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11. Ray Tracers
Ray Tracers, in essence, is a 3D successor to Tatio's earlier Chase HQ arcade game, built with a dash of anime in a futuristic urban city. You race down highways, outrunning the clock, flying off ramps and breaking through barriers as you chase down criminals. Then you ram them off the road. Except this time instead of sports cars, your opponents are in hulking war machines. Ray Tracers has a rather unimpressive look, but runs smooth and moves at almost unreasonable speeds. It also the trademark Taito sound, with some driving synth to give it flair.
For lovers of: Chase HQ, Outrun
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A scrolling shooter by a Final Fantasy creators Squaresoft, Einhänder has the distinction of having a fairly elaborate story, especially for a shooter. It's also gained a cult status due to its equally elaborate presentation and methodical action. Its key gimmick is the use of each craft's extendable arm, which allows you to equip multiple enemy weapons after destroying them, and change to one of two angles to suit the situation. Each weapon has limited ammo, however, so you'll have to use them intelligently and constantly be on the lookout for replacements. The 3D presentation also allows it to occasionally change angles, providing dramatic angles for setpieces or boss introductions. While it keeps a good pace, Einhänder is best suited to patient players willing to learn the layouts of the stages, playing them again until they've memorized enemy wave patterns.
For lovers of: R-Type, G-Darius
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If you're looking for even more atmospheric shooters, G-Darius has you covered. It's the penultimate entry in the Darius series, famous for tasking you with driving off robotic sealife. Despite the bizarre theme, G-Darius still manages a somber tone, with a soundtrack that communicates a sense of threat and alienation. It also carries the series trademark of branching paths, with an Outrun style level structure. Best of all, each enemy in the game can be captured, allowing you to repurpose them as weapons or shields. These enemies can then be expended to either drop a screen clearing bomb, or to charge up a power laser attack. Each boss also has their own laser attack, and timing the shot well can result in laser duel showdown. It also happens to be one of the most impressive 3D shooters on the PlayStation.
For lovers of: Dariusburst, Gradius, Thunder Force
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14. Thunder Force V Perfect System
While not as visually impressive as G-Darius or Einhänder, Thunder Force V still manages to impress thanks to smart use of 3D, a rocking score and a balanced arsenal of weapons. Like Radiant Silvergun, Thunderforce V's weapons each have their own strategic advantage, and mixing them to suit the situation is the key to surviving. There's the usual assortment of bullets and homing shots, which feel suitably powerful, but the star is the Free Range weapon, which can be aimed all around you, then locks on to fire a devastating continuous laser. It almost feels like a predecessor to Gradius V's multi-directional options.
For lovers of: R-Type, Radiant Silvergun, Gradius V
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15. Dynamite Deka
Also known as Die Hard Arcade in the US, Dynamite Deka is a 3D beat-em-up that involves climbing a tower taken over by terrorists. Despite what might seem to be a serious situation, Dynamite Deka doesn't take itself very seriously. The plot is delivered through hammy English voice acted cutscenes, with a running gag involving the daughter of the president, who the terrorists have kidnapped, but can't find despite her being right under their nose the whole time.
The brawling has a good variety of moves, which you can learn and use situationally, or simply mash through until the bad guys don't get up. There's also plenty of weapons and firearms to pick up. While it might not seem like a good idea to fire an anti-tank rocket indoors, Dynamite Deka will let you do it anyway. You can also combine a few items. Pick up a lighter, for instance, and you'll be able to combine it with a spray can later to create a flamethrower. Each room is also connected through a series of cutscenes, which occasionally ask you to perform a quick time event to avoid a hazard or enemy, or otherwise take a hit and get into a fight.
The version on PSN originally came out as part of a PS2 series called SEGA AGES, a series of compilations and remakes of classic SEGA games. As such, it has upgraded graphics closer to the Dreamcast sequel, Dynamite Cop, as well as the option to play with the original blocky graphics, or even Altered Beast and Golden Axe characters.
For lovers of: Golden Axe, Streets of Rage, The Warriors
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16. The Adventure of Little Ralph
An action platformer starring a hero who's been turned into a child while attempting to save the town, what immediately stands out about The Adventure of Little Ralph is the care that's been put into the presentation. There are well produced story sequences that give it the feeling of an RPG, and like Panzer Bandit it has a painted style that results in not only some impressive backgrounds, but a nice, tangible feeling for the characters and world. It's a good showcase of just how good 2D games can look on the PlayStation. It's also very challenging.
