Unofficial Shmups Glossary

Bulletmagnet from the Shmups forum has compiled this awesome glossary of shmup terms, which is great for those just getting into the genre, as well as those with questions about what certain terms mean or are called. Some terms were also taken from the Shooter Lingo section of the now-defunct shmup site Starbase299.

This is a work in progress, and will be updated as new terms emerge and definitions are added. This is by no means the “official” glossary of terms for shmups, but it’s as close as there will ever be, until someone actually publishes one.



  • Usually presented on the screen as an icon spelled 1up to pick up or a symbol meaning the same thing. By gaining a 1up, a player obtains an extra ship/life/chance.
  • In a 2 player alternating game, this indicates the current player’s turn to play.

3-Way: A standard weapon or power-up weapon found in many shooters. Typically, the weapon fires a shot straight forward of the path of the ship, along with two other shots that are angled about 15 to 30 degrees to the left or right (or up and down) of the forward shot respectively.

90° Laser: A recurring type of laser weapon with limited homing properties, which both players and enemies can sometimes use in certain shmups: such weapons usually fire a beam which travels straight ahead of the craft like most weapons do, but if it “senses” an enemy to either side of it, it will “bend” at a 90-degree angle to follow and attack it.


Aimed Shot: An enemy shot which is aimed directly at the player’s craft. Essentially the opposite of spam.

All Clear: See: One Credit.

Alternate View: Type of shmup which features both horizontally- and vertically-oriented levels, though not always in a directly “alternating” order.

Arcade Mode:

  • Most commonly used to describe the “main” play mode available in a shmup which has been ported to a home system from the original arcade game: “arcade mode” is generally a near-exact reproduction (taking into consideration the limits of the home platform in question) of the original arcade release.
  • Can also be used to refer to a shmup’s screen/viewing orientation: in such cases it usually serves as an alternate term for tate mode.

Arena Shooter (also Free-Roaming Shooter): A shooting game, usually “top-down” oriented, which takes place within a confined area, sometimes consisting of separate, linked “rooms,” through which the player usually progresses manually, at his own pace, rather than having a scrolling screen to “nudge” him along, although there is often a time limit in play. Smash T.V. is one example. Not considered “pure” shmups by some players; they are sometimes grouped under borderliners.

Arrange Mode: General term for an “extra” play mode found in some console shmups, alongside the “normal” mode. Usually plays in similar fashion to the “regular” game, but may also include extra stages or selectable craft, new enemy formations or attacks, a different graphical presentation, or other features not found elsewhere. The unique (or semi-unique) names which are used in different shmups to label their arrange modes vary widely.

Auto-Fire (also 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 Hack: A hardware hack most commonly used on arcade machines, with which players will enable extra buttons not used by default on a certain shmup to gain certain autofire functions not otherwise available in said game. As such, in many cases high score competitions will list “auto-fire” and “non-autofire” scores separately for applicable games, since using an auto-fire hack often gives a player a significant advantage over one who does not use it.

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.

Auto-Shot: See: Auto-Fire.


Backfire: A weapon that shoots out the back of your ship. This weapon may be obtained through a power-up, but sometimes is present as a default secondary weapon.

Base Point Value: Term usually found in relation to shmups with some type of multiplier as their scoring system ; it refers to the “basic” amount of points that an enemy is worth when shot down, without being affected by the multiplier or anything else that would alter its value

Blast-‘em-Up: Term used to describe a shmup, usually an older one, which generally does not include any type of scoring system beyond shooting enemies and perhaps collecting set-amount score items. Generally not played “for score,” but instead with the exclusive goal of a one-credit in mind.

Bomb (also Bomber):

  • A special weapon available in limited numbers or at limited intervals, which causes large amounts of damage, covers a wide area, or both. In many cases also gives your ship an invincibility window while it’s activated. A bomb which automatically damages or destroys every enemy onscreen is sometimes called a “smart bomb,” “nuke,” or “mega crush.” Items which can be collected to add spare bombs to a player’s stock are often called “bomb(er) icons.”
  • A weapon which drops to the ground and explodes to attack enemies there, usually featured in horizontal shmups.

Bomb Delay: In some shmups, a small amount of “setup time” or “lag” that occurs between the instant a player pushes the bomb -activation button and the moment when the “bomb” action actually occurs onscreen. An excessive bomb delay can more or less limit the bomb to purely pre-planned, offensive use, since a last-second defensive utilization to prevent being shot down is rendered all but impossible, due to the delay’s enabling a close-range threatening bullet to sneak in and hit the player during the “window” between the command and the action.

Bomb Stock: The maximum amount of bombs that a player can hold in reserve at one time: many times this amount is set in stone for the duration of a game, but in other cases it can either be increased through certain gameplay actions or adjusted in an Options menu. Important to note, since in most (though not all) shmups if a player is shot down he will have his bombs restocked to their default number, even if he has more (or less) bombs than that in stock upon being shot down.

Bonus: One of the things you can run into without hurting your ship besides power ups. A Bonus usually does not give your ship additional powers, but gives you a sizeable sum of points. Some bonuses DO give you power ups. Also, collecting a certain number of bonuses can give you extra points at the level’s end, or more energy, etc. Sometimes the line between bonus and power up is thin. If it only gives points, it’s definitely a bonus.

Boomerang: See: Yo-Yo.

Borderliner: Broad term used to describe “shooting” games that many, but not all, players do not consider to quite qualify technically as shmups. Examples include “run ‘n gun” shooters (Contra, Metal Slug), “rail” shooters (Panzer Dragoon, Star Fox), and “light gun” shooters (Lethal Enforcers, Time Crisis).

Boss: A very tough (and usually very large) enemy to defeat. Bosses are most often found at the end of a stage, representing a final marker to destroy before advancement to the next stage. They mostly have unique attack patterns and loads of different weapons to use to kill you.

Boss Alley:

  • Stage or group of stages within a shmup which are comprised entirely of boss fights, though they’re sometimes interrupted by brief sections filled with power-ups. Unlike Boss Attack, a “boss alley” is not a separate mode, but is located within the “regular” game, usually near the end, though in some cases the player must meet certain extra requirements (such as scoring a certain amount of points) to get there.
  • A rare type of shmup composed entirely of boss fights, with few or no “minor” enemies or other sections of consequence in between successive bosses. When the term is used in this context (to describe an entire shmup, instead of just one section of it), it usually indicates that the game goes a step beyond what is usually defined as a Boss Fest.

Boss Attack (also Boss Rush, Boss Only Mode, Boss Gauntlet): A play mode available in some shmups which allows the player to fight the stage “bosses” only, usually in successive order. Often requires a code or other task to unlock it. Sometimes the mode is timed, which also makes it a variation on Time Attack mode, in those cases.

Boss Counter: See: Boss Timer.

Boss Fest: Term, usually derogatory in nature, used to describe a shmup composed largely or completely of (often lengthy) boss battles, while the remaining portions of levels therein, while present, are usually comparatively short and inconsequential.

Boss Rush: See: Boss Attack.

Boss Timer (also Boss Counter): A countdown timer which appears when fighting boss enemies in some shmups: once it reaches zero, the boss will automatically either escape or self-destruct, ending the battle. Used to limit milking of the boss by the player.

