It's possