The realm of retro gaming is always ripe with nostalgia and opportunities to explore the storied past of video games. One of the platforms offering a revival of beloved classics is the Evercade, a handheld console that has attracted old-school gamers with its curated collections of games from bygone eras. Following the success of the first Toaplan Arcade collection, Evercade has released a second volume, Toaplan Arcade 2, which promises to bring more of the company's iconic titles to the hands of enthusiasts.
Toaplan, a notable Japanese game developer from the 1980s and 1990s, has a reputation for creating some of the most intense and revered shoot 'em up (shmup) games in history. While their first collection was met with rave reviews and embraced for its selection of hits, this second installment, though not considered as vital, still holds weight and is warmly recommended for fans and newcomers alike.
The second Toaplan collection is primarily focused on shmup titles, which the company is most famous for. Of the seven games included in the set, four belong to this genre, providing a substantial amount of aerial combat action for players.
A standout title in this collection is Fire Shark, the successor to Flying Shark, which raises the stakes and surpasses its predecessor in terms of challenge and playability. It becomes even more appealing when played on the Evercade EXP handheld, which showcases the game's true potential thanks to its excellent TATE mode – a feature that allows players to flip the screen, emulating the vertical arcade experience.
The shmup experience is further enriched with the inclusion of Twin Cobra and Twin Hawk. Both these games are also best savored in TATE mode, offering a pure and authentic arcade encounter that effectively uses the orientation for a deeply immersive experience.
The crown jewel of this compilation and what arguably might be the historical highlight of Toaplan's portfolio is Hellfire. Unique for its time, Hellfire's horizontal scrolling gameplay sets it apart from its vertical scrolling counterparts. The game is renowned for its innovative multi-directional weapon system, which was revolutionary at the time of its release. The game not only stood out in arcades but was also widely recognized through its superb ports to the Sega Mega Drive and PC Engine CD.
Venturing outside the realm of shmups, the collection graciously includes Wardner, a deceptively adorable fantasy platformer that's both intensely challenging and remarkably engaging. Mirroring the success of Hellfire, Wardner also boasts a brilliant rendition for the Mega Drive, proving that Toaplan's adeptness wasn't bound to one genre alone.
The two remaining titles, Rally Bike and Demon's World, might not shine as brightly as the others, but they still contribute to the collection's diversity. Rally Bike, in particular, is a fascinating inclusion due to its use of the TATE feature, differing from its shmup companions but still offering a unique and enjoyable experience.
Although it's easy to get lost in these games for hours at a time, Rally Bike and Demon's World are considered to be the weaker links when compared to the heavy hitters in this collection. Nonetheless, they offer a variety and breadth that is a hallmark of Toaplan's extensive arcade output, ensuring that every type of gamer finds something to appreciate.
This Evercade Toaplan Arcade 2 collection might not hold the same weight as its predecessor logically would, considering the first collection boasted some of Toaplan's most impactful games. However, the second set still serves as a commendable assortment that allows players to dive deeper into the developer's legacy and to experience the nuances of their craftsmanship across different game types.
The enjoyment of these classic titles is further enhanced by the Evercade EXP handheld's impressive capabilities, especially the TATE mode, which is a rare feature in modern gaming consoles and particularly suited for arcade shmups that were initially designed for the tall, narrow screens of arcade cabinets.
For the retro gaming aficionado, Toaplan Arcade 2 is an invitation to journey back in time to the golden age of arcades. While some may debate the lineup's strength compared to the initial offering, there's no denying that the curation provides a well-rounded portrait of Toaplan's contributions to the arcade era. It's a window into a period where gameplay reigned supreme, and fanciful narratives were told in the simple language of pixels and high scores. Whether you're a longtime fan or new to Toaplan's work, this collection is an essential chapter in exploring the evolution of shoot 'em ups and platformers.
To those yet to embark on a retro gaming journey or seeking to broaden their understanding of arcade history, the Toaplan Arcade 2 collection awaits with open arms. Each title is an artifact of its time, offering not just entertainment but also an insight into the history and growth of video games as a medium. The collection stands as a testament to Toaplan's legacy and is a celebration for enthusiasts who appreciate the roots of gaming culture.
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