Bullet: The basic, most common unit of firepower in a shmup, usually refers to enemy weaponry but can also be used to describe the player’s weapons, usually the vulcan. Usually appears as a brightly-colored or flashing circle, or “blob,” but its appearance varies greatly depending on the shmup in question, or even when it comes to individual enemies within a single shmup. Most varieties are indestructible. Sometimes the term “shot” or “fire” is used to describe bullets, but the previous terms are farther-reaching, referring to all types of offensive projectiles, while “bullet” is more specific.

Bullet Cancel (also Bullet Eater): Property of certain shmup weapons which allows them to destroy enemy bullets which are not otherwise destructible; in many shmups the bomb has this ability.

Bullet Formation: See: Bullet Pattern.

Bullet Hell: Refers to occasions where the entire screen is filled with enemy fire, making evasion seemingly impossible. A common occurrence in maniac shmups, bullet hell appears to be a hopeless situation, and forces players to rely more on skill and reflexes than pattern memorization. It also frequently causes players to panic bomb.

Bullet Maze: An especially large and/or tight bullet pattern through which the player has to move very carefully, and often nearly nonstop, to get out of without being hit.

Bullet Pattern (also Bullet Formation): A specific recurring formation of enemy bullets , produced either by a single enemy or a group of enemies working in tandem, which must be dodged a certain way to be avoided.

Bullet Spam: See: Spam.

Bullet Sprayer: See: Manic Shmup.


Cannon: See: Gunpod.

Cannon Fodder: See: Popcorn.

Capsule: A delivery system that is sometimes used to give power-ups to the screen (It is capsule shaped). Once a capsule is shot, it will release whatever power-ups it is carrying.

Caravan Mode: Umbrella term used to denote both Score Attack and Time Attack modes.

Chain: 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. Sometimes called combos.

Chain Counter (also Combo Counter): A visible onscreen counter which keeps track of how big/long your current chain is: the bigger/longer the chain gets, the more points are awarded. Often accompanied by a combo time display.

Character Shmup: A shmup which features one or more specific “animate” characters, as opposed or in addition to “inanimate” ships, planes, or the like: usually (but not always) has a more involved plot than non-character shmups, though the storyline in a shmup is generally not very important either way.

Charge Attack (also Charge Shot): A type of weapon attack, usually more powerful than “regular” shots, which usually requires the player to hold down the shot button, or a separate “charge” button, for a certain amount of time before it can be released and used: in a few cases, however, the player has to actually let go of the shot button completely for a certain amount of time for the charge attack to be prepared. Sometimes this type of attack can be used an unlimited amount of times, in other cases it requires the player to collect a certain amount of items or destroy a certain amount of enemies before it can be utilized. In some shmups bomb attacks can also be “charged,” either to “place” the effect area or increase their power.

Checkpoint: A point within a level from which a player can start from after he is shot down after reaching or passing it, instead of at the beginning of the level, usually featured in memory shmups. Some use the term checkpoint to refer to the respawn feature, but the term is more accurately used to describe a specific, “set in stone” point in a level, as opposed to any random instant-restart point.


  • When used as a noun, sometimes more specifically called “chip damage.” Refers to the fact that in some shmups you are awarded a small amount of “chip points” just for causing your shots to successfully hit a target, whether or not it destroys it completely; thus, in some cases using a weaker weapon which requires many hits to destroy enemies can, over time, increase a player’s score substantially.
  • When used as a verb, refers to the specific act of attacking an enemy (or part of an enemy), usually a boss, which cannot be damaged; while this obviously does not help to destroy the target, the player still receives “chip points” for doing so, and thus some players will use “chipping” to milk certain enemies for extra points before actually destroying them.
  • “Chips” is sometimes used as an alternate term for shrapnel .
  • In a few shmups, certain items are referred to as “chips,” though they generally serve the same types of purposes as comparable items in most any other shmup

Cinema: Movie sequences that are sometimes shown at the beginning, middle, and/or ending of a game. Cinema is used to enhance to plot elements of a game. (See also Full-Motion Video.)

Code: A sequence or set of buttons that must be pressed and done at a certain point on the game to unlock hidden features. Example: To get a full set of firepower for the ship in Konami’s game Gradius, a player must be playing the game first. Once they pause the game, He/she can hit on the control pad the following sequence: Up, Up, Down, Down, Left, Right, Left, Right, B, A. If done correctly, the player will be given a cheat that will give their ship a full set of options, speed, and missiles for extra firepower.

Collect-‘Em-Up: Term used to describe a shmup which places more emphasis on collecting lots of items to increase scores than most shmups do. Dangun Feveron is one game which is often associated with this title.

Collision Detection: See: Hit Box.

Combo Counter: See: Chain Counter.

Combo Slop: Refers to a feature of certain types of chain systems in some shmups. In these cases, a player’s combo time counter will not immediately reset itself when a chain is broken, but will instead gradually decrease until the player resumes forming the chain, at which point it will begin increasing as before.

Combo Time: Window of opportunity that exists for a player to continue collecting items, shooting enemies, etc. to keep certain types of time-dependent chains alive: once the combo time has expired, the chain ends and any related cumulative score bonuses reset themselves. Sometimes the combo time is displayed onscreen, often in the form of a meter, while other times the player must keep track in his head. Oddly, while “chain” is usually the term used to describe the sequence itself, “combo” is the most commonly-used word for the time allowed for it. Generally, though, a “combo” and a “chain” in a shmup are essentially the same thing.

Continue Service: A feature found in some shmups which encourages players to continue their game after losing all their lives: usually offers up lots of extra power ups and the like in order to quickly get the player’s craft back up to full strength.

Core: More or less the universal term for an enemy’s main weak spot, usually that of a boss, within a shmup. Stereotypically looks like some kind of orb, but there are endless variations on this.

Counter Stop: Very difficult scoring achievement, only possible in certain shmups. Occurs when a player scores so many points during a run that the score counter simply cannot go any higher, and is thus forced to stop counting points scored before the run is over. Often requires heavy milking on the part of the player to be achieved.

Craft: Semi-universal term for the onscreen object which the player controls in a shmup, whether it is meant to represent a person, a vehicle, or something else: some shmuppers use the term plane or ship in a similar manner, since the majority of shmups use some sort of flying machine as their craft. Onscreen enemies can also be referred to as craft, ships, etc., but usually the term enemy is attached to them so as to differentiate them from the player.

Credit Feed: To take advantage of a shmup which allows unlimited continues, by continuing over and over again until the game is finished, no matter how many times one is shot down. A practice which is looked down upon by many “purist” shmuppers; some, in fact, dislike the practice of ever continuing at all.

Credit Muncher: General term for a shmup which is especially difficult to finish, and requires most players to use a large number of “credits,” or “continues,” to complete the game (arcade-release shmups of this type also have the more general gaming term “quarter munchers” attached to them). Can have either a positive or negative connotation, the former when the game is accessible and fair, yet highly challenging; the latter when the game engine makes seemingly unfair efforts (such as inadequate weaponry, unforgiving hit detection, hard-to-see enemies and shots, etc.) to all but force the player to continue several times before he can complete the game, regardless of his level of skill or experience.

