Piloting the Fire Shark

Toaplan Arcade Shoot ‘Em Up Collection Vol.2 is a collection of arcade shooters that either defined the genre or influenced a generation of gamers. At the same time, it takes gamers back to the era when the arcade dominated the video game world. Among the titles in the collection is Fire Shark.

A sequel to Flying Shark, this vertical-scrolling shooter once again puts players in command of a biplane fighter aircraft. It’s one of those arcade titles that was a byproduct of its time with all the hallmarks of a military-themed SHMUP. At the same time, it’s a massive improvement compared to its predecessor in so many ways. 

Take to the Skies (Again)

Details of the story vary based on the region the game was released but the main plot remains the same. This summary will be based on elements every version of the game shares. The year is 19X9 and Strange Fleet armada has launched an invasion on every corner of the globe. The only warrior who can stop them is the pilot of the legendary Fire Shark.

Military-themed games were a staple of the arcade scene and this one from the tail end of that era. The plot has players go behind enemy lines and take out their forces. Fire Shark was just one of many arcade games of this era that offered such an experience. In its day; the game was highly praised while being one of the most successful arcade titles in 1989. The remaster gives gamers the chance to experience this classic either once again or for the first time. 

Liberating the World

Right away you will notice how the visuals are a complete upgrade from its predecessor. Fire Shark is more colorful and more detailed when compared to Flying Shark. On the surface, it does look nice and makes the world more unique. You also have to admire the technical leap as the gap between Flying Shark and Fire Shark is only 2.5 years. 

Gameplay is a more fast-paced experience that strikes a balance between being a traditional vertical scrolling shooter while also having undergone some modern updates. Players take on the role of the titular plane as they battle waves of enemy forces. Along the way, you will pick up power-ups that will give your weapons and aircraft a major boost. Weapon upgrades will boost your firepower while also allowing players to switch between a machine gun, flamethrower, or plasma gun.

Since this is a traditional arcade SHMUP, one could enjoy this solo or team up with a friend via local Co-Op. Playing it solo is fun but I enjoyed it more with a friend by my side.

Enemy forces are made up of tanks, planes, battleships, gun emplacements, and airships. At the end of each level, players will go one-on-one with the boss. Each boss will present their own challenges that will test the players’ skills and make them think fast. Do expect to die multiple times before having a good idea of your enemy and the battlefield.

Finally, you have to appreciate how you can customize the overall experience. A player could experience the original Fire Shark  from their youth or either the Korean, Hong Kong, or Japanese versions. Players could also customize the difficulty to either offer a challenge or make it easy to enjoy. This is made possible by altering the number of lives, using assist features, and setting the difficulty level. 

Enemies from Behind

Flying Shark only issue is the controller layout regarding the keyboard. The default layout is odd at best but you will fumble with it until you realize #1 = Start (for some reason). Save yourself the trouble by hitting ESC and go to the Input menu to change the layout. Once that has been taken care of, you should have a good time. Wonky controls is not an issue when playing with a console controller. 

I should note that this is an issue with other titles in the Toaplan Arcade Shoot ‘Em Up Collection Vol.2.

Light the Fires

Toaplan Arcade Shoot ‘Em Up Collection Vol.2 is a collection of arcade classics that were either staples of the arcade or cult favorites. Among the titles in the collection is Fire Shark, a military-themed SHMUP that was an improvement over Flying Shark.

Fire Shark is a traditional SHUMP that perfectly encapsulates the military-themed arcade games while being an improvement over its predecessor. Long before games like Battlefield, these were the titles that let gamers live out their military fantasy. This remaster allows those who played it back in the day to enjoy it once again while introducing it to a new generation of gamers.

Disclaimer: Embracer Freedom provided the game used for this review.

This review is the critique and thoughts of one writer. If you want to see how other critics felt then check it out on OpenCritic.

8Bit/Digi is an independent media outlet that provides an insight into the gamer community of the San Francisco Bay Area

Fire Shark (PC)





  • Visually more detailed and colorful.
  • It's a classic military SHMUP.
  • Fun with a friend or enjoy it solo.
  • Adjust the experience based on your preference.


  • Wonky keyboard controller layout.

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