For those of you not in the known, SHMUP is short for shoot 'em up. You know, those games where you're flying in a ship and shoot stuff. Alternatively, we can also just call them shooters. One of my favorite genres since I was a kid, SHMUPs are the ultimate form of reflex gameplay. They also have some pretty kickin' tunes.
Dual Moon - Metal Black (ARC, SAT)
Being a fan of the Darius games, it was nice to play more of Taito's shooters. My first encounter with Metal Black was when picked up Taito Legends 2 for the PS2. It quickly became one of my favorite games on the collection. Metal Black's score was composed by the great Yasuhisa Watanabe and Dual Moon is the track I love the most from this game.
Sensation - Salamander II (ARC)
You could also call this game Life Force II since it's a sequel to the arcade game Life Force (the NES version of Life Force has quite a few differences). For years I had heard the music of this game but never played it. I was actually able to pick up the Salamander Deluxe Pack on the Saturn and if it's any indication, Saturn imports are going to be a key part of my library. As blasphemous as it may sound, I actually like Salamander II better than Life Force. If you finish the game it starts over again with remixed tunes of the original Salamander. Quite nice. Sensation is such a majestic piece of music. Salamander II has such an incredibly awesome score so this certainly won't be the last time I mention music from it here in Favorite Tunes.
Chase - Einhander (PSone)
Games like this make me wish Square Enix would think outside of the RPG box. Sure, it doesn't always pay off but with Einhander, we were given one of the best shooters on the PlayStation. The 2.5D graphics were quite stunning and the soundtrack was right on the money. You can actually hear this theme as early as the first level.
Colony - Axelay (SNES)
One of the earliest SNES games and still one of the most impressive both from and audio and visual standpoint, Axelay has aged remarkably well, showcasing some incredible mode-7 scrolling effects. At only five levels, you may find it shooter than most SHMUPs, but Axelay is still worth checking out. Many a great theme can be found in Axelay but Colony is probably the one that wows me more than any other.
Black Hole Anomalies - Space Megaforce (SNES)
Known as Super Aleste in Japan, this is a fantastic shooter from the defunct Compile. That company really knew how to make good SHMUPs and it kills me that they are no more. MUSHA saw a Virtual Console release (another game by Compile) and I really think a release for Space Megaforce is longer overdue. The entire soundtrack to this game is amazing but if I had to pick one theme from this one, Black Hole Anomalies is it.
Biophotron - G.Darius (ARC, PSone)
There have been numerous games released in the Darius series but this one ranks as my all-time favorite. The unique ability to capture enemies and have them fight at your side was a great innovation but playing tug-o-war with bosses using huge beams that would make the crew from Dragon Ball Z proud? Awesome! Each time I listen to Biophotron, I can clearly see that Petra-don from Zone B flying gracefully in the background.
Chapter 3: Faith - Ikaruga (ARC, DC, GCN, XBLA)
I wasn't into the import scene when Ikaruga saw a console release on the Dremcast but I made sure to pick it up when it released on the GameCube. Physical copies aren't easy to come by these days so I'm glade more players are getting able to experience this groundbreaking shooter through digital distribution. Even by SHMUP standards Ikaruga can be pretty freaking difficult. To this day, I still don't think I've earned an A rank on single stage.
Vertigo (Stage 5) - DoDonPachi Daifukkatsu (ARC)
I wouldn't feel right posting some of my fav SHUMP themes and not having a track from Manabu Namiki. Vertigo is the final stage of DoDonPachi Daifukkatsu. What's better than some good bass? This tune comes loaded with a healthy dose of slap bass goodness.