Crowd Control: Refers to any type of weapon which is most useful for dispatching large numbers of minor enemies and usually covers a lot of onscreen space, but is generally lacking in raw power and less effective against bosses and stronger adversaries.

Curtain Fire: Could be considered something of a cross between a wave and a bullet maze; a tightly-packed bullet formation which moves steadily towards the player’s craft and covers most of the screen; such a formation MUST be “waded through” by the player, since it’s impossible to avoid entirely. Shmups which feature such formations prominently are sometimes classified as Curtain Fire Shmups.

Literally, danmaku is the Japanese word for “barrage.”

Cutback: See Jerk.

Cute-‘Em-Up: A shmup whose overall presentation and subject matter is intended to be “cute” or at least not very serious, though the gameplay is usually not radically different from, or less challenging than, most shmups in general. Examples are the Cotton and Parodius series.

Cutoff Mark: Point near the bottom of the screen which, in some shmups, will prevent enemy craft from being able to fire any shots if they move below it. Included to prevent point blank deaths.


Dead Zone: In certain shmups, the point at which a player’s craft is close enough to an enemy to prevent the latter from firing at the former, or releasing suicide bullets upon being shot down; this is sometimes (but not always) built into a game’s engine to reduce or prevent “point blank” deaths to the player. Often becomes smaller and harder to exploit on successive loops or when rank increases.

Death Bullet: See: Suicide Bullet.

Debris: See: Shrapnel.

Deconstruct: See: Dismantle.

Defaults (also Full Defaults, Normal Settings): Term used to describe the “default” settings for difficulty, extra lives, etc. found on a shmup’s “options” menu when they have not been adjusted at all by the player; most “official” high score competitions and such will only accept score entries obtained on default settings. In a few cases the “default” setting on a shmup will not be viewed as “official” (for instance, if the home port of an arcade shmup is by default set lower than the “default” difficulty of the original arcade version), but this varies from shmup to shmup. In some cases separate score tables are kept for varying difficulty settings, etc., but in most any case the “full default” table is at least the “main” one. Generally such options as the view mode or button configuration are viewed as “okay” to change, since they don’t affect the “core” gameplay at all, but simply cater to the player’s personal gameplay preferences, but again, attitudes on this vary from game to game and from player to player.

Dismantle (also Deconstruct): Refers to the act of destroying all smaller “pieces” of a large enemy, usually a boss, for extra points, rather than simply targeting the core to destroy the enemy more quickly. Some consider this a form of milking , but most consider dismantling too “obvious” (for lack of a better term) an activity to be put in the same category as the usually more difficult and obscure “milking” techniques.

Dodge-‘Em-Up: See: Manic Shmup.

Doujin: See: Homebrew.

Drill: Refers to a type of weapon which has qualities similar to piercing, but slightly different; while a “piercing” weapon usually passes directly through an enemy without slowing down at all, a “drilling” weapon will slow down as it passes through an enemy it hits (and sometimes will not make it all the way to the other side of the enemy before dissipating). The advantage of this is that it will usually do more damage to the enemy as it slowly works its way through than a quicker piercing weapon would do, especially if the enemy is very large in size; the disadvantage is that it’s usually not as effective as a piercing weapon for attacking enemies positioned in “rows,” directly behind one another.


Energy: This powers your built-in shield system on your ship. When you are out of energy, one hit will probably kill you. If you do have energy, the energy is depleted by the hit, but your ship/character is not destroyed or killed.

Energy Tank: This either adds to your energy reserve, if it is not full, or increases your energy capacity.

Extend: Term used in shmups to refer to an extra life or 1-Up, usually when awarded for reaching a certain score; as such, the setup of score intervals at which extra lives are awarded in a shmup is sometimes called the Extend Rate.


Fire Rate: Refers to how quickly in succession shots can be fired when a particular type of weapon is used. Weapons with the most powerful single shots usually have slower fire rates, but not always.

First-Person Perspective: Refers to the point of view of how the shooter is played. First Person is when you view the game as with the affect being your own eyes. You do not see the person you are controlling (except maybe a gun) or maybe even the entire ship (only the cockpit).

Flicker: Caused when too many objects are on the screen at once. The system’s processor cannot handle all the moving items thereby causing a “flicking” effect where you see the image or part of it, display on and off the screen. This can be caused by either bad programming and/or poor system design.

Free-Roaming Shooter: See: Arena Shooter.

Full Defaults: See: Defaults.

Full Motion Video (FMV): Sequences of “movie” or “movie like images” that are shown before, during, or after a game. FMV is also refereed to as “cinema” or “cinema sequences”. Although rare, some game companies will also use FMV as their standard gameplay engine, however this usually limits the player on what choices and elements he/she may perform or experience during play. Most often, FMV is used to enhance or enrich the plot of a game and can use either cartoon, computer rendered, or even live-action actors for the cinema.

Full Power: See: Max Power.

Full-Screen Mode: Something of an umbrella term sometimes used to describe any view mode in a shmup which utilizes the entire screen area (most commonly tate mode), without “letterboxing” or any other such limitations.


“Ghetto” Tate: Popular term for a “view mode” (of sorts) used by certain players who want to play vertical shmups in tate mode, but do not want to deal with the risk factors of rotating their television sets; as such, they adjust the game to put its display in tate mode, but instead of rotating their TV, they simply lay on their side and play from there, in effect “rotating” themselves instead of their televisions.

Grid: See: Net.

Gunpod (also Turret, Cannon): A semi-universal term for a common type of shmup enemy which is usually immobile and attached to the ground or a ceiling, but is often able to fire in several directions, and can be difficult to shoot because it is often required that the player to get very close to obstacles to have a shot at them.


Hentai Shmup: From the Japanese hentai, which translates to “pervert.” A shmup which contains graphic nudity and/or sexual content, and is obviously intended only for “mature” players.

Herd (also Hoard, Lead, Lure): A strategy commonly used in manic shmups, which involves remaining still at one point on the screen for a short time, in an effort to prompt all onscreen enemies to fire their aimed shots at you simultaneously, converging their attacks on a relatively small area: thus, if you can move away and escape the barrage just in time, there will remain a large amount of open onscreen area to move around and attack in before the enemy can adjust its aim.

Hit Box (also Collision Detection, Hit Detection, Hit Area):

  • The specific area within a shmup’s onscreen craft which will register as a “hit” when a shot, or, in some cases, an onscreen obstacle, touches it. In some shmups the hit box is (or can be made) separately visible from the rest of the craft, while in others the player must rely on experience to know where it is. The term can refer to such areas as they exist within enemy craft, but almost always refers to the player craft.
  • The specific area within a visible shot, usually near the center, which will register as a hit if it touches a craft’s hit box. In most shmups a shot’s entire onscreen image serves as its hitbox, but in some, especially certain manic shmups, the edge of a shot can overlap a craft’s hit box and it can still escape without being damaged or destroyed.

Hoard (also Herd, Lead, Lure): See Herd.

Homebrew (also Doujin): Refers to a shmup (or other type of game) not produced by an “official” video game developer or “formally” released for the arcade or home market. Usually developed and distributed over the internet by amateur programmers or fans, although some eventually receive limited commercial releases if they become popular enough. While some homebrew shmups include innovations not seen in any existing “official” shmup, many include homage to (or rip offs of, whichever way you care to see it) the creators’ favorite “official” shmups. Also sometimes called freeware shmups, since they are usually available, at least in demo form, free of charge.