Little Ralph is probably closest in style to Rastan, with an emphasis on considered sword swings and precise platforming. It can get demanding, especially as you'll usually be taken down in a single hit, unless you've got an extra shield power-up. This leads to some tense sequences, especially during the boss fights. Thankfully it has unlimited continues and well placed checkpoints, so dying (which happens often) isn't too much of a nuisance. Holding the attack button also allows you to bat away enemies with the backswing of your sword, which you can use to knock enemies into each other, gaining bonus pickups and hitting out of reach enemies. It keeps up the momentum of the combat, and lends a good sense of satisfaction to moving quickly through the stages.
For lovers of: Monster World/Wonder Boy, Rastan, Ghosts 'n Goblins
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17. I.Q. Intelligent Qube
Another cult classic, I.Q. involves activating blocks on a grid of continually advancing walls. The challenge comes from marking the right spot on the grid so that the advancing blocks will not only activate, but chain to other walls around it and also activate those, clearing the marked blocks in the fewest amount of moves. Doing well will add another row of blocks to the grid, while failing will remove one, which will affect the time, and therefore pressure, you have to finish the puzzle. It's a game that doesn't lend itself well to description, but it's a compelling puzzle for those who like spatial challenges. It should also be noted that the sequel, I.Q. FINAL, is on both the Japanese and European PSN.
For lovers of: Catherine, Devil Dice
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18. Fantasy Zone Complete Collection
If you like shoot-em-ups, but are tired of dreary settings and mechanical military designs, Fantasy Zone has you covered. The complete collection is another game in the SEGA AGES series, this time with port work done by the masters of emulation, M2. Fantasy Zone itself is a "cute-em-up" with a charming and colorful style that scrolls infinitely to the left and right. The aim is to take down bases throughout the stages while collecting coins, which can be exchanged at the shop for power-ups and weapons. The collections contain the first and second game in the series, as well as Super Fantasy Zone, which confusingly, is not a Super Nintendo game but a Genesis entry, as well as Sega Master System and Game Gear versions of the game, and two spin-off games.
The main draw of the collection, however, is Fantasy Zone II: The Tears of Opa-Opa, which remakes the sequel, which originally released only for the Master System, as if it were a full-fledged arcade game (M2 even made sure it could actually run on an arcade board). The stages are absolutely swelling with color, charm and personality, and the enhancements made to the original make it into an entirely different game.
Each game also includes several versions of the release, which can be switched out in the options. Probably the only argument against the collection is that Fantasy Zone and Fantasy Zone 2 (both the original Master System release and the remake) are included in the SEGA 3D Classics Collection (also developed by M2), which further remasters them and adds new, very worthwhile, features. 3D Classics Collection is also only a bit more than Complete Collection, so it's a better package if you don't care about the other Fantasy Zone titles, or playing them on a big screen. The 3D versions of Fantasy Zone are also available separately on the Nintendo eShop.
For lovers of: Twinbee, Parodius, Defender
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19. Harmful Park
The most colorful and silly of the games on this list, Harmful Park is another cute-em-up, this time through a highly detailed and surreal amusement park (created by an evil doctor, of course). The absurd charm of the game shines through in every part of it, from the detailed attractions in the background, to the ludicrous bosses, to your weapons, which are each a different kind of candy or treat. Laser beam ice cream, anyone?
Like Thunderforce, you can switch to any of these weapons at will with their own dedicated button, and making the most of each of them is crucial to getting out of a situation. They can also be powered up multiple times, though dying will make you lose your current power-up, so keeping the overall power of each weapon spread is in your best interest. It's a smart shooter, but really its appeal is all in finding out what the next absurd thing will be, and seeing all the surprising animations and gags. Even if you're not into shooters, it's worthwhile to grab a buddy and play through it, just to experience the gags.
For lovers of: Fantasy Zone, Parodius, sight gags
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20. La Petite Princesse
While Harmful Park might be more in line with traditional shooters, La Petite Princesse is very much a strange genre-bending hybrid. A Japan-only sequel to Twinkle Star Sprites, it's a competitive fighter that plays like something you'd get if you mashed up a vertical shooter with Puyo Puyo. All attacks happen indirectly. Instead of firing at each other, each player has half the screen, which waves of enemies will descend upon. Destroying an enemy will cause it to explode, and chaining explosions of these enemies will result in large fireballs being sent to your opponent's side of the screen. Destroying enemies also builds meter, which can be used to charge up a counterattack that rallies enemy attacks back at them, or can send a powerful boss to their side if charged up fully. These are particular to each character, who also differ in terms of charge attacks and personal strengths.
The whole game has a heavy anime look, but with a pastel color palette that lends a soft, jovial mood to the game. Completing it will also unlock the original Twinkle Star Sprites. Like most competitive games, it's best played with another person, so if you don't have someone to play with locally you might be better served playing the Steam version of the original game, which has been updated with online play.
For lovers of: Puyo Puyo, Tetris Attack/Planet Puzzle League, Risky Challenge