Review: Taito Milestones 2 brings classic shooters to the palm of your hands

Taito is one of those companies that has been around for seemingly forever in the videogame space. Home to some of the biggest hits in arcades such as Space Invaders, even though they’ve been fairly quiet as of late, it doesn’t mean there isn’t a time to enjoy some of the classics that made the company a household name during their golden days. 

Taito Milestones 2 is the second entry in their compilation of old games, and fantastic shoot ‘em ups  like Darius II and cute-as-all-hell platformers in the vein of The New Zealand Story help elevate an otherwise pretty barebones collection to something worth picking up. We’re talking about ten games here, in order of their original releases:

Ben Bero Beh (1984)

The Legend of Kage (1985)

Kiki Kaikai (1986)

The New Zealand Story (1988)

Darius II (1989)

Gun Frontier (1990)

Liquid Kids (1990)

Solitary Fighter (1991)

Metal Black (1991)

Dinorex (1992)

It’s worth noting that Darius II is presented in ultra widescreen since the version that’s included here is the amazing three-screen setup that Taito had going on in the late 1980s, and it’s just as fantastic as it sounds in motion. And while the shooters included in this are pretty much the highlight, some of the platformers are also neat in their own way.

But let’s get the odd ones out of the way first. Ben Bero Beh, although slightly noteworthy because of its beautiful visuals, is very dated gameplay-wise. As a curiosity, though, not to mention historical value, it’s not something you’ll play a whole bunch of but it’s neat to have in this. 

taito milestones 2, gun frontier
Gun Frontier’s graphics are a standout feature: they’re badass!

As for Dinorex, man, the best description for it is that it looks like a take on Primal Rage if Ray Harrihausen had a go at making dinosaur fighting games using stop motion. It plays as slow as it looks and even if it was fast, the moveset and roster is plain jurassic. Pun most definitely intended.

The Legend of Kage, although revolutionary for the style of gameplay it started, is one of the games in this compilation that has probably aged the worst. Yeah, in it you play as a martial artist with the knack of jumping extremely high and somewhat gracefully, in the vein of wire-works in Hong Kong movies, but it makes for some of the most imprecise hit-detection you’re likely to find in a game ever. 

Now, Solitary Fighter is one of those games that has probably tricked a lot of kids out of their quarters back when it was in arcades. It features beautiful, huge sprites, but it’s not a whole lot of fun to play due to its unresponsive and frankly confusing controls. In it, you can play as one of a handful of fighters and duke it out in multi-plane stages. Too bad it’s, well — bad.

taito milestones 2, metal black
Shootin’ in spaaace!

Liquid Kids has you playing as a platypus and that alone would be enough to get me excited about playing it, but much like the other games I’ve talked about so far, it features very unresponsive controls and a gameplay loop that’s not enjoyable at all, having you throwing water bombs at enemies in order to leave them exposed to your kicks. Jumping is the worst offender here since it’s so slow to come off, you’ll be falling into pits constantly.

Rounding out the shooters that I absolutely loved reliving and discovering, aside from Darius II which I already touched upon, is Metal Black with its power-ups that constantly litter the screen and make you a power to be reckoned with. In terms of depth, it’s probably the least exciting out of the bunch, but it more than makes up for in being a fun romp where you are almost unstoppable all throughout the battle.

Kiki Kaikai might sound unfamiliar to most, but it’s actually just Pocky & Rocky, wherein you play as a shrine maiden tasked with protecting the world against evil. You’ll engage pretty much like you would in a vertical shooter, but on foot, as you fire off incantations and wave around your purification stick in order to defeat nearly endless waves of enemy demons coming down on you from the top of the screen. 

taito milestones 2, liquid kids
I’m neither a duck or a raccoon, but I’m all business!

At the opening of this review I mentioned Gun Frontier, and it’s one of the better shoot ‘em ups in Taito Milestones 2. The lone ship shooter that scrolls vertically, it’s one of the most unique of all thanks to its vibrant mixup of Western and sci-fi, in the vein of Natsume’s Wild Guns. It’s just dumb fun flying around and blowing the ever loving crap out of everything, and in that, it delivers in spades.

Now, The New Zealand Story takes a similar approach to Liquid Kids in having an extremely cute protagonist, but differently from that one, it’s much more tight when it comes to controls and albeit very simple in gameplay, it’s surprisingly engaging and fun. This is the sort of game you’ll find yourself playing when looking to waste a few minutes, and in doing so you’ll be entertained for sure.

If you’re the sort of player that enjoys having at the palm of your hands a quick and dirty compilation of retro games to enjoy, you’re sure to find something to like in Taito Milestones 2. Unfortunately, if you come into this hoping to find a thoughtfully put together package full of bonus material and extras, you’re going to be disappointed since it only features the standard features such as borders and a couple of scanline options.

taito milestones 2, darius 2
Darius 2 in widescreen looks positively amazing.

Then again, in terms of historical archival purposes, Taito Milestones 2 does in fact have some value since most if not all of the games included aren’t legally available for play elsewhere, which goes to show how badly videogames are in need of better forms of preservation. 

As it is, though, you’re likely not to find a better or more efficient way of playing these outside of emulation, and the fact that it’s on Switch only makes it more worth your while. If you don’t mind the straight-to-the-point approach that Taito decided to take with this by not including anything other than the games, by all means pick up Taito Milestones 2. There’s bound to be something you’ll find yourself liking among the list of games included in it. 

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