The Return of Battle Garegga, the mad king of Shmups

Radiant Silvergun, that masterpiece of design and engineering, is surely the most famous Japanese shoot ’em up from the genre’s golden age. But it’s Battle Garegga that, for many, holds the era’s crown. Released in arcades in 1996 it’s by far the plainer-looking creation, a muted palette of World War II gunmetal greys and khakis foreshadowing the next decade of militaristic video game colour schemes. Unlike its peers and rivals, which have your fidgety aircraft feinting and swerving through a brightly coloured hail of enemy bullets, Battle Garegga’s designers make you navigate a shifting maze of realistic looking artillery fire. The grey and silver bullets blend infuriatingly with the tops of trees and froth seas over which they zip. No boss fights with sprinting deities here, either. Just a corridor extending up the screen and beyond, filled with battalions of crotchety tanks, kamikaze biplanes, and the odd spindly air fortress.

By 1998’s launch of the Sega Saturn version (the only one to successfully flee the arcades till the unbelievable arrival, next month, of a twentieth anniversary PS4 rerelease) there was little to mark Battle Garegga out from the shmup pack, aside from the prestigious name of its developer, Raizing, and the unlikely choice of publisher, EA. Sure, this was a game filled with a bewildering cascade of tokens and power-ups, but at a glance, its rules seemed routine, obvious, antique: Shoot them before they shoot you; Collect everything in sight; Make it to the end in fewer than three lives. Then, slowly, players began to notice arcane complexities.

For example, up to four drone-like ‘options’ could be collected and added to your ship’s arsenal. With a press of a button these could be arranged into different configurations, providing a wide spread of fire across the screen, or made to spin in a circle around your craft. Canny players noticed that, if you collected medals in a certain order, new configurations for your drones would be opened up. Then, there was the question of the game’s weird difficulty. Players who followed the typical shoot ’em up play style, taking down every enemy, collecting everything in sight and so on, would find that by the time they reached the game’s latter stages the game had become almost impossibly challenging. Conversely, players who died frequently along the way had a far easier time of it. Battle Garegga was unquestionably a classic. But nothing quite made sense in its knotted, topsy-turvy world.

DF Retro: Daytona USA – why frame-rate has always mattered

Welcome to the world of Digital Foundry Retro. Every weekend, DF Retro brings us a new story based on a significant release in gaming history, backed by exemplary, clean capture taken using original console hardware. It’s a great way to revisit the classics while reflecting on what made each game so special in its day. Check back often for brand new episodes as we update this article with the latest videos.

This week, John Linneman revisits one of the most important arcade releases of the 90s – Sega’s epoch-making Daytona USA. Built on Model 2 hardware, Daytona is a shining example of an age where arcade gaming technology was generations beyond what the home consoles could offer.

Daytona also highlights that the importance of frame-rate isn’t necessarily an issue just for modern gaming – Sega’s iconic racer played host to a range of home conversions across the years that simply couldn’t match the original, and poor frame-rate was the key reason why the original Sega Saturn port just couldn’t capture the experience of the classic arcade title. John’s analysis doesn’t just cover the Saturn conversion though – every single port and sequel is covered.

DF Retro: Mechwarrior 2 – 31st century combat revisited

Welcome to the world of DF Retro. Every weekend, DF Retro brings us a new story based on a significant release in gaming history, backed by exemplary, clean capture taken using original hardware. It’s a great way to revisit the classics while reflecting on what made each game so special in its day. Check back often for brand new episodes as we update this article with the latest videos.

The Activision of yesteryear was a very different entity to the blockbuster franchise behemoth we have today, specialising more in top-tier PC gaming entertainment. It published a host of classic titles, but arguably, it is Mechwarrior 2 that was the jewel in its crown. A sequel to the 1989 Mechwarrior original, the game excelled owing to its innovative gameplay that encompassed custom load-outs and – yes – heat management. The title proved so popular, it continued to be upgraded and re-published over the years, resulting in 38 different releases.

The release of Windows 95 and the emergence of a range of 3D accelerator cards for PC ups the version count significantly, but it’s interesting to note that the various 3D upgrades didn’t always have a positive impact on the quality of the game. In this video, we take a look at all the major releases, weighing up the pros and cons – plus we examine the Sega Saturn and Sony PlayStation console versions too.

Kenji Eno’s horror game D emerges on GOG

The late great game designer Kenji Eno’s 1995 cult classic horror game D is now available for PC via , where it’s going for £4.09.

Developer Night Dive Studios – who previously ported System Shock 2 and Turok to modern digital platforms before embarking on a full-fledged – handled the conversion from old hardware to new after acquiring the rights from Acclaim Entertainment.

D originally premiered on 3DO in 1995, but didn’t make it to Europe until its Sega Saturn, PlayStation, and PC ports the following year. This marks the first time it’s been available digitally..