Title: Arcade Archives Plus Alpha
System: Nintendo Switch (eShop)
Release Date: 04/16/2020
Being a vertical game in the Arcade Archives format, everything about those menus and options from my previous reviews still apply right here. There have been a few minor tweaks to this, such as how enlarging the screen doesn’t cut off the display in the High Score or Caravan modes anymore, but you still can’t play those game modes with a vertical positioning. There’s even some unused music from the game that plays if you mash up on the main menu as a cute easter egg.
For the actual game, Plus Alpha looks nice and colorful, giving a vibe akin to the Twinbee series from Konami, with you controlling a red plane as you shoot down goofy looking enemies over colorful backgrounds. It’s definitely a cute em up, looking and sounding the part with some pretty stellar music to boot! For a late 80’s arcade game, the 16-bit presentation is also a nice touch. Playing this game in vertical mode with a flip-grip is just a pure dream come true, as vertical play makes all the pixels even crisper and causes the colorful world to pop out more.
Plus Alpha is a vertical shooter, where the main objective of each stage is to make it to the end and take out the end boss, following the tropes of most similar shooters. Likewise, Plus Alpha allows the player to get differing powerups, and stock up on the screen clearing bombs that can help you in a pinch.
You have three different weapons you can pick up, with the standard three way shot, a wavy shot, and a wider shot. Despite what you may think, picking up another of the same weapon icon does not increase the damage or power of your weapon. Rather, you have to hope for a specially marked powerup icon to show up, which upgrades your current weapon. Compared to the weapons themselves however, these icons are pretty rare, with me finding hyper bomb pickups more often than the upgrades, leaving me to prefer the wave weapon since it’s the most effective at base level.
Each of the stages moves along at a fairly fluid pace, not really overstaying their welcome and being packed with lots of enemies to shoot for points. The only time I really felt the game slow to a crawl was the third stage, which takes a bit longer and ends in a very tedious boss that requires you to blow out its beehives one by one. Considering the fast paced nature of most other shooter bosses, and how you will go back to a checkpoint if you die in this game, this beehive boss is a frustrating pace breaker to say the least, but at least this ACA version allows for unlimited continues if you so desire, and once you get past him the game feels a lot more normal.
Plus Alpha may end up looking like a typical shooter, and while it does feel a lot like most other vertical shooters, it’s way more comfy to play. The controls are really tight, with your jet feeling just right, and the levels are pretty darn fun and perfect for score chasing. In fact, I consider this game to be one of the best titles for the usual High Score and Caravan modes that these Arcade Archive titles make standard. The five minute time attack works perfectly for a easygoing breeze, as it ends around Stage 3 or so, so it’s by far the best way to pick up and play.
In conclusion, Plus Alpha is a fairly typical vertical shooter, but it’s one of Jaleco’s best. The enemy placement feels just right, the weapons are incredibly fun to use, (low amount of powerup icons non-withstanding) and the stages are usually the perfect length. As a score chaser, Plus Alpha excels at being addicting and well-polished, but otherwise, the game really doesn’t do much new for the time, and there’s not even two player co-op.
Still, considering how much this reminds me of some of Psikyo’s early titles due to its brief nature and well-designed stages, Plus Alpha is a vertical shooter not to miss out on, and is easily one of the best vertical games you can get.
I give Arcade Archives Plus Alpha an 8 out of 10.