For the record, originally, the term doujin (literally, a group of people with shared interests or hobbies, sometimes translated as “clique,” “coterie,” etc.) was used to exclusively describe fan-made works based off of an already-existing product: over time, however, doujin has become acceptable to use to describe completely original fan-made products as well. Also, the word doujin by itself can technically refer to ANY fan-made product (books, comics, etc.), not just games (a more “proper” term is “Doujin Soft”), but since doujin by itself is the most commonly-used term (and the context of its usage can usually tell you exactly what’s being spoken of), that is the one chosen for this glossary entry.


Homing Weapon: A type of weapon in a shmup, usually one which must be collected as a power up, which, when shot, will automatically seek out and damage enemies, usually the closest ones first, without the use of a lock-on (many, however, will classify lock-on weapons as a sub-type of homing weapon). Usually doesn’t have as much raw power as other available weapons.

Horizontal Scroller: Horzie for short. A shmup where the action progresses, via background scrolling, from left to right, and is generally seen from a “side view” by the player.

Hybrid Attack: Rather rare feature found within a handful of shmups, which allows two players playing together to somehow combine their abilities in a specific manner to enable new attacks or other abilities which are not possible when only a single player is present. Several variations exist on exactly how this occurs, obviously, considering the vastly different inherent gameplay systems present in the shmups which include this feature, but in nearly all cases the hybrid attack, as the name suggests, is offense-oriented.


Instant Respawn: See: Respawn.

Intermission: Refers to the FMV or cinema sequences between stages or major plot turns or points in a game.

Invincibility Window: A specific timeframe during gameplay, set off by a specific event, during which a player’s craft cannot be shot down or otherwise damaged. In some shmups taking advantage of brief invincibility windows is vital to survival. Sometimes called a “flash window,” since the player’s craft will often flash or blink while it’s invincible.

Invisi-bullets (also Invisible Bullet Syndrome): Term used to describe a shmup situation wherein the color of enemy bullets , especially small ones, either match or are very close to the color of the background graphics, which makes them very difficult to distinguish and avoid, especially when the screen is crowded. Sometimes only becomes a factor in certain parts of a game, and in other cases is an issue throughout; either way, it is more or less a universal turnoff to shmuppers.

Isometric Shmup: An uncommon type of shmup in which the action is viewed from a “3/4” angle by the player, and the background usually scrolls diagonally down from the upper-right corner of the screen to the lower-left. Viewpoint is one example of this setup.

Item: More or less a universal term for any type of icon or the like which can be collected and utilized by the player within a shmup; includes score items, power ups, and just about anything else that the player can obtain and use. In almost all cases simply flying one’s craft over the item is enough to collect it, and collected items are used automatically, but some items, such as most bombs , require activation by the player after being obtained. Items are generally designed to help the player in some way, but in some cases, especially games with particular rank systems, shmuppers will want to avoid certain items if they are not well-suited to the task at hand.


Jerk (also Cutback): Technique similar in concept to hoarding , but rather than attempting to “condense” enemy aimed shots , a player uses the “jerk” to create an “escape hole” in an otherwise-inescapable aimed stream of enemy shots. As the enemy moves the onscreen stream in the player’s direction, the latter makes a sudden, brief movement in a certain direction: as a result, the enemy will readjust its aim momentarily, and if the player is quick enough he can then backtrack and slip through the momentary gap in the enemy’s shots to the other side of the stream, escaping being trapped at the edge of the screen by the stream’s movement.



  • Refers to certain minor enemies which usually do not shoot at the player, but rather charge directly towards his craft very quickly in an attempt to crash into it and damage or destroy it that way.
  • Type of shmup enemy which explodes especially violently either on its own or upon being shot down by the player, in an effort to either catch the player’s craft in the explosion and defeat him that way, or release suicide bullets or harmful shrapnel to bring him down.
  • Sometimes used as an alternate term for suicide.

Kill Rate: See: Shoot Down Percentage.


Laser: A common type of shmup weapon which generally utilizes some kind of energy beam (as such, they are sometimes called “Beam” weapons). Often possesses piercing abilities, but there are endless varieties of this weapon with widely-differing properties and abilities.


  • Technically refers to a bullet pattern being fired from a single source, but the term usually comes into play when there are several different patterns (“layers”) of bullets present, which must all be dodged simultaneously.
  • Sometimes used to denote the foreground or background of a shmup’s playing field, since in certain cases some enemies can attack from the background “layer,” and you are only able to shoot back from the foreground “layer” with certain types of weapons.

Lead: See: Herd, Hoard, Lure.

Leech: See: Milk.

Letterbox Mode: Viewing mode found in many vertscrollers, usually those converted from an arcade version to a console format, which “condenses” the playing field on the left and right, to recreate the more vertical orientation of an arcade monitor, though often at the cost of some clarity in the game’s graphics. Most shmup players prefer tate mode to this, although at times letterbox mode is their only option.

Lock-On: A specific type of homing weapon which will automatically seek out and damage enemies, but only after you’ve “locked on” to them by passing over or shooting them with some type of targeting device, which varies in style from shmup to shmup.

Loop: 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.

Lure: See: Herd, Hoard, Lead.


Manic Shmup (also Dodge-‘Em-Up, Bullet Sprayer, Twitch Shmup): A type of shmup which is characterized by very high numbers of bullets and/or enemies being present on the screen at one time; forces the player to rely on quick reaction time and dodging skills, rather than memorization of where things are within a level, to survive.

Max Power (also Full Power):

  • Rare type of power-up which instantly increases a player’s weapon power to its maximum level. Sometimes appears as a continue service.
  • Can also describe the state of one’s craft being at its maximum weapon power level, at which point scoring settings or the like sometimes change. (i.e., collecting further power-ups will now increase score).

Memory Shmup (also 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.

Milk (also 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.

For the record, “milk” is the term which tends to be attached almost exclusively to bosses, while “leech” more often refers to enemies in general: however, since most instances of milking/leeching center around bosses, “milk” is used as the primary term here, since it’s used most often.

Mine: A type of shmup weapon which is usually used by enemies, but can sometimes be utilized by the player. A “mine,” when released, will usually either stay in one place or move very slowly; after a) a certain amount of time has passed, b) its target moves close enough to it, or c) it is hit by a shot or otherwise touched, it will self-destruct, leaving behind either a large, damaging explosion, suicide bullets , or some other such nasty “parting gift.” In some cases, enemy “mines” can be prevented from doing this if the player is able to destroy them quickly enough. Certain enemy craft which are able to self-destruct in a similar manner are sometimes classified as “mines.”

Mini Boss: A boss that is found before the end of a level. Most times this type of boss is not as strong as the end of level boss, but will take more time and multiple hits to destroy.

Missile: A wide-reaching term for a common type of shmup weapon, usually represented as some kind of rocket, with varying properties, though oftentimes it is a homing weapon and/or does splash damage. When used by enemies, missiles can often be destroyed by a player’s shots, but not in all cases.

Memory Shmup (also 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.

Multiple: See: Options.

