Cyvern (US Arcade)
Cyvern is one of a million arcade shoot-'em-ups, but it's a fun one. Rather than ships, you choose from one of three cybernetic dragons to take on the unnamed threat with. Each fits one of the archetypes of a schmup with their weapon damage and spread: red Altair is good all around, and he possesses the only homing shots once upgraded. Blue Schwarz covers the entire screen in weak shots, and her weak, rapid lightning chain Banish will lock onto enemies that are not too close to her. Ferious may be the smallest and a friendly shade of green, but he has a narrow, powerful shot barrage and an aimable beam of destruction as his Banish.
The game looks good for its time. Animations are smooth, characters and enemies look nice, and the effects of the dragon's elemental shots are interesting. Enemy death explosions do occasionally hide same-colored shots, and this was likely intentional on the part of the designers, but I will elaborate on that later.
The music is catchy while playing, but it's nothing that you'll be humming later. There are a few memorable sound bytes, such as each dragon's unique death roar or the joyful tune that you hear upon defeating a boss.
There doesn't seem to be any plot to speak of, at least judging by the senseless opening cinematic and arcade cabinet's graphics. The entirety of the plot is the default "There's an alien military so go shoot it up". The game loops itself upon victory with an animation of your chosen dragon attempting to "roost" in the launch ship from the beginning, only for it to come under fire. You then play through the same set of levels, but with more enemies and trickier shot patterns.
As for those shot patterns... this IS an arcade game, and it was designed to eat your quarters. Bosses often have aimed shots that come out with no warning while their normal pattern spreads are still on-screen. They also take a lot of punishment, even by bullet hell standards; expect to spend more than a few minutes on each one unless you're playing as Ferious. Enemies can shoot backwards too, whereas you can not. There are also segments filled with enemies whose sole job is to suicide rush you for a contact damage kill, and they are not above launching from the BOTTOM of the screen.
On the defensive side, you do not have much going for you. Altair has an aimed burst shot once he has picked up a few weapon upgrades, but it fires where an enemy currently is rather than where they might be soon; it also does not do much damage. Schwarz's Banish hits pretty much the entire screen in front of her, but it still will not save you from enemies that spawn on the sides or behind. Ferious is VERY vulnerable to enemies that he has missed due to how narrow his spread is. Each character does spawn on each life with two bombs, but they are more suited to clearing bullets than doing damage. The game is generous with power-ups that raise your weapon level to maximum, and in a rare moment for schmups extra powerups past the max level do something other than give you points: if your Banish meter is not full due to using your more powerful attack, weapon powerups fill the meter by a good amount. Make use of that.
While the game is fun, it's full of artificial and unfair difficulty; get used to hearing your chosen reptile cry out in pain right before you shove another virtual quarter into the emulator. You may like the brutal difficulty, but be thankful that you are not using real coins to experience it.