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May 9, 2023


Everything about MSX, and more…

Uchūsen Gamma

12 min read
A classic shoot’em up action exclusively created for the MSX featuring classic arcade action, smooth scrolling, 5 stages with multiple enemy types, and a boss! Everything MSX fans love, plus a twist...

The game is a high-grade top scrolling vertical shoot’em released on November 29th, 2019. It is a homebrew project conceptualized and developed by Juan J. Martinez (code, graphics, and sound), known from previous releases for other 8-bit systems such as The Dawn of Kernel (Amstrad CPC), Rescuing Orc (Commodore 64) or Magica (Amstrad CPC), and the most recent Night Knight single-screen platformer for the MSX.

One of the innovations of the game is that it offers the classic shoot’em up action with a twist: power-ups only appear when 9 enemies are destroyed in a row (a “full chain”, as it is referred to by its creator). The longer the chain, the more points can be obtained per destroyed enemy. It is a cool risk/reward component because you may need to wait to kill the enemy ships until there are enough of them on-screen to complete a full chain. What about it for strategy, hum?

The game is powered by Arkos 2 Player, authored by Targhan. It is available as freeware and can be download from

After its release, a physical edition in a cartridge was produced with a beautiful box and a very nice professional presentation, which can be acquired at Repro Factory for only 29,00 € (tax included).

An updated version 1.0.1 has been released on November 30, 2019.

Game Story

The simpler stories generally make the most entertaining products. And it is no different in the case of the Uchūsen Gamma game.

The story of the game revolves around the fact that the Emperor has died without an heir or a named successor. The military stepped in but isn’t doing a particularly good job protecting the outer colonies, which are constantly under attack by ruthlessly cyborg raiders from the Mion system, leaving behind a trail of death and destruction. The devastation is unbearable.

For too long the Empire seems to be unable to help. That’s when, before all is lost, a crazy but highly skilled pilot raises up to the challenge and steps forward taking upon himself – and his single combat spaceship model GAMMA – the likely impossible task to stop the advance of the cyborgs to put to a halt the imminent war.

Trying to take on an entire attacking force single-handedly might seem foolhardy at first glance, but the GAMMA is at least a well-armed craft. The primary weapon starts out at a reasonable strength and items occasionally dropped by cyborg raiders as they’re destroyed will power it up further. The secondary weapon is a very limited stock of extremely useful, screen-clearing Nova bombs, these are best saved for emergencies and more can be gathered from downed enemies.

The only problem is that these useful toys are only released by blasting a chain of enemies, and although that’s sometimes easy to do, properly taking advantage of all the potential weapon enhancements on offer involves learning attack patterns and working out the optimal time to blast your foes in order to effectively keep chains going. As an extra incentive, enemies destroyed as part of a chain are worth more points for those who don’t feel that saving the beleaguered colonies was enough of a reward already.

The gameplay experience

Uchūsen Gamma is a technically impressive title that offers silky-smooth background scrolling with a significant number of enemies and bullets overlaid onto it but, more importantly, a lot of thought has gone into the gameplay as well. It’s possible to simply dive in and blast away at the enemies but, along with figuring out where to build chains for power-ups, the secret for long-term success revolves around learning how each attack pattern moves and when the enemies will launch bullets in order to simultaneously keep the GAMMA in range to attack and out of harm’s way.

In order to complete the game, you must reach the end of each stage and destroy the final enemy: a Mion war machine. There are 5 stages, but don’t let it fool you. It won’t be as easy as it sounds…

The GAMMA includes one main weapon, controlled with your primary fire, plus Nova bombs that are triggered by the secondary fire (or the M key if you are using cursors).

The main weapon can be upgraded up to 8 times. Each upgrade provides an improved weapon, although their speed and power vary, you may have to find which one will be your favorite and stick with it. When you lose a life, the weapons will be downgraded one level.

Here a small preview of the gaming experience for your amusement:

As you may have noticed, the Nova bomb is an intelligent energy weapon that will cause enough damage to destroy most enemies and all the bullets on screen. It is a good deal that the GAMMA is able to store up to 9 bombs, but remember to use them wisely as they may not replenishable at the rate you may need.

At the end of each stage, bonus points will be awarded based on the number of enemies destroyed, the number of full chains (9 enemies destroyed in a row), and based on the fact if a life has been lost on that stage or not. A very creative way to reward the players, and a great motivator to achieve maximum performance all the time.

Finally, every 50,000 points you will grant you an extra life. Another reason to go after the chains! But, be warned: if you lose all your lives in level 5 there will be no “continue” option!

The Controlers

The game can be controlled with the keyboard cursors or with a joystick. The selection of the control method is done on the menu screen by pressing space for cursors, or pushing one of the fire buttons for joystick.

ActionJoystickKeyboard (cursor)
Move leftCursor left
Move rightCursor right
Move upCursor up
Move downCursor down
Weaponfire 1Space
Nova bombfire 2 or MM

Press fire or space to exit the intro.
Press ‘STOP’ to pause/resume the game.
Press ESC to end the game or exit the demo.

TIP: On the menu screen, press F1 to enter the jukebox where you can listen to the music of all 5 stages.

More about the Chain Power Up system

The novelty of the game undoubtedly lies in the power-up system that requires careful planning since every 9 enemies killed will be given out a capsule (power-up) that is either capable to enhance the GAMMA weapon system or add a Nova bomb to the ship’s reserve. Seems easy, but the combo counter resets after a few moments, requiring some sort of rhythm to experience the aegis of the good’n’old “risk and reward” concept.

But,m be aware: not all the enemy waves will be composed of enough targets to complete a “full chain“. So, in many cases, you will have to risk wait until there are enough enemies on screen before starting a chain. That’s the rhythm starts to count and the strategy will make a real difference.

As you manage to balance your strategy, the longer the chain, the more points will be rewarded per destroyed enemy. There is a “chain meter” on the top-left of the screen, so you don’t need to keep tabs on it yourself.

The value – and the limit, in equal measure – of Uchūsen Gamma is its simplicity, present both in the game layout and in the graphics, beyond its story. Everything works and works very well, without inappropriate flickering in those moments when the screen is suffocated by bullets and precision becomes essential. A simple but impressive well-designed and well-planned game that deserves a honorous spot at the top of the list as one of the greatest MSX games ever produced.

Important Notes

  • It is an MSX 1 compatible game with support to PAL and NTSC systems.
  • Minimum requirements are 16K of RAM (64K when for CAS version).
  • To run the CAS version on an MSX with disk support, first disable the disk ROM by pressing SHIFT during boot.
  • To run this game in an MSX Turbo-R you must boot it in Z80 mode.
  • If you want, there is a Full Gameplay by Marco Larezzi here. Enjoy.
  • The game is emulator’s friendly. Have fun playing it everywhere and anywhere!