Multiplier: Any variation on a scoring device, implemented to varying degrees in different shmups, which somehow multiplies the amount of points awarded for shooting enemies or collecting items, or both, when taken advantage of by the player. Often the central component to a shmup’s scoring system, especially relatively recent ones.


Naked: Refers to the state of a player’s craft when it has not obtained any power ups or other enhancements, or has recently lost all that it had by being shot down or some such event, and is equipped with only minimal weaponry. Thus, remaining in such a state for very long is usually considered a highly dangerous practice.

Needle: A certain type of laser weapon which fires several short, thin beams at a relatively rapid clip, in a similar manner to bullets , as opposed to the more stereotypical lengthier, slower laser beams. Sometimes also has spread, homing, or other characteristics.

Net (also Grid): A type of bullet pattern which makes use of several crisscrossing streams of shots , which form a “lattice” pattern similar to the stitching of a net. Often covers the entire screen, or most of it. To survive it, the player must watch the incoming shots and quickly judge where the spots in between the streams will be: if he positions himself correctly, he will be surrounded on all sides by the enemy’s shots and unable to move very much (if at all), but can then wait until the attack passes (or, in some cases, be forced to move along with it).

No Miss Clear: See: One-Life.

Normal Settings: See: Defaults.


Old-School (also Raiden-Style): Label for shmups usually characterized by enemies which shoot few (but fast) shots , large hit boxes , and simple scoring mechanics, as opposed to manic shmups, which tend to embody opposite traits. As the name suggests, most shmups of this style are at least somewhat early. Raiden-Style refers to the Raiden shmup series, which is often cited as a template or standard for this type of shmup.

One-Credit: Short for “one-credit completion” or “one-credit clear” (abbreviated “1CC”) which refers to a player’s having managed to complete all stages (one loop) of a shmup without losing all of his lives, thus not needing to continue at all. Often used as a verb, i.e. I managed to one-credit R-Type for the first time yesterday. Similar such terms exist for successfully clearing all stages without losing a single life and/or using a single bomb, but the “1CC” is the most realistic goal for most shmuppers on most games.

One-Hit Wonder: Used to describe a game where a ship cannot survive a direct hit by anything. Most often said of your ship when the game provides no shielding power ups. You can be fully powered up, but one hit will still kill you.

One-Life (also No Miss Clear, Single-Life Clear): Successful completion of a shmup (or a single loop of a shmup) without ever losing a life; even more difficult, obviously, to accomplish than a one-credit , since it requires near-perfect play as far as survival (if not scoring) is concerned. Sometimes abbreviated “1LC” or “SLC.”

Option (also Multiple): A wide-reaching term referring to various types of satellites or other miniature craft which are in some cases omnipresent and in others must be collected as items by the player. Options usually either serve as absorbers of certain types of enemy fire (sometimes they can absorb unlimited amounts of shots , other times they can be destroyed and must be replenished), extra sources of firepower, or a combination of the two.

The term “Option” was first used to describe the orange ovals available as power ups in Gradius (by Konami, first released in 1985), but has since become more or less the genre’s standard term for any similar accoutrements in most any shmup.

Different shmups have varying individual terms for such accoutrements (“Bit,” “Helper Craft,” etc.), but “Option” and “Multiple” are by far the most widely-used words when referring to them “in general.”

Not to be confused with the “Options” menu found in many shmups, and other types of games as well, which allows you to adjust a game’s difficulty level, button functions, and other such settings.


Paint: A technique used for certain types of continuous-fire weapons, such as flame-throwers, which involves the player moving back and forth to “paint” the enemy with broad “strokes” of ammunition to do the most damage.

Pan: Refers to a type of scrolling found in a shmup, usually a vertical one, in which the actual playfield is wider than what is depicted onscreen; as such, when the player moves his craft far enough towards the edge of the visible screen, the latter will scroll, or “pan,” along with it for a certain distance until it reaches the “true” edge of the playfield (if wrap-around scrolling is not present). One might consider it an inverted wobble mode , though unlike the aforementioned this feature is usually built into the game’s core “engine,” and cannot be adjusted to any other setting.

Panic Bomb: Refers to the desperate act of using one’s bomb stock to survive seemingly certain death. Many shmups provide for bomb blasts to eradicate enemy fire, thus allowing the player to escape hopeless situations.

Panorama: Term used by some shmuppers to describe a view mode present in home ports of some vertical shmups. In this mode, the “physical” screen remains “4:3” horizontal, and the “in-game” screen is downsized to fit inside of it, as in letterbox mode ; however, in this case the latter is also “stretched” horizontally, so as to completely fill the screen. Causes on-screen objects to appear disproportionately “wider,” to varying degrees, though the actual area you’re able to see is technically the same as it would be on an actual vertical screen.

Pea Shooter: Semi-derogatory term for a weak, rather useless weapon that has not been (or cannot be) adequately powered up, usually the player’s primary weapon at the very beginning of a game.

Phase: Different “stage” or “form” which a boss takes during the course of a battle, usually changing its appearance and/or attacks. A change of phase is usually prompted by the degree of damage done to the boss, but sometimes it depends simply on how long the battle has lasted.

Pierce: Quality of certain weapons which allows their shots to completely or partially pass through enemies while damaging them, thus allowing them to also hit other targets behind the ones “in front.” Laser weapons often (but not always) possess this feature.


  • A specific type of craft , also called an “Item Pod,” which will periodically appear in some shmups, carrying items which, in most cases, it releases after being shot. In some cases a pod cannot harm the player’s craft, while in other games it can shoot at it and/or crash into it just like any other enemy.
  • Can also refer to certain types of options, such as the “Force Pod” in R-Type.
  • In some shmups, some collectable items themselves are referred to as “pods,” although their function is essentially no different from “items” found in other shmups.

Point Blank:

  • To move very close to an enemy craft and fire rapidly, in order to maximize damage. Also, obviously, increases the player’s risk of being hit by the enemy’s shots (or the enemy itself).
  • A particular type of sneak kill which involves being shot down by a very close-proximity enemy, oftentimes one which charges quickly at the player for just such a purpose. Frustrating to many players, since such a situation gives them little or no time to dodge shots at such close range.

Point Blank Range: The point at which a player’s craft is close enough to an enemy that using the point blank technique is able to do the most damage possible. Sometimes also called the “Point Blank Safe Zone.” Alternate term for an enemy’s dead zone .

Popcorn (also 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.

POW: A power-up abbreviated that consists of the letters P-O-W. In some shoot-’em-ups, all power-ups are “POWs”. In other shoot-’em-ups, a “Pow” gives you more energy. In others a Pow increases your speed. In games that have more than one type of “Pow”, they are identified by the color of the letters, i.e. a red Pow.


  • Very broad term referring to any type of item whose purpose is to directly increase the abilities of your craft. These include different types of secondary weapons , enhancements for those weapons, and some types of options, speed ups and shields, plus others. Some players also group score items and other unrelated collectibles under “power-ups,” but most don’t.
  • The act of utilizing power-up items, or other types of power-up systems (such as an “experience” system) to enhance one’s craft, i.e. I powered-up my ship by collecting the red icon. Also spelled as “Power Up” and “Power up.”

Power Down: Any occurrence in a shmup which causes the player’s weaponry to lose some or all of the enhancements that it’s gained. In shmups without the Retain feature, for instance, players “power down” after being shot down; in other cases touching an enemy craft (as opposed to a shot) will power down the player’s craft rather than destroying it; in still other cases, the player’s weapon will power down automatically if extra power-ups aren’t collected to maintain it. Other variations aside from these exist in different shmups. In some games in which the rank is affected by how powered-up one’s craft is, players will sometimes “power down” on purpose to keep the rank from rising too fast.

Primary Weapon: Usually refers to a single weapon (often a vulcan) available to a player at the very start of the game, and which usually remains omnipresent in some form through the duration of the entire game; often categorized (and derided) as a pea shooter until it is powered up or supplemented by secondary weapons.

Puzzle-‘Em-Up: A seldom-used term, referring to a shmup which also includes gameplay elements common to the “puzzle” genre, which involve more strategy and planning ahead, as opposed to simply blasting everything in sight, than most shmups. Twinkle Star Sprites is the plainest example.


Raiden-Style: See: Old School.

Rank: 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.

Rapid Fire/Shot: See: Auto-Fire.

Replay: Feature found in some shmups which allows players to record their onscreen gameplay and save it as a file to be viewed later, either by the player himself or by others. Used by many shmuppers to obtain visual tips on how to improve their skills. Replays made by exceptionally skilled players whose runs are perfect in execution (or nearly so) are sometimes called “super plays,” and are sometimes available for commercial sale, or come packaged with certain games. Some “super plays” also feature highly skilled players performing impractical but still impressive “stunt” feats, such as completing a game while controlling both the first and second player crafts by oneself. On that note, replays which feature more than one player craft onscreen are often called “double plays.”

Respawn (also Instant Respawn):

  • The ability in a shmup to immediately resume play at the exact spot, or at least at a set “respawn point” in the screen area where one is shot down, usually with a brief invincibility window . In some cases this only comes into effect when individual lives are lost, and does not apply when using continues.
  • Can also refer to “respawning” enemy craft (or enemy parts) which are continually and automatically replaced ad infinitum after being shot down by the player: such targets are often prime territory for milking.

Restart: A feature found in some shmups which allows a player (usually from an option found in the “pause” menu, other times by simply pushing a specific “restart” button) to quickly restart either the entire game or a particular level over, without having to go through the normal startup and selection menus; players attempting a high score run will sometimes use this feature if they make a major mistake. Most shmups also have the option to “restart” the game completely from the title screen, but then again, so do many non-shmups.

Retain: The ability in some shmups to keep some or all of the power-ups that one has collected after being shot down, instead of being brought back to “square one” and forced to collect all enhancements again.

Return Bullet: See: Suicide Bullet.

Revenge Bullet: See: Suicide Bullet.

Ride: A variation on the point blank technique. When a player possesses an invincibility window during a major battle, usually a boss fight, either from having been recently shot down or having used a bomb , he can “ride” the enemy craft by positioning his own craft directly on top of it and firing repeatedly, in order to ensure that the weapon’s fire rate is maximized and the boss thus takes maximum damage. Must be used with caution, however, since the player becomes vulnerable once his invincibility runs out and will likely be killed instantly if he is still “riding” the boss at that point.

Run: Usually refers to a player’s attempt to one-credit a shmup, and/or a specific effort to obtain a high score; a player who makes a “run” at a shmup will usually refuse to continue after losing one credit, and will instead start over and try again. Informally, though, the term “run” can be used to describe any single attempt at completing a shmup, even if a high score or one-credit isn’t specifically what the player has in mind.


Score Attack (also Stage Attack):

  • A selectable play mode available in some shmups which allows the player to play through a single level (often with an unlimited amount of lives in reserve) in an effort to obtain the highest score possible for that stage alone. Sometimes extra multipliers or other things not included in the “regular” game are added into this mode. (In some games, high scores for individual stages played during the “regular” or “full” game are recorded automatically alongside the “general” high score board, but a separate Score Attack mode is not present.)
  • Sometimes refers to another type of game mode, generally found in a home port of a shmup; it plays more or less exactly like the “normal” game does, but is intended to be used by players attempting to participate in some kind of “official” score contest for the game in question. In this type of “score attack” mode, the game can only be played on default settings, and the player cannot continue after losing all his lives; also, after the game is over, the player usually receives a password of some sort, which can be entered on the contest’s web site, and allows the player to submit his score to be displayed and counted.

Score Item: Any collectible item which is used primarily or exclusively to increase the player’s score; collecting many of them sometimes activates a multiplier. Many shmups use various types of “medal” icons as their score items, and as such some players use the term “medals” to refer to score items as a whole, and call the practice of utilizing certain types of medal-related chains “medaling.”

Score Reset: Shmup feature which “resets” a player’s score to zero when he continues his game after losing all of his lives. Considered a necessity for any respectable shmup by many players, since it ensures that every player’s high score will always represent one credit of play time, and thus prevents the obtaining of high scores by continuing multiple times rather than surviving by skill.

Many games, after a player continues and “resets” the score, will record how many times a player has continued over the course of a game in the last digit of the score column: for instance, if a player continues his game for the first time the score will restart at “1” instead of “0,” and if he continues a second time it will restart at “2,” and so on. Even some shmups which do not altogether reset scores after continuing will utilize the final digit as an indicator of continues used.

Scoring System: Broad term which encompasses any sort of “device” which the game uses to affect how a player can increase his score, beyond simply shooting down enemies with inflexible point values. Includes, but is not limited to, utilization of score items , multipliers, and chains: if more than one “device” to increase score is present within a single shmup, all of them are collectively considered parts of the game’s “scoring system.”

Scrape (also Graze, Buzz, Scratch): Used to describe the act of a craft’s being touched by an enemy shot which passes over the visible onscreen object but misses the hit box. In some shmups it can be done intentionally by the player in order to earn extra points or power up their craft.

Scroll Mode: See: Wobble Mode.

Secondary Weapon (Also Sub-Weapon): Used to describe any weapon not immediately available to the player at the start of a game, which must thus be collected or otherwise earned to be used. In many cases they are not retained, at least not at full power, after the player is shot down.

Single-Screen Shmup: A shmup, usually viewed from a “top-down” perspective, in which the player controls a craft, collects items, and shoots enemies as in other types of shmups, but the background does not scroll to indicate progress. Space Invaders is probably the most well-known example.

Shield: General term for an enhancement that a player’s craft can use for defensive purposes. In some games “shields” are synonymous with “lives,” or serve as an “energy meter” for the player craft, but most of the time a shield must be collected as a power-up or otherwise earned, and serves to protect the player from enemy attacks to some extent. Some shields protect the entire craft, others only a certain portion of it; likewise, some shields can withstand an unlimited amount of bullets, while others will disappear after a certain amount of hits or a set span of time. Some shields also only protect against certain types of enemy shots and are useless against others. Some players also use the term “barrier” or “force field” to refer to shields in general, though others use the terms separately to denote specific types of shields.

Shmup: Short for shoot-‘em-up. Semi-official classification for video games in which a large amount of shooting is involved, and the gameplay is executed in a 2-dimensional style (though the graphical objects onscreen can be 3-D), and controlled strictly from a third-person perspective. Most shmups automatically scroll the background in a certain direction to create the impression of movement as the player progresses, and involve taking control of a plane or spacecraft (as such they are sometimes called “Space Shooters”), as well as collecting various power-ups, but there are many, many exceptions to this. Though some use the term “shooter” by itself to refer to shmups (in Japan, in fact, shmups are usually called “Shooting Games”), this sometimes gets them confused with first-person shooters or light gun shooters.

