The Best Shoot’em Up on the SNES

Area 88 is a side-scrolling shooter based on a Manga and Anime series. It takes place in a fictional Middle Eastern country experiencing a civil war. The manga and the two anime adaptations have different endings.

While researching this, I watched the 1985 anime, whose ending is left open-ended. Shin returns to Area 88 to join his friends in battle, but we cut on an image of him smiling. The ending of the video game depends on which version you play.

Both of them have the three main characters flying off into the distance. However, the endings of the two versions are different. I don’t think this game has multiple endings, and I couldn’t find anything to suggest this.

TLDR: A Brilliant Retro Game that Needs a Sequel


I loved the story that the video game is based on. Our lead character, Shin, is tricked into joining a foreign legion and going off to fight in the Middle East. It reminds me of a few Jean Claude van Damn movies.

As a fighter pilot, he earns money for each enemy fighter he shoots down but has to pay for the repairs of his plane. He might also have to pay for ammunition, but that wasn’t clear. He has to stay in the foreign legion for three years, pay an early exit fee of 1.5 million dollars, or die.

Another plot follows Shin’s girlfriend, who didn’t know he had joined the foreign legion and believed he was dead. This wasn’t all that interesting to me as it was focused on corporate espionage, and the 1985 anime doesn’t have a good wrap-up. I’m sure some people liked this part, but it wasn’t for me.

Over the course of the 1985 anime, we see Shin struggle with what war is doing to him as a person. He is changing from being someone who wants to be an airline pilot to a killer. Dealing with the loss of life, both the enemies and the other pilots, is a big part of Shin’s story arc.

The Game’s story is closer to a series of missions that could take place during the anime or in an alternate universe. The anime is grounded in reality, but that wouldn’t make the game stand out, so we have several big boss ships and tanks. This was a necessary change for the video game.


Area 88 is a side-scrolling shooter. You can choose between three characters, and there is a shop where you can upgrade your plane and purchase super weapons. I like this more than picking up power-ups while playing the game. This reminds me of other shooters I’ve played on the PC.

The three pilots have different stats, but each starts out with the same plane. The arcade is different as each has a specific plane. The three pilots are:

  • Shin Kazama
  • Micky Simon
  • Greg Gates

When you start the game, you choose one of these characters, and you can buy a super weapon. You can earn more money by killing enemies, similar to what happens in the anime. You can use the money to buy better planes and weapons.

There are some power-ups in the game. These increase the power of your weapon and repair your plane. There is also a screen-clearing bomb that will occasionally show up.

There are ten missions in the game. During those missions, you fight against the terrorist group Project 4. For some reason, this reminded me of Plan 9 from Outer Space; I’m not sure why.

This isn’t a game I played growing up, and for a while, I thought Axelay was the best shooter the SNES had to offer. After playing Area 88, I’ve changed my mind. The gameplay is solid, and I think it is the best shooter on the SNES.


This is the best-looking shooter on the SNES. The sprites are well-detailed, the explosions look great, and the cutscenes look excellent. If I had to reach for something negative to say, it would have to be the enemy bullets.

This is a problem with many shooters and is only a minor issue here. The problem is that seeing the enemy projectiles can sometimes be hard. It isn’t too bad, but it can sometimes be a problem.

Everything else in the game looks great. The screen doesn’t get too busy, and the weak points on the bosses are easy to hit.

9.5/10. I was very impressed by this game. It is way better than the other shooters on the SNES. It isn’t just one of the best shooters but one of the best games on the SNES, and I wish I had played it sooner!


  • Great graphics
  • Excellent controls
  • Unique shopping mechanic for the time
  • Life bar instead of one-hit deaths


  • Level memorization
  • Limited continues


This an excellent game! It looks great, plays great, and the media it is based on is spectacular! I wasn’t expecting to find something that I liked so much when I started playing Area 88.

This is one of the games that I started playing for a different project, and I liked it so much that I thought it deserved a full review. I didn’t know much about it before I started playing, and after I did, I wish I had known about it back in the 90s.

Area 88/U.N. Squadron should have been a series of games. It is able to stand above the other shooters I’ve played for the SNES so far. It is always fun to find something that you didn’t know existed. It is like unwrapping a Christmas or Birthday gift.

Published by Paul Werkema

Hi! I'm here to share my hobbies with all of you. I love video games and books, so I write about the books that cover video games or are novels about video games.

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