Glossary of shmups

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Also called Auto-Shot. A feature found in some shmups which allows you to fire shots continuously by holding down the “fire” button, or a separately-designated “auto-fire” button, instead of tapping the fire button repeatedly. Depending on a weapon’s fire rate, and the situation, using auto-fire may or may not be to a player’s advantage at all times. Older shooters (or depending on a weapon that is gathered) usually required continuous button pressing to keep firing. Rapid fire can be gathered by either turning it on in an options menu, obtaining a certain weapon power up, or flipping on a turbo fire switch on a control pad (Usually a third party pad).

Auto-fire rate

Despite sounding similar, this is NOT the same thing as fire rate. Refers specifically to the amount of shots fired in a single “burst” when using auto-fire : in some shmups this setting is adjustable in the Options menu (or even in-game), while in other cases players will engineer an auto-fire hack to set extra buttons to different auto-fire rates to use in different situations. Usually, the auto-fire rate is represented in Hz, representing how many times the shot button is pressed per second. For instance, a 30hz auto-fire rate means that the shot button is being pressed 30 times a second.



Also called Combos.

Any of a number of various repeated techniques a player can perform to increase the points awarded for shooting enemies, collecting items, or other things under the right circumstances: the most common varieties involve shooting down many enemies (or enemies of a specific type) in a row, or collecting a certain type of score item many times in a row.



Also called Round.

A successful completion of all of a shmup’s levels that are available for one “trip” through the game, from beginning to end. The term “loop” is most commonly used when a shmup starts itself over at the first stage after a player completes it, thus sending them through a second “loop,” or “lap,” of the game, which is usually more difficult than the first “loop.” Some shmups offer several successive “loops,” sometimes even ad infinitum, though most have a maximum of one or two. Successive “loops” of a shmup will usually leave the player’s score from the previous “loops” intact, enabling him to reach even higher scores.

Some shmups require a player to one-credit the game in order to reach a successive loop, while others will send the player to it no matter how many times he has to continue to finish the initial run . Sometimes “loops” which occur after the initial trip through the game will only require the player to progress through a limited portion of the game’s total stages, though most of the time they involve all stages; in other instances, later loops can contain a number of various things not seen in earlier ones.

It’s worth noting that some shmuppers do not consider the first, or “original” trip through a game’s stages as a “loop,” but only the successive ones: Thus, to them, the second successive run through is the “first loop”, the third is the “second loop”, and so on. However, most feel free to refer to the original run through a game’s stages as the “first loop,” and progress in succession from there.

Also worth noting is that, in games which contain one or more loops, the way stages are listed oftentimes also notes which loop the stage is in: most of the time, the loop is listed first, and the stage second. For instance, the first few stages in the initial loop of a game would be listed as “1-1,” 1-2,” 1-3,” etc., while the same stages in the second loop would be “2-1,” “2-2,” “2-3,” and so on.


Memory shmup

Also called Memorizer.

A type of shmup, usually horizontal in orientation, which forces a player to repeatedly play its levels and memorize its layout in order to perform effectively, though quick reflexes are also a factor to an extent. The R-Type games are the most well-known examples.


Also called Leech.

To “milk” an enemy, usually a boss, is to gain as many points from the fight as possible by taking advantage of infinite (or semi-infinite) sources of points which are present: in most cases, this involves leaving the enemy alive for as long as is possible, rather than destroying it immediately. Examples include continually grazing shots and repeatedly destroying any endlessly respawning weaker enemies or sub-parts for the entire duration of the battle, rather than attacking the core and ending the encounter quickly. In some cases, a player will have to take additional “unorthodox” actions (such as suicide or power down ) to milk most effectively. Even disregarding this, milking can still be risky, since some milkable enemies become more difficult to defeat if they’re left alive too long; the practice can also, simply put, be boring to the player, due to its highly repetitive nature. Also, if there is a boss timer in effect, in most cases the player will want to be sure to stop milking and focus on destroying the boss before it runs out, or else forfeit the points that the boss would have been worth.



Also called Cannon Fodder, Zako.

Term to refer to common, weak enemies which appear in large numbers at a time during the course of a shmup, but only take a shot or two apiece to destroy, and can thus be taken out in bulk (or “popped”) fairly easily. Literally, zako is the Japanese word for “small fry,” as in fish.



Gameplay system found in many shmups which will automatically adjust the game’s difficulty in accordance with the player’s performance: for example, in many cases more enemies will appear (and/or existing enemies will attack more aggressively) when the player is fully powered up. Some more “extreme” rank systems require that the player purposely avoids powering up, shooting down enemies, etc. in order to effectively increase his chances of survival, although often at the cost of higher scoring opportunities. Some rank systems are controlled directly by the player’s status and can change quickly, while others will continually increase depending on the player’s actions until they “max out,” and efforts to control them can only slow down how fast they increase.



Also called Debris.

Graphical touch found in some shmups, in which “shards” or “chunks” of enemy craft appear to be blown off of them when they are shot or destroyed. In most cases shrapnel is included for purely presentational reasons and cannot directly harm the player, but it can still be a hindrance if enemy bullets are not very distinct, as they can blend in with the shrapnel and become hard to spot.


  • Programming phenomenon commonly found in shmups, in which all onscreen action slows down and/or the frame rate drops when high amounts of separate elements (i.e. enemies, bullets, etc.) appear at once. Can be used to a player’s advantage by giving him more time to react to what’s going on, but can seriously hamper a game’s playability when found in abundance. The amount of slowdown present can be adjusted in some console shmups via the ”Wait” option.
  • In this case, usually presented as two words (Slow Down). An ability found in some shmups, which enables the player to deliberately slow his craft’s movement speed, to assist in dodging tight and/or slow-moving bullet patterns; sometimes also changes the effect of the weapon the player is firing when in use. A few shmups also contain a built-in “slow down” function which can slow enemies and their attacks, but utilization of these is almost always considered a form of cheating.