When it comes to shooters (and their bullet-hell cousins) I am hardly an expert, but I do enjoy a good SHMUP from time to time. Though I tend toward the side-scrolling variety like Gradius or Macross: Do You Remember Love, I did play more than a little 1942 back in the day. But hands-down my favorite shooter of the top-down sub-genre is Ikaruga—a game that only has one weak point: it ends.
The fan-made game RefleX is a lot like Ikaruga in the sense that the key to the game is your defense rather than simply shooting forward and dodging bullets. But while Ikaruga is centered around changing your ship's polarity—and thus weapon immunity—RefleX is built around your small ship's shield.
The shield is capable of stopping any enemy energy weapon in the game. However, while some energy weapons simply dissipate when they hit the shield, others—namely any and all blue lasers—reflect off your shield and destroy any hapless enemy vessels nearby. This includes everything from heat-seekers to enormous boss beam cannons.
Of course, this shield isn't without its weaknesses. Any physical object, be that a missile or another ship, can pass right through your shield to wreck your ship. Luckily, ships and missiles can be destroyed with your main guns.
But the biggest weakness is that the shield has only enough power to stay active for about five seconds. Also, while your main guns don't deplete shield energy, as long as they are firing, your shields won't replenish. And the lower your remaining shield power, the less bullets your guns fire.
Thus the whole game is centered around choosing when to shoot, when to use the shield, and when to dodge and recharge. Simply put, it's a lot of fun.
To see RefleX in action, check out the video above.
RefleX was released and originally sold for PCs at Comiket 74 in 2008. A free demo of the first four levels can be downloaded from the official site (or directly from here for those who can't read Japanese).