Thunder Force III by Technosoft for Sega Genesis, released to critical acclaim - worldwide - in 1990. Seriously. They were raving about this game in Vatican City, I kid you not.
Additionally you'd get a couple of "Craw" (err.. "claw?") options to encircle you/increase your attack as well. And that's all the help you got - good luck destroying that alien armada, all by yourself! Don't let the door hit your butt on the way to the cruiser!
TF3 was particularly notable for it's extremely colorful and detailed graphics, in this game especially they really went wild and pushed it with some crazy-intense-alluring backgrounds. Rippling waves of fire on Gorgon. The underground water world Seiren had a "line-scrolling level" which truly displayed an unparalleled level of parallax never before seen on the 16-Bitter(man I love typing things like that)- As well, Technosoft was known for their Mastery of Metal-Rock-Godliness, super-cheesy-synth thrash was the order of the day and these guys reveled in it. Each level was blessed with a wonderfully rocking track that just got you in the mood to kill, kill, kill..
I am not sure where this all stands today - Thunder Force made the transition as one of the few remaining shooter franchises to still attempt to release in the modern age, in some form or other, to dubious effect. A new entry sprouted in Japan last year fr the Playstation2, it was an homage to the games of yore if anything. For me and most folks, we'll stick with the classics, as they hold up and are absolutely still a blast to enjoy - but I would certainly love to see more moderns, influenced by this stuff, try their hands at delivering some Thunder Force-inspired goodness.