to your shield or increase the level of the ships Network Gauge. While the shield can protect you from certain attacks, it won't make you invincible. You can use the Network Gauge to absorb any nearby attackers and give yourself a quick dose of extra power. Most of the game's enemies are fairly predictable, but Radio Allergy's boss battles will take quite a bit of strategy. The game's overall look and feel is somewhat easier than the darker look of the other two titles, but it's intense gameplay and challenging mission structure makes these appearances deceiving. Radio Allergy is probably the oddest game in the package, but Milestone's approach is still very much apparent, making it well worth playing.

The third game in the Trilogy is Karous, a stylish shooter that plays very similarly to Radio Allergy, though slightly different. Unlike that game, you have a single choice in which fighter to use. Like the previous games, you can use a combination of standard shots to destroy enemies, use your sword to defend against bullet attacks. As in the other games, as you collect items and earn points, the powers of your basic attacks increase. You also need to fill your power gauge, since you can only use the special attacks when it's full. The game's special attack is a DFS shield system, that grants you temporary invincibility and creates a barrier around your ship. Any enemy that touches this is immediately destroyed. Karous' approach is a bit darker than Radio Allergy, but it uses the same cel-shaded graphics and recycles many of the play mechanics making it kind of a dark mirror on the previously mentioned game. However, this one seems a bit harder in terms of gameplay mechanics and its boss battles feel a lot more strenuous than the other game does. Karous is a challenging game and has some quite challenging and impressively designed levels. It throws a lot at the player and makes for quite a difficult game at points. This pretty much rounds up the three games on the disc, all of which offer a unique take on the shooter genre. Despite their Dreamcast-era roots, most of the games have stood up well and most Wii players who are unfamiliar with these games will probably find much to like and enjoy in Ultimate Shooting Collection. It's a solid, value-priced package that offers three excellent, unique shooters that most players will probably spend a lot of time learning and mastering. All three games share excellent play mechanics and unique power-up systems, making this collection a solid choice for any shooter fan.

- Michael Palisano

Grade: B+

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