Fire Shark - Toaplan

Fire Shark (Same! Same! Same!)

Toaplan - Arcade - 1990

Reviewed by Malc

One of the things I don't like about MAME is that it can destroy certain games. Like Strikers 1945 Plus, Nebulas Ray and many others, Fire Shark looks and plays complete pants in MAME. It's slow, clunky, has no sound, and boring. Which is totally wrong in real life, as the pcb is fast, accurate, noisy and deadly exciting.

Although you wouldn't guess it from the MAME version, the word FAST applies accurately to Fire Shark. Whereas Flying Shark was much more leisurely and pedestrian, Fire Shark positively encourages whizzing about the screen at silly speeds. I'd say the game seems about 3 or 4 times as fast paced, with enemies and bullets flying much more rapidly, even on early levels.

Your own ship especially can travel fast - lots of [S] speedups are available, and often I just end up maxxing them out to allow my little bi-plane to escape nasty bullet cul-de-sacs.

It's almost like two different games in fact, when you play at the proper full speed the game transforms from a sluggish shadow in MAME into a free and openly manic blastathon, which can get your adrenalin pumping really quickly. That's one of the reasons I love it so much, and why it is so hi scored (9.5 out of 10)

Two player mode is even more frantic, with things getting suitably even faster and busier still. Probably one of the best 2 player modes around I think, because of the relative rarity of powerup icons, and physical ructions are common between players ("HEY, I LET YOU HAVE THE LAST ONE, YOU GREEDY BASTARD!!").

Graphics wise you can see that things haven't actually improved that much from Flying Shark - in fact things seem to be a little worse - more detailed yet muddier - and bosses are very similar and haven't increased much in size or style. So half a point off for the more drab visuals then. Just half a point, mind.

Sound though, can only be appreciated by playing the pcb, and like the Dogyuun review I did earlier, once again we have perfectly judged arcadey soundtracks to blast along to. Catchy and relevant to the action, lots of fast tracks and pumping instrumentals. Compare this to something else I am playing recently - Burnout 3, with the Skater Punk style vocal tunage it sports - and tell me which one works better? Give me the chip tunes anyday.

Before I launch into the pics, I'll cover weaponry, which is quite simple really. As well as an ugly bomb (try it and see) there are three different weapon types to pickup. There's a green lasery thing, a brilliant firey red blaster, and a cyan coloured wide shot. Nothing that spectacular at the start, but boy do they max out in style. Picking up the same type of weapon does NOT increase power though.

Just watch the intro to see a great sample of the firey blaster doing its maxxed out thing - awesome eh? Even the spread shot looks like a thick spray, leaving just the green laser to be unimpressive visually. Power upping is done by collecting [P] icons - but you have to collect three of them to powerup to the next level. Fortunately there is a little power bar at the top which shows you how many more icons you have to get until the next power up level.

So, Fire Shark is almost as unlike a sequel to Flying Shark as can be, in gameplay terms. It's very fast and frantic, with over the top huge weaponry, a really speedy fast ship, but in one aspect is almost identical...



Rows of Turrets >>

Be careful here as when you get too close to them, they decide to open up and spray 3 bullets your way.

You can showboat a little here by running past them close by, then going back again and destroying them as they pop up.


<< Level one

As usual for level one in most shmups, here is an ideal place to try all the weapons out. I don't like this green laser at all actually, and much prefer the wide shot or the firey blasts. I'd say the green weapon is the dummy weapon of sorts, but maybe it becomes essential later on. Like the initially crap green weapon in Tatsujin II.

Fire Laser! >>

Mmm I do like this weapon lots - it seems to just clear anything in its way. Powered up with one of these I think I'm almost invincible, especially when it starts its wavey side arms thing. That's when the game lets you lull into a false sense of safety eh?


<< Wee Midboss

The large icon-giver blimp in the middle is obscuring the small midboss tank which is throwing firey blasts at you. The blimps are where you get all weapons from, so the game is slightly more like Kyukyoko Tiger in style (rather than Flying Shark which gives you weapons by shooting streams of baddies)

Giant Orange >>

I wonder if it was clockwork? Using bombs at bosses is the way to go - if you find you are bombing during the actual levels then you will end up with NO BOMBS to fight bosses with, and believe me, you don't want to be there. At bosses. With NO BOMBS >


<< Poweredup spread

Nope, I need the spread fire option - there's just too much happening around the rest of the screen to stick with the fire laser.

Big Planes >>

This is where things start to get strategically worse. Knowing you can't hit both the Big Plane and the Wee Planes at the same time, what do you go for first? Especially when you find out the wee planes turn around and fly up your arse.


<< Bone - Ass!

Note my lack of ability in getting a decent bonus at all. The golden flashes popup all over the place but I paid no attention in actually getting any. I shouldn't be allowed near shmups.

Ugly Bomb >>

Losing your weaponry in Fire Shark can be quite serious, as it takes almost two full levels of the game to get it maxxed out. That familiar style of Weaponless Gradius Panic sets in, and you begin to let off those big Ugly Bombs indiscriminately in an effort to survive til powerupped again. Maybe you might be lucky and only need one more [P] powerup to get to the next powerup level. Or maybe you need three. Like I do here.


<< Getting crowded

The beauty of Fire Shark is now evident, by this period the screen is getting extremely busy, with enemies literally throwing themselves at you, stuff coming from all angles, and you will have a super speedy ship and HOPEFULLY, a weapon to go with it.

Failed Takeoff >>

At every little landing bonus break, something always happens in the background. At this stage, the wee chaps on the ground wheeled away a plane while you landed, oh AND this happens too. Pull back, PULL BACK!! AARRGH !!!


<< Not a nasty boss

Quite easy this chap, looking slightly like a paper punch, or an office stapler of some sort. He's a walkover to beat, actually, just batter away til he falls to bits.

Behind you! >>

I'm not very fond of small watercraft that come on behind you, and start shooting right away. And this is what these chappies do.


<< Destroyer

Or him. Either close in really fast and hope for the best, or stay outside the spread range of its fire. Fire Shark encourages stupid on-the-fly decision making.

Nasty Rift>>

Quite hard to see what's going on here actually, what with the dark grey planes swirling about, but what comes afterwards always kills me. A sort of tanks on tracks section - never been past it once, and this time seems like no exception either.


<< Use a bomb!!

A very nicely placed bomb, I must admit.

Use a bomb then >>

Oh, yes, bombs. For some reason, in this game more than any other, I die with a full complement of bombs in stock, and always forget about using them. Maybe because they are so ugly?


<< Having some trouble?

Yes, lots of trouble. Armed with a single fire laser, requiring two more [P] icons til I get to the next powerup stage, I simply can't deal with this, I CAN'T DEAL WITH IT!!!! WAAARGH

If you must emulate, use Shark! - it plays at a much better speed, although the sound is still missing too. I've had quite a few pcbs of Fire Shark over time, and none of them cost me over £30 - so it won't break the bank by any standards.

Apart from a fairly good Megadrive version, Fire Shark has never popped up on any other home consoles as far as I know. I was kind of hoping for a continuation of the Toaplan Shooting Battle series at the time with more and more Toaplan titles on them but they stopped at edition #1 didn't they? Poo. Malc


shmups!   © 1997 - 2007  Malcolm Laurie