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Released: 1996

Genre: Shoot-'em-up

Format reviewed: Neo Geo CD

Publisher: SNK

Developer: Saurus

Being a retro shoot-em-up fan can be a roller-coaster ride when it comes to discovering true gems. For every Thunder Force or Gradius, you’ll find a dozen clones which serve only to drown out the thrill of the genre. Thankfully, unknown gems do exist, and one of the best is the Neo Geo CD release of Ironclad – or Choutetsu Brikkinger to give it its Japanese title.

I discovered this classic on the Nintendo Wii Virtual Console in 2010 and became hooked. Back then, I loved everything the game had to offer; the graphics were amazing for a mid-90’s release, the upbeat music kept driving me through the vast and varied levels, and I’d spend far too much time taking out huge bosses with my R-Type ‘Force’-like ships and power-ups. Best of all, completing the game wasn’t the end either, as the branching level structure meant you could take alternate routes through the story to see a variety of endings.

In 2016, I’m even more enamoured because, thanks to emulation, I’ve been playing the Neo Geo CD release which, as you’d expect, has an even better soundtrack!

If you’re after a reasonable shoot-em-up challenge, wrapped up in excellent presentation and superb audio, tracking down Ironclad should be your next priority. It isn’t the most original of games, but that lack of innovation doesn’t stop it from being one of the Neo Geo’s finest releases.