Just because September is over doesn't mean SHMUPs won't be discussed on the regular. I feel a touch remiss that I didn't get a chance to speak about one during the run, but there's no time like the present to bring up Truxton. Since our family invested more in the NES, I had figured it didn't get any better than Gradius, Legendary Wings, Twin Cobra, and Tiger Heli. Little did I know that some of the more intense and fast-paced SHMUPs were on Sega's 16-bit monster of a console.
Originally released in Japanese arcades in 1988, Truxton saw rousing success and was a commercial hit. A year later, it would be ported to the Sega Mega Drive and published in North America by Midway, but reviews to it were mixed and magazine editors didn't find anything special about it. Perhaps it's hindsight kicking in (and also because I didn't play this one until roughly the early 2000's), Truxton has a sense of explosiveness to it, the promotion art comes off as very metal to me. Even the game's title screen resembles an arena rock album cover.
As far as gameplay goes, Truxton isn't reinventing the wheel, but that's not a knock against it. The creator, Masahiro Yuge, previously worked on the aforementioned Twin Cobra, and I can see the similarities. You can pick up the controller and get the grasp of this vertical shooter pretty quickly. the "A" button fires your standard gun, "C" shoots at a rapidfire rate, and the "B" button detonates a crush bomb that leaves this boss skull in a field of energy. Perhaps at some point, I should make a top list of super bombs in video games, because this is probably a strong contender for a spot. I said that ninjas can make anything better several weeks ago when talking about The Legend of Kage. I am more than content with adding skeletons and skulls to that. Your ship moves around with ease, even before acquiring speed power-ups. It also has a very generous hit box, I don't feel like any time I died that it wasn't my fault. More often than not, I'll yell "OH, COME OOONN!" when trying to thread the needle between enemy fire and I get clipped.
Truxton to me feels like a prototype bullet hell, and while it can get pretty dicey in later rounds, it's only overwhelming when you lose a life and all of your upgraded guns. Something I like, when you gain items, it changes the color of your ship that corresponds to the gun you're using. Traits like that give it some personality, I respect that. You weapons include the standard Power Shot (red), a three-way rapid fire gun. The Truxton Beam (green) is the strongest shot. It shoots primarily forward, but it has armor-piercing capabilities. The Thunder Laser (blue) is a bleeding cool electric beam that locks onto targets. Its base form is not too powerful, but it pays off massively the more power-up "P" icons you grab.
Visually, Truxton doesn't look bad. The graphics are noticeably different from the arcade version, and the later PC Engine release. Perhaps the most obvious change from the arcade to Genesis ports are some altered level designs and coloring of sprites and the HUD being located to the left of the screen. The frame rate isn't quite as smooth as the Thunderforce series (maybe 40 or 50 per second), but there's no dips in performance, lag, or slowdown. There might be a chance I've mentioned this before, but nowadays I hear "gamers" actually question "does frame rate matter?" with the modern game platforms. A lot of NES and Sega Genesis games are 60fps, including most SHMUPs and fighting games. I'm not sure what bothers me the most, the indignant question being just a broad brushstroke to accept the paltry limitations of hardware produced by a multibillion dollar industry or people's inability to properly ask if it's essential to enjoy what you're playing. To which the answer is more loaded than that.
The game is divided into five total stages with several mid portions throughout that sorta give the player a chance to catch a breather. Truxton is a little on the fierce side, the difficulty really snowballs the longer you survive. Points can be allocated very quickly, so earning extra lives is pretty easy. There's also a fair number of checkpoints, though some of the places they stick you can be very unfortunate, leaving you playing more defensively until some power-ups become available.
Truxton may have become an obscure SHMUP in the wake of more popular games in the series, but its sense of style, sci-fi themes, an intoxicating soundtrack that's packed with those rebellious, gritty Sega Genesis tones, and speed earned it a reputation as the years passed and it's become a cult classic among SHMUP enthusiasts.