Treasure’s esteemed vertical shoot-em-up Ikaruga remains one of my favourite games. Though it, and other games like it have a lineage that’s nearly a straight line back all the way to Space Invaders, Ikaruga’s colour-switching mechanics presented something new to an iteratively derivative genre that mostly saw innovation through added enemies and more on-screen bullets.

Rival Megagun, a split-screen competitive shoot-em-up from Spacewave Software is one of those games that adds to something previously done. Neo-Geo shooter Twinkle Star Sprites is the first game to my mind that introduced a competitive edge to the genre. In that game, players progressed, initially facing off against identical enemies, with combos and chains sending extra enemies off to the opponent’s side of the screen. It played like a shmup but had the soul of competitive puzzle games like Super Puzzle Fighter II.

That soul carries through to Rival Megagun, which plays in much the same way. The screen is split into two and your rival – in both single and multiplayer modes – is initially presented with the very same enemies you are. The more enemies you blast to bits, and the longer you keep your chains going. Once those combos expire, the higher your chain, the more damaging drones fly off to the other side off the screen. It’s something that requires a bit of balance because you want to maintain a momentum of keeping longer combos, but a single hit obliterates your combo. It means you not only have to dodge and manoeuvre through a hellish torrent of bullets, but you also need to keep an eye on how your opponent is doing.

The balance of risk and reward is further highlighted by a power meter. As you destroy the enemies on your side of the screen and stack up combos, you also full up a power meter bar. Holding down a button to charge and then use it allows you to directly attack your opponent with a special attack – but you must stop firing at enemies to do so. On top of that, a filled power meter allows you to transform into a Megagun. That effectively turns you into a boss character and puts you at the top of your rival’s screen, letting you unleash your own bullet hell as an overpowered beast. Oddly, there’s no penalty to using it if you don’t manage to kill your opponent. All that happens is you return to your side of the screen. It would make for a tenser experience, if using the Megagun was a bit of a gambit.

There are a handful of different pilots with different primary attacks, special attacks and Mega gunships. One might have a spread shot and proximity mines, while another will have standard shots and homing missiles. The differences are mostly minor, but there’s enough variation to make things interesting. There’s a full arcade mode, and each character has a story – but it’s all meaningless waffle and window dressing.

Rival Megagun is at its best when played with other human beings, which makes it perfect for the Switch. Two players can play on the system with a pair of Joy Cons, and while it can be a little tricky to make out what’s going on the switch’s diminutive screen, it’s still a blast to play in table-top mode. The game features online play too, but it’s honestly – and unfortunately – a bit of a ghost town. Though the option exists to play head-to-head against AI, it’s definitely best if you have actual people to play with.

It’s repetitive and loses its charm unless you have people to play against, but it’s still an intense shooter that’s good for a few hours of fun.

Last Updated: January 9, 2019

Rival Megagun
Rival Megagun plays like a shmup but has the soul of competitive puzzle games like Super Puzzle Fighter II. Undoubtedly fun to play with others, it loses its charm when played against the AI. It's a neat idea that's been imperfectly executed, but still manages to provide a few hours of head-to-head fun.
7.0
Rival Megagun was reviewed on Nintendo Switch
71 / 100