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Video Game / Tiger Heli

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Tiger-Heli is the one of the very first games by the Japanese developer Toaplan, and was originally a 1985 arcade game, which later received a very successful NES port. It's a classic Vertical Scrolling Shooter, in which you control a small attack helicopter across the four huge rolling stages full of enemies and other stuff to blow up. It was arguably the first ever title to bring the "smart bomb" into the world of shmups, as any of the heli's two bombs destroyed all enemies and their bullets on the screen. It also featured side- or forward-shooting Attack Drone helicopters, similar to last year's 1942.

As one of the first vertical scrollers, Tiger-Heli is somewhat short, but it still contains many of the elements of later Toaplan titles. Stages are big and detailed, and enemies are numerous and well-placed It was popular enough to warrant a Spiritual Sequel of sorts, Twin Cobra.

Tiger Heli was rereleased alongside Twin Cobra as part of Toaplan Arcade Garage: Kyūkyoku Tiger Heli, a Compilation Re Release for Nintendo Switch and PlayStation 4 as part of the M2 ShotTriggers series. It also includes the NES port of Tiger Heli, the PC Engine, Sega Genesis, and NES versions of Twin Cobra, a co-op 2-player version of Kyūkyoku Tigernote , Guardian available as add-on DLC for the digital version and included with the physical version, and a download code for Teki Paki. Kyūkyoku Tiger Heli was released on October 28, 2021.

Tiger-Heli provides examples of:

  • Attack Drone: Unlike 1942, these actually shoot with you! Shoot white or red crosses to make the resulting mini-heli fire either forward or sideways. Like 1942, they can be shot down; unlike 1942, letting them live gives you points.
  • "Blind Idiot" Translation: The Kyuukyoku Tiger Heli version of this game features a Battle Achievement gadget that shows your performance history for each section of the current stage. However, the three sections are described in English as "First Half", "Middle Half", and "Second Half". Apparently, three halves make a whole now.
  • Bottomless Magazines: Your main weapon. Bombs, on the other hand, not so much. You can get bombs back by shooting the green crosses.
  • Checkpoint: Helipads at the start and the end of each stage. They recharge your life as well.
  • Collision Damage: Averted and justified; there are no aerial enemies, so you can't be killed by crashing into enemies. There are a few jet fighters that come out of nowhere and zoom across the screen, but they are harmless.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: Even though Toaplan games in general are very retro by modern shmup standards, Tiger Heli features a lot of elements that shows that the company was still trying to establish its style:
    • You can only have up to two bombs, and instead of there being a line of bomb icons at the bottom of the screen, they're shown on your helicopter. Furthermore, if those bombs are hit, they will auto-detonate instead of your chopper being destroyed; later Toaplan games drop auto-bomb mechanics (outside of the much later-released Toaplan Arcade Garage Updated Re-releases).
    • There is no "bullet sealing" mechanic (an Anti-Frustration Feature implemented in later games where enemies will not fire if you are too close to them).
    • There are only four stages. Later Toaplan games would have at least five.
    • There are only two background tracks that play during gameplay, and which one plays depends on whether you have Little Helis or not. Later Toaplan games have the more conventional approach of each stage having dedicated music.
    • There are no boss battles.
    • Toaplan is not credited in the initial arcade version (due to their contract with their publisher Taito); later games credit them on the title screen.
  • Easier Than Easy: Super Easy mode in the Kyūkyoku Tiger Heli Compilation Rerelease. The game's difficulty DIP switches are set to the lowest possible, the player's chopper moves faster, the player's Little Helis are more durable, and auto-bomb activates when the player is hit anywhere, not just in their bombs. However the game ends after the first loop.
  • Endless Game: Really endless, and not in the procedurally generated River Raid style. Here it's just Stages 2-4 repeating over and over again, with ever-increasing difficulty. Averted in the Super Easy mode in Kyūkyoku Tiger Heli, where the game ends after one loop.
  • Every 10,000 Points: Every 80,000 points you get a new life. You can also get lives by shooting ten gold diamonds.
  • Guide Dang It!: Every stage has several "Secret Bonus Cars" that, when shot, award 10,000 points each. Given that 10,000 points is 1/8 of an extra life, this is a huge deal. To get each one to spawn, you must approach their spawn areas with the number of shots you've fired throughout the game being a multiple of 16 (16, 32, 64, etc.). Not only are the Secret Bonus Cars not hinted at, but there is no on-screen counter of how many shots you have fired, so good luck trying to spawn the cars on purpose. Alleviated in the Kyūkyoku Tiger Heli port with the Shot Counter gadget so you can count your shots, and the map gadget will show where the cars will spawn...but you can only use the map gadget if the screen orientation is set to horizontal rather than vertical.
  • Mooks, but no Bosses: As one of the earliest shmups, it has no boss fights whatsoever. The closest any enemy comes to being one are the large tanks in the later stages, but the screen doesn't stop to make you engage them and they don't take that many hits to destroy, making them Elite Mooks rather than proper bosses.
  • No Plot? No Problem!: As with most of the genre.
  • One-Hit-Point Wonder: You and the most enemies.
  • Scoring Points: Basically your only goal.
  • Smart Bomb: Press button 2 to destroy anything in a sizable circle around you. Interestingly, if you're hit from certain angles and have a bomb on that side of the heli, the bomb will go off. Carrying these to the end of stages also gives you points.
  • Variable Mix: The music switches to a faster-paced and more cheerful track when you have at least one Little Heli in tow.