It might not be very well known among console shmup fans, but this currently ranks as my favourite shmup of all time! Tyrian is outstanding in so many ways. When you first launch the game, you can choose to either play the story mode, where you play through all the levels while collecting credits to upgrade your ship and choose which specific weapons you want, or you can play the simpler arcade mode where you just collect weapons in the maps themselves like a traditional shmup. There are 5 episodes in all, making this one of the longest shmups I've ever seen. The gameplay is absolutely phenomenal: not only is the collision detection extremely forgiving, but you don't die in one hit. Your ship has two types of "health bars", a blue shield bar that automatically heals itself and a standard brown armor bar that starts depleting only when your shields are exhausted. It might sound a little lame but it works extremely well and really minimizes the frustration, especially because the game does get really hard and intense at times. The graphics are great and the hand-drawn artwork looks amazing, and the futuristic MIDI music is also superb. If I had to make a comparision, I'd say the gameplay is slightly similar to that of Blazing Lazers (Turbografx), but much better and more polished. Another great thing about the game is how most of the levels tend to be very diverse, with different objectives and styles of play. The game also has a lot of secret levels that can be unlocked by doing some specific things in each map, so that the outcome becomes different every time you play, greatly extending the replay value. There are so different types of weapons that I lost count, and each level has a different set of enemies and often completely different graphics. I cannot stop saying good things about this game, and to top things off, you can play the game with a friend either on the same computer or online! Tyrian really elevates the shmup genre to the next level, and is in my opinion one of the greatest games ever made. No shooter fan should miss out on this one, especially since it was released as freeware.
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