Taking a Last Stand Against the Empire

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 Hellfire.

Hellfire is a horizontal-scrolling shooter that puts players in command of a starfighter. On one hand, this is one of those arcade titles that was a byproduct of its time with all the hallmarks of a science fiction themed SHMUP. It’s also a unique entry as it was Toaplan’s first horizontal-scrolling shooter. 

Liberating the Galaxy

Details of the story vary based on the region the game was released but the main plot remains the same. In a desperate attempt to regain the six planets conquered by the sinister Guild Empire, a counter-offense is launched by Captain Lancer of the rebelling forces. Their only hope for success is a new and powerful starfighter dubbed, Hellfire.

Science fiction themed games were among the many staples of the arcade scene during the 80’s. All of them had a plot about the player having to either save their planet or the galaxy. The story is simple and easy to follow as everything you need to know is told in the first few seconds.

Hellfire was just one of many titles from this era that offered such an experience. It was also unique in so many ways from its design choices to the new direction taken by Toaplan. Highly praised in its day while its overall legacy has lived on through those who work to preserve classic games. Remasters like this present a look at what that arcade scene was like back in the day. 

Take to the Stars 

This was Topalan first attempt at a horizontal-scrolling shooter but you wouldn’t notice unless someone told you. Hellfire does everything right when it comes to being a science-fiction themed shooter. It’s still an intense shooter but having undergone some modern updates. Gameplay has players take command of the titular fighter as they battle waves of enemy ships and emplacements. Along the way, you will pick up power-ups that will give your weapons a major boost. 

An element unique to the game is switching between the direction you’re firing your weapon. Instead of using the joystick to control the direction of your attack, you use the B / LShift button (depending on your preferred controls). This concept is unusual but also interesting. It’s a reminder of the many ways developers were experimenting back in the days before many concepts became standardized.

Since this is a classic SHMUP, one could enjoy this solo or play with a friend. Finally, you have to appreciate how you can customize the overall experience. One could experience the original Hellfire from their youth or either the European or Japanese versions. Players could also customize the difficulty to either offer a challenge or make it easy to enjoy. 

Enemies from Behind

Like I said before, the way you change the direction of firing your weapon is unique. It could also be annoying when the combat gets intense and you need to change the direction of your attack. This is even more true if you are mostly use to playing with twin joysticks. But that is not the only issue I have with Hellfire.

There are moments when the level gets bottlenecked with enemies, emplacements, and the set pieces. Fighting the waves of enemy forces is already a challenge on its own. The problem is made worse because the game seems to push you into the emplacements or the set pieces. These moments are annoying and at times make me want to stop playing because of the frustration of trying to navigate these sections.

The keyboard controller layout is also wonky but this is an issue with other titles in the Toaplan Arcade Shoot ‘Em Up Collection Vol.2.

Defeat the Empire

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 Hellfire, a science fiction themed SHMUP that was also the developer’s first forte into horizontal-scrolling shooter genre.

Hellfire paved the way for classics like Zero Wing while the remaster perfectly encapsulates that experience. If you grew up playing it in the arcade then you absolutely will need to pick up the remaster. Fans of retro games will also enjoy experiencing this classic. 

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

Hellfire (PC)





  • Easy to learn gameplay mechanics and non-stop action.
  • Fun to play solo or with a friend.
  • It was Toaplan's first horizontal-scrolling shooter.
  • Experience can be adjusted based on ones preference.


  • Aiming your weapon is very unsual.
  • Level gets bottlenecked at some points.
  • Wonky keyboard controller layout.

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