Different gamers have vastly different hard-and-fast definitions of what a “shmup” technically is, but the above covers most of the essentials. Players and/or fans of the genre are often called shmuppers or shmup-o’s.

Shoot Down Percentage (also Kill Rate): A tally, usually displayed at the end of a stage, which shows the percentage of the enemy craft present within the level which the player has managed to successfully destroy. Usually results in bonus points being awarded, with higher percentages equaling more points; in some games it can also affect the rank.

Shop: An area or building that appears at certain times and/or places where you can buy weapons, shields and other power-ups. If a game has a “shop” then you must gets all power-ups from the shop. Some games put the shop in the middle of a level, and some have you go visit a shop between levels. Once all items of interest are purchased, you can leave the shop to return to the game.

Shot: All-encompassing term for any projectile weapon used in a shmup, by either the player or the enemy. Includes bullets, missiles, lasers, and just about any other such weapon.

Shotgun: This is a spread fire, but it has two unique properties. One is that it’s range is limited. Its shots do not travel to the edge of the screen. The other property is that its shots can destroy enemy bullets. This weapon is found in shooters like 1943, and some others shooters too.

Side View: Denotes the type of game that shows the ship from a side point of view. The screen will horizontally scroll (usually from right to left) for this type of setup.


  • 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.

Shrapnel (also 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.

Snake: A common type of enemy found in shmups (and other genres as well), which consists of several “sections,” usually circles or spheres, joined together into an unbroken “chain.” Some “snake” enemies can be destroyed section by section, while others have a specific weak spot that must be targeted. Sometimes called a shooter snake.

Sneak Kill: Term used to describe particularly frustrating circumstances of demise while playing a shmup, which the player often feels he has no fair chance to avoid: may encompass Invisible Bullet Syndrome, Point Blanks, and other such situations. Commonly also known as cheap shots and various other names, many of which are not suitable for print here.

Sniper: Refers to any shmup enemy which periodically appears at a player’s most vulnerable side (oftentimes behind him) and attacks from there. Quite difficult to handle without proper weaponry.

Spam (also Bullet spam): Clusters of enemy bullets which are not aimed directly at the player’s craft, but are shot off in various or random directions, often at varying speeds, to take up space on the screen and limit the player’s range of movement. Difficult to dodge if the player is caught up in the middle of it.

Special Weapon: A weapon that has a greater or unique power than your normal weapon, but may have limited use. In some shooters, the standard “bomb” is considered your special weapon. Other shooters (ex: UN squadron) have a variety of special weapons. The attribute that most special weapons all have in common is that they have a limited amount ammo or use.

Speed Adjust: The ability, found in some shmups, of the player to instantly adjust the moving speed of his craft at any time, between a certain amount of available speed settings. Generally uses a specific button set aside for this task, and can be used an unlimited amount of times without the aid of items.

Speed Up: A specific type of power-up which increases the moving speed of a player’s craft when collected. Generally found in shmups which lack a speed adjust feature, although many shmups do not allow the player to adjust his craft’s speed at all (though oftentimes they allow him to select between several craft with varying preset speeds at the outset). A handful of shmups also contain “speed down” items, which more or less do exactly what they sound like they should do, and are not the same as the slow down feature.

Speed Zone: Certain stages (or parts of said stages) in some shmups in which the background scrolls by notably more quickly than the rest of the game: in some cases it serves more or less as a mere graphical effect and doesn’t drastically alter the way you need to play in order to survive, but in other cases these “zones” also cause enemies and walls to come at you faster than usual, which gives you less time to react to them. Use of the term “speed zone” generally refers to the latter.

Splash Damage: Damage done to an enemy by certain weapons after they initially hit, and proceed to explode, or “splash.” The explosions usually linger onscreen for several moments rather than immediately fading, damaging enemies that fly into their range (or sit there) until they finally fade out. Bomb and Missile weapons are the most common possessors of this feature.

Spray: Specific type of bullet formation which fires a tightly-packed group of shots , often of varying speeds, which spreads out slightly as it travels: as such, not only is its initial salvo difficult to dodge through without avoiding it completely, but the slower-moving bullets often linger onscreen, making it tougher to avoid the enemy’s next attack if it occurs before they leave the screen.

Spread: Term for a weapon or bullet pattern which covers a wide area with many separate shots; can refer to either player or enemy weaponry.

Stage Attack: See: Score Attack.

Stage End Bonus: Any bonus points awarded upon successful completion of a stage/area/zone/etc. of a shmup: includes bonuses for amounts of enemies shot down (sometimes called the “shoot down percentage” or “kill rate”), amount of items collected, time remaining on the boss timer , and just about any other points awarded between stages.

Stage Select:

  • Mode featured in some shmups which serves effectively as a “practice” or “training” mode, in which the player can select any individual stage (sometimes only those which have already been completed via “normal” play) to play through by itself, in order to better prepare himself for the “full” game. This mode often grants certain “perks” that the main game does not offer (extra displays, unlimited lives, etc.), and in other cases the player can adjust several different settings (amount of power-ups or bombs obtained, current rank counter , etc.) in order to more precisely recreate a scenario, as it were, from the “full” game and thus have a more accurate setting for practice.
  • Sometimes serves as a synonym for Score Attack mode.

In a few cases, both definitions of this term overlap, as “Stage Select” mode can serve both as a practice mode and also record individual stage high scores.

Stock: Another word for the number of ships/players left until the game is over.

Strafe: See: Sweep.

Stream: Most often refers to a constant torrent of enemy shots, usually bullets, which is fired in such rapid succession that the separate shots appear to form a single, unbroken line. Usually impossible for a player to dodge his craft through without being hit. Is also sometimes used to describe tightly-packed “lines” of enemies, but usually relates to shots instead.

Striker: Refers to any shmup enemy which quickly appears onscreen, fires a shot (or several shots), and then quickly rushes back off screen. Notoriously difficult to successfully shoot down.

Sub-Weapon: See: Secondary Weapon.

Suicide: The act of a player purposely allowing himself to lose a life, generally for the purpose of controlling rank , doing extra damage to an enemy, taking advantage of a resulting invincibility window , or simply ending a game more quickly.

Suicide Bullet (also Death Bullet, Return Bullet, Revenge Bullet): Bullet instantly released by an enemy which has either self-destructed or been shot down, usually aimed directly at the player’s craft , in a last-ditch effort to defeat the player. Some enemies can release more than one suicide bullet at a time, usually at higher difficulty levels or later loops .

It’s been noted that “suicide bullet” is technically not a very “accurate” term, since in most cases an enemy which shoots one has not killed itself, but notwithstanding it is the most commonly-used term, and as such it’s listed here as the primary term.

Sweep (also Strafe): Shmup technique sometimes used against bosses or large groups of weaker enemies, which involves the player moving his craft back and forth, left to right (or up to down, if playing a horizontal shmup) in large increments, covering most of the screen’s available width/height, firing constantly. Allows the player to spread his shots out over a wide area and at the same time avoid staying in one place too long, so as to give enemies using aimed attacks a more difficult target to hit.


