In the last of our current looks at the Data East Johnny Turbo Arcade series from FTE Entertainment, we have “Shoot Out.” Originally released to arcades in 1985, this gallery shooter may seem a bit rudimentary at first glance, but it is one of the formative predecessors to many games that are considered to be absolute classics. Is it still worth a look today?
Data East was a fairly prolific arcade game, pinball, and console developer and publisher in the 8 and 16-bit eras. They never had any smash hits outside of BurgerTime, but even that doesn’t hold the same universal recognition as, say, Galaga or Donkey Kong. What they did, however, was lay a lot of baseline groundwork to many genres of games, refining a basic concept into an intermediate phase.
Shoot Out is no exception to this example. It takes the basic concept of a lightgun gallery shooter (think Wild Gunman or Hogan’s Alley), and translates the experience to an entirely joystick-and-button-controlled affair. The player assumes the avatar of a detective going after (what appears to be) organized crime in a fairly 1920’s-esque setting. For 1985, the game does have decently refined mechanics. Five-way shooting and rolling dodges allow you to take out enemies quickly, if not easily, as this game is hard. The graphics are clean and sharp, and it’s very easy to pick out your enemies and obstacles. The music is also catchy and fits the setting well, with a jazzy, roaring-20’s type of vibe.
But is it good? Well, yes and no. It’s extremely basic. It’s repetitive, random, and it’s crushingly hard. If you’ve enjoyed some of the JTA series’ 16-bit entries, this isn’t on the same level. It plays well, absolutely. It looks and sounds great. It’s not janky, and the setting is very charming, but it’s extremely dated. While something like Pac-Man or Galaga has held up due to the absolute simplicity of their presentation, these intermediate stages of games, as we’ve discussed in the past, don’t tend to stay relevant or hold up well as time passes. The team at FTE did an amazing job with this port, but the game just doesn’t inherently hold up to modern sensibilities.
Now, if you are looking to scratch that gallery-shooter itch, there are many options available on the Switch. Nam 1975 from the Neo Geo archives collection is the first one that comes to mind. Want something a little more flippant and a little more modern? Check out the ridiculously good modernization of Wild Guns by Natsume.
In retrospect, Shoot Out is an important historical note in moving the gallery shooter forward from a coin-op novelty to a real game genre that deserves everyone’s attention. Unfortunately, it doesn’t do anything beyond that, despite the excellent conversion work by the developer.
I do want take this opportunity to send some sincere appreciation to the good folks at Flying Tiger Entertainment. They’ve lovingly ported many fantastic, and rare, arcade games from Data East to the Switch, and done an incredible job across the board. Just from a preservationist standpoint, (fun games aside!) their work holds true value to the enthusiast, and for that alone I say well done, and thank you.
Charlie’s first attempts at gaming did not go well. Repeated, failed run-ins with the first Goomba in Super Mario Brothers 1 plagued his maiden gaming voyage. Undaunted, he would go on to become an avid gamer of all platforms, with Nintendo always sitting atop the highest pedestal. Except for that Halo 3 incident in 2007. We don’t talk about it. It never happened.
Currently, Charlie enjoys playing games on as many platforms as he can get his hands on, with current favorites being the Switch, 3DS and Neo Geo. When he’s not playing games, Charlie is a live sound engineer and manager for his production company, Clear Harmonies, based in Washington, D.C.
Charlie enjoys talking about games nearly as much as playing them, and loves meeting new people, so hit him up!
Plays: All of them games. Seriously.