The Definitive 50 SNES Games: #38 U.N. Squadron

U.N. Squadron takes 38th place on the list of Definitive 50 SNES games. This hard-as-nails side-scrolling shoot-em-up, or “shmup,” began life as a Japanese arcade game named Area 88. It was ported to the SNES and released in 1991 with a number of changes, including a pile of new aircraft, the unfortunate removal of two-player mode, and a number of smaller tweaks.

Despite this game being based on a manga series, there’s not much story here. You must take command of a single small jet and fight back against the rapidly advancing enemy, Project 4.

The game begins with the option to select one of three playable characters: Shin Kazama, Mickey Sychmon, and Greg Gates. Shin can level-up his weapon faster, Mickey can use multiple special weapons at the same time, and Greg can take more damage than the others. At the outset, only one plane is available, but over time, five more can be purchased with money earned through play. Special weapons can also be purchased between levels in order to boost your firepower.

U.N. Squadron plays as a left-to-right scrolling shmup. In some ways, it’s quite typical of the genre. For example, you must pilot a single, small, and vulnerable ship against swarms of enemies and rapidly moving obstacles.

Unlike many others of its kind, like the R-Type games, death is not an instantaneous result of contact. Instead, the player’s ship will drop down to a “danger” zone if struck. Hit again, and you really are dead. Avoid being hit for a few seconds in danger mode, and your ship will recover with only a small amount of its health removed. Watch out though, eventually your life meter will not be able to recover any longer, and you will be stuck in danger mode.

It is also surprising to note that this title relies more on precision shooting than it does on precision flying. Rather than simply staying alive long enough to upgrade into screen-clearing super-weapons, players must be content with a main gun that only fires forward and in short bursts, and other special weapons of limited uses.

U.N. Squadron sports ten tough levels requiring memorization and careful play. It is a gem among the crowded shmup market, and a classic of the Super Nintendo era.

Check back next week for entry 37 on the Definitive 50 SNES games.