Zero Wing by Toaplan, arcade release in 1989 and ported to the Sega Megadrive (Japan and Europe only) in 1991 and 1992 respectively.
Zero Wing, Zero Wing, Zero Wing. What, am I gonna do, with you... just when video games were on the verge of being taken seriously as an abstract artistic medium, you had to come along and gum everything up with your horribly-translated "Engrish" intro cutscene. The industry has never recovered. The ideology has been forever shattered. The medium is set back by several decades. At least.
Exaggeration aside, the ridiculous "All your base" cutscene is most likely the only thing that would ever put a derivative game like Zero Wing on the map for most gamers. It's not a bad game, but there's certainly nothing otherwise noteworthy about it. The game was assembled by a highly competent team known for above-average vertical shooters (see Truxton, Fire Shark) who maybe weren't as enthusiastic in the approach to side-scrolling ones.
Still, like any shooter of the day in the post-R-Type and Gradius world, any shooter worth her salt needed the prerequisite weapon upgrade system and of course some funky "gimmick" to set apart from the rest. ZW's catch was the tractor beam - aside from your usual weapons, you could fire out a beam to capture an unsuspecting enemy craft and affix it in front of your own ship to catch an enemy blast (or, you could launch the ship out as a projectile). It sounded like a neat idea, but in practice it was more cathartic than anything else.
Zero Wing is not a bad game, but other than being the butt of one of the bigger jokes on the internet it's really barely a serviceable shooter. The plain presentation along with the less-than-captivating environment make for another me-too blaster which means well, but fails to impress. If you are a blaster fan, this is certainly another good, solid game to work on your chops - if you are looking for something more involved, feel free to pass it by. But hey, at least now you'll know where that meme came from!
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