Since originally posting, I still haven’t spent a lot of time playing shooters. But taking on board all your comments and suggestions, I am gradually beginning to ‘get it’!
As a couple of you suggested, I tried Parodius. I can definitely appreciate what it has going on, but I find 8bit games a bit tougher to get stuck in to sometimes.
I’ve been reading a lot of retro mags lately (mostly Mean Machines Sega) and shooter reviews are super common. Reading what helps them classify the good from the bad has helped.
I shortlisted a couple and decided to try Zero Wing. Until CATS appeared on screen, I forgot this game is the infamous ALL YOUR BASE ARE BELONG TO US meme, despite the preceding lines of story also being full of amusing mistranslations.
And I think I’ve found my gateway drug of shooters! The main advantage is the ability to tractor beam smaller enemies to use as a shield. That combined with my peripheral cannons also acting as shields gives me some extra insurance to focus a little more on multitasking shooting and evading, plus having more time to observe movement patterns.
The easy setting is nicely balanced too. But the crazy thing is, I still suck!!
Although I’m slowly getting better. Very frequently I feel I’m doing quite well, only to notice my enemy-ship-shield is gone and I unknowingly escaped losing a life. I still haven’t progressed far into the game, like embarrassingly pathetic progress. When I do lose my shields and die, respawning in a tough section with no chances of upgrading my fire power or shielding behind an enemy ship will result in me losing my last 3 lives within 30secs-2mins of gameplay.
Since playing Zero Wing, I’ve revisited Thunder Force III - which I only originally tried cos it came with the Mega Drive Mini. And my gameplay has actually improved a little! I not only beat the first level for the first time (the forest looking planet, I forget the name) I reached the boss in the fewest attempts ever! Of course, I bombed on the next levels but progress is progress
The arcade comparisons and 15mins of filler action between games explanation is also a big help. I guess my main issue used to be overcoming the thought that I couldn’t imagine buying these games for £40-£50 brand new in the 90s and expecting it to keep me entertained on a Friday night - let alone a whole weekend. I woulda had to have bought another game with it to switch it up.