Solar Striker

released on Jan 26, 1990

You are locked in ferocious combat on an interstellar battlefield. Dodging and taking aim, alien rocketships stream past, circle, and attack. There are too many to count! Fire, fire, fire! The enemies' first wave is repelled. A moment's rest, and the attack begins again. Gather extra life and firepower from floating energy cells. Prepare to duel batwing fighters and insect spaceships, avoid churning energy fields, alien cruisers and more!

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A shmup lullaby with the pacing of Goodnight, Moon. One step forward from Galaga's picture book; Nintendo's blackest sheep. I had been struggling with this one for a week, trying at least a dozen times each day but never getting past Level 5. Then I had sex and to cool off picked it up again only to beat it on my first attempt (with 5 lives left)! Having trouble with your widdle game, bros? Get laid. Seriously.

The quintessential Game Boy shooter; feels like I may have actually played this back in the day. Responsive and somehow soothing.

I never thought a Shoot 'Em Up on the Game Boy of all things could be this difficult, fun, and dynamic, but here we are. The gameplay is incredibly tight and well paced, and the music is some of the best on the Game Boy. This is truly a hidden gem, and I'm surprised that people don't talk about it that much. Still, since this is on the Game Boy, this isn't gonna be the most polished or diverse type of game, which automatically makes it worse than a lot of it's higher charting contemporaries on actual consoles like the Sega Genesis and NES. Still, for a Game Boy game, it's really damn good. This is very much worth owning, if you have a Game Boy.

Probably the closest a shmup has gotten to making me want to fall asleep

Really basic and rudimentary shmupping even for 1990 but damn it has a low-proxy vibe to it that I like. Shooters are the one genre Nintendo's always been really hands-off of, and playing it you can see the design tribulations they went through trying to figure out what it should be and how it should complement their early GB catalogue. You got shit like a final stage miniboss rush even though minibosses don't start appearing until the second half. The boss design starts at Gradius 1 levels of simplicity, and then spikes up to some absurd Toaplan-esque fights that just spew aimed bullets at you from all sides (and the final boss is embarrassingly easier than both of them). I thought the game was gonna roll with just one background song because stage 1 and 2 use the same theme for some reason. Things like that make the total six-stage package incongruent within itself, but it's cute to me bc you get a solid timeline for when the designers changed their minds on certain things. Fun game theory.
I also played this with the dark palette like Vee, and it's all the better for it. Lovely ambiance, those wireframe-like city buildings and such.

Solar Striker is a game that not even Nintendo wants to remember too much, a skeleton in the closet I guess you could call it. When the Game Boy released someone there went "shit, we need an STG for the masochism crowd" and threw Gunpei Yokoi and his team at it to quickly develop one for their brand new portable.
Solar Striker is about as humble and modest as one can get with a vertical shmup on such an unassuming system, but despite this it still managed to draw me in with it's simplicity. I always can't be helped but be charmed by games that have very little to work with, but manage to still be entertaining. Solar Striker has no bombs, no chargeable beam weapons, no homing missiles, no Moai, no nothing. No bullshit, just your gun and some limited upgrades to ward off the enemies.
It's obviously not all gumdrops and rainbows, the game has it's fair share of annoyances such as the enemies who begin appearing in stage 5(?) who speed across the screen from top to bottom in an attempt to crash into your ship like a suicidal sunday driver. The bosses also range from moderately difficult to just plain psychotic, look at this guy! Why was he not the final boss? He's insane!
It's interesting to note that when I booted this up on my emulator on my DS it defaulted to the "Space Invaders" pallete, which made the background black and the sprite outlines white, giving it the appearance of playing the game at "night mode". It was weird, but I played it like that anyway. I thought it was neat. No idea if it's like that elsewhere.
It's funny to think that Solar Striker representation might have less of a chance than Goku at appearing in Smash Bros, even X managed to get a nice music remix at least.