ud_logo.jpg ['Shmup Me Up, Buttercup' is a bi-weekly column by Jeremiah ''Nullsleep' Johnson, dealing with the latest shoot-em-ups, or shmups, from Japan and the West, and covering the frantically cultish game genre that refuses to die, despite many bullets aimed in its direction over the years.]

G.Rev Does It Again

In the last "Shmup Me Up" I made a point of mentioning the impending release of G.Rev's new shooter for the Dreamcast, Under Defeat. Those of you who took note and picked it up probably already know what I'm about to say. This game is brilliant. So brilliant in fact that I contemplated cancelling the column this week just to get more playtime in on it. But my loss is your gain, as I've recognized the importance of making it clear that you need this game, you need it so bad.

Pretty Pretty Boom Boom

ud_ss01.jpg The first thing that strikes you about this game is how absolutely polished it is. While graphics and audio are not necessarily the most important aspects of a shooter, it certainly doesn't hurt when a game looks and sounds as good as it plays. Under Defeat is polygon-based and has enough eye candy to easily stand alongside other wonderfully designed 3D shmups such as Gradius V and Ikaruga. The environments are diverse and detailed, with little elements that really add to the experience such as trees swaying from the force of explosions and cows falling over in shock during the first stage alone. Shoot an enemy helicopter while its sliding onto the screen and it wipes out, spinning and plummeting to it's death with a satisfying boom. Larger enemies and elements of destructible scenery produce plumes of dark smoke. Your secondary weapon emits a beep when it's ready to charge up and a metallic thud when it's locked and loaded, audio cues that help you keep your eyes on the action. And you've also got the option to play through the game with the original soundtrack or the excellent arranged soundtrack. It all helps to really enhance the mood of the game and get your adrenalin pumping.

Twist and Shoot

under_defeat.jpg Fortunately, Under Defeat has some great gameplay that lives up to the promise of it's graphics. Your helicopter is outfitted with front guns and a few of the standard screen-wiping bombs for escaping those tough spots. To supplement your main shot there is a secondary gunpod that delivers additional bursts of firepower and recharges when you stop shooting. The gunpod can be equipped with one of 3 different weapons. They range from the low-powered but quick-to-recharge vulcan, to a medium-powered cannon, and finally an impressively destructive high-powered rocket with a significant blast radius. If an enemy or object is destroyed by your gunpod its point value is doubled, making its use integral to playing for score. Another nice touch is the rotation of your helicopter either slightly towards or away from the direction you're moving in. Aggressive players will likely go for the first option, while the second offers a more intuitive approach if you're more likely to be shooting at things that you're running away from.

You Can Defeat Me All Day Long

Overall Under Defeat is a dream to play, and a pleasure to look at. The gradual increase in difficulty between levels, easy to grasp scoring system and flexible gameplay make it a great choice for beginners just learning to love bullets, and plenty of fun for veterans of the genre as well. G.Rev definitely has another hit on their hands here and their continuing support for the Dreamcast has gained them quite a loyal following. So if you're looking for some hot helicopter-on-helicopter action, this is where it's at. Glad that's done with, now I need to get back to playing.

[Jeremiah Johnson is co-founder of chipmusic and computer-art collective, 8bitpeoples.com based out of New York City. Working with Game Boys and NES consoles to create music, he has been featured in various publications ranging from Wired to Vogue.]