Tail gun: General term for a weapon (usually a variation of the vulcan) which fires out of the rear side of a player or enemy craft, though some varieties also fire a few shots out of the front end or side areas.

Tap/Tap Dodge: See:Twitch.

Tate (also True Tate, Vertical Mode): Viewing mode available in some vertscrollers which displays the playing field at full size, rotated 90 degrees to the right. Designed to be utilized by certain monitors which can be turned on their sides, so as to display the game on a vertically-oriented manner similar to a vertically-oriented arcade monitor. The preferred screen format of most vertical shmup players, but it cannot be safely used on most televisions, since turning standard sets on their sides can break them.

Can be used as a verb to describe the actual turning of one’s monitor or television on its side, as in “I tated my monitor to play this game.” Also sometimes presented as “Arcade Mode” or “Full-Screen Mode.”

The word “tate” comes from a Japanese adjective which means “vertical,” and is pronounced “tah-teh,” though the common mispronunciation of “tayte” has gained semi-acceptance. Also commonly spelled with all capital letters (“TATE”), though it is not an acronym.

There are two incorrect “origins” of the word which are commonly heard: one states that “tate” simply comes from the English word “rotate,” and the other states that the word comes from the Japanese verb tateru, which means “to stand.”

Tateyoko: Unofficial term referring to a “combination” viewing mode in which players can play a vertical shmup in tate mode without flipping their screen to its side. In this “mode” the screen is rotated to “3:4” tate mode, but the game’s directional controls are also rotated 90 degrees, so that the game can be played in similar manner to a horizontal shmup, in full screen. Not exactly an “authentic” experience, but it does allow those without the ability to play in “true tate” to experience a shmup in its originally-intended view mode, just from a different angle, so to speak.


  • Term used to describe certain types of weapons with a very short range, but usually a lot of power, which protrude at a constant clip from the player’s craft, and are designed to be utilized at high risk for high-end results, requiring players to fly very close to enemies to do continuous damage.
  • “Tickling” is sometimes used as an alternate term for chipping an enemy.

Time Attack: A selectable play mode available in some shmups, in which the player can access a single, unique, endless stage available only in this mode; usually he is given infinite lives, but also a strict time limit, during which he tries to score as many points as he can before the timer runs out. High scores for this mode, as in Score Attack mode, are usually recorded on a separate list from that of the “main” game.

Top View: A top-downward perspective, usually a vertically scrolling shooter. The main point is that the game is played by looking at the top of the ship as it moves “upward” through the levels.

True Tate: See: Tate.

Turret: See: Gunpod.

Twitch (also Tap, Tap Dodge): A dodging technique which requires the player to move his craft back and forth in very short increments at a rapid pace to dodge tight bullet formations. The majority of manic shmups often require frequent use of this technique, and are sometimes called “Twitch” or “Twitchy” shmups as a result.

Twitch Shmup: See: Manic Shmup.

Two-Player Alternate: A game that is 2-player, but cannot be played at the same time. One person will play first and once that person either (sometimes) clears a stage or (most often) dies, the other player’s turn will begin.

Two-Player Simultaneous: A game that allows 2 players to play at the same time along side each other. Both players work together to reach the final goal of the game.


Uphill: Viewing perspective found in some vertscrollers, in which the background plane is “tilted” towards the player, which gives the effect that the onscreen craft is moving “uphill,” instead of flying parallel over a flat area.


Vertical Shmup (also Vertscroller, Vert): A shmup in which the screen scrolls from top to bottom and the action is seen from above by the player. Sometimes called top-down shmups, though not all shmups viewed from the “top-down” perspective are vertscrollers.

Vertical Tate: See: Tate.


  • Term sometimes used to describe a vertical shmup which is designed with a wider 4:3 ( yoko ) ratio playfield instead of the “traditional” 3:4 ( tate )vertical ratio, so as to be played exclusively on a yoko screen. Not to be confused with tateyoko or panorama mode, or “ ghetto tate .”
  • An additional term for an alternating view shmup.

Vulcan: Common term for a weapon that is often a craft’s default or “main” armament, or weapons similar to it: generally shoots regular bullets straight ahead of the craft, though some “vulcan” weapons have a spread quality to them.


Wait: An option found in some console shmups which allows the player to adjust the amount of slowdown present in the game: when “wait” is turned on, the slowdown, usually as it existed in the game’s original arcade manifestation, is present, and when it is off, it is eliminated.

Wall: All-encompassing term for any “neutral” obstacle in a stage (as opposed to actual enemies), usually refers to said obstacles which have the ability to damage your craft if it touches them. This characteristic varies from shmup to shmup (and even from area to area within a single shmup), but regardless the term “wall” is generally used to describe any ceiling, floor, outcropping, or other “foreground” surface or object which your craft can interact with, as opposed to background elements which cannot affect you.


  • Common term for a type of shmup weapon which covers a wide area with one or more solid, often crescent-shaped, beams of some sort.
  • A specific group of enemies which appears at a certain point in a stage.
  • An enemy bullet formation which forms a tight line or “front” across all or most of the width of the screen, and moves towards the player in a manner similar to the way an ocean wave moves towards shore. Requires precise movement to successfully dodge.

Wobble Mode (also Scroll Mode): Unofficial but widely-used name for a viewing option available in some shmups, which is set up in similar fashion to letterbox mode, but causes the screen to scroll a limited distance to “follow” the player’s movements in either direction, creating a “wobbling” effect when the player moves up and down.

WOQ: Pow printed backwards. a woq (pronounced whop as the Q is simply a P printed backwards) either slows your ship down, or weakens it in some other fashion. In other words, a wop will have a reverse effect of the Pow it originally reflects.

Wrap-Around Scrolling: A variation of sorts on the pan feature found in some shmups; in this case, the actual playfield is also larger than the visible area onscreen, but there is no real “edge” of the screen to be reached, since the playfield is actually composed of an infinite, repeating pattern of background area. It’s something like moving around the edge of a sphere or cylinder; if you move in one direction long enough, you’ll eventually end up back at the point where you started, ad infinitum.


Yoko (also Wide Screen): Far-reaching term for any viewing mode of a shmup, horizontal or vert , intended to be displayed on a horizontally-oriented screen. Sometimes also called “4:3” mode, since a horizontal screen’s area is based on a ratio of 4 (width) to 3 (height), as opposed to the inverted “3:4” ratio of vertical screens. Horizontal shmups as a whole are intended to be played exclusively on a yoko screen; certain vertical (“ vertizontal ”) shmups are made the same way. Some verts originally created to play in tate orientation can be played on a yoko screen as well, but with certain limitations (i.e. letterbox mode, panorama mode, etc.). The term “yoko” encompasses all such view modes made to play on a horizontal screen.

The word yoko comes from a Japanese adjective which means “horizontal.”

Yo-Yo (also Boomerang): An uncommon type of shmup weapon which launches a projectile (or several) which travels a fixed distance and then returns to the player’s craft to be launched again. Often has the ability to pierce enemies and cause damage on both the initial launch and the return trip, but the fire rate is often slow and the player can be easily left open to enemy attack in between shots.


Zako: See: Popcorn.

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