Kurt Kalata is an ardent video gamer from New Jersey. He has founded websites such as The Castlevania Dungeon, which focuses on Konami's long running, vampire slaying series, and Hardcore Gaming 101, which gives comprehensive reviews focusing on the history of gaming. His most recent book is Bitmap Books' A Guide to Japanese Role-Playing Games. In addition to his own sites and books, his writings have appeared in Retro Gamer magazine, Time Extension and at 1up, Siliconera, and Gamasutra.

HG101 Presents: Unofficial Guide to Konami Shooters by Kurt Kalata

Shoot the core! Join retro gaming website Hardcore Gaming 101 to explore Konami's many contributions to the shoot-em-up pantheon, including Gradius, TwinBee, Parodius, Otomedius, Life Force, Salamander, Axelay, Thunder Cross, Space Manbow, Xexex, and many others!


Shmups and run-and-gunners like Contra go together like peas and carrots and power-ups. Kurt Kalata's guide to classic Konami titles rounds out a superb exploration of some of the best action games of yesteryear, made by the developer that perfected and popularized the genre. – David L. Craddock



  • "I bought this on a whim to satiate a lifelong love of the Gradius franchise, but was amazed how much content, facts, and research went into this book. I bought the kindle copy, but will be upgrading to a physical copy immediately! If you love SHMUPs, Konami, Gradius (and more), video games - you should definitely pick this up."

    – Joe M., Amazon.com review
  • "Super comprehensive write-up about the history of Konami shmups, which is extensive. Written pretty informally/conversationally too, which is kind of a relief. Tons of pictures, well researched, and also a lot of opinion on the games themselves, which I appreciate. Love the book, now I want to get the others."

    – twelvebsix, Amazon.com review
  • "The most in-depth guide for Konami games, anywhere. I can't recommend this enough. I've never seen so much detail in reviews before. The author goes into the most miniscule differences between platforms, which tells you that the team clearly did their homework. Fantstic read. Engaging pictures, and especailly worth it for die hard fans of classic games, shooters, or Konami as a whole."

    – Dave Voyles, Amazon.com review



From a gamer's perspective, the Konami of the '80s and '90s felt like one big happy family. Despite having a huge variety of teams working on completely different games, they often referenced other titles, eventually building up a whole series of in-jokes, and the feeling that all of their games took place in the same insane universe.

Nowhere was this clearer than in Konami's shooter games. Gradius, their first real break out hit, developed a number of tropes so iconic that a whole other parody series, appropriately dubbed Parodius, was created to pay humorous tribute to it. It also weaved in one of Konami's other series, TwinBee, the game that defined the "cute-em-up" term and became its own unique cross media sensation.

Unfortunately, for all of the references and in-jokes, Konami didn't support their shooter series very well outside of Japan. The Gradius franchise only saw sporadic releases in North America, with many titles going unreleased and only appearing years later as a part of compilations. For a long time, the only TwinBee game released was the second one, under the title Stinger, before the series was abandoned. The Parodius games were not released at all, and many arcade-only titles were never ported, leaving many gamers worldwide to only discover them years later through MAME. Oddly enough, the most recent Konami shooter, Otomedius Excellent for the Xbox 360, was released worldwide in 2011, but most of its fan service relied on knowledge of games that had never been released outside of Japan.

This book aims to fill in the gaps of all of the places where Konami's shooters fell through the cracks, to explore their recurring themes, and more importantly, to analyze some of the most exemplary entries of the shoot-em-up genre. Even though many of the titles contained within this book may be unknown to you, I hope that if you've ever played a Gradius or a Life Force game, you'll be inspired to try out some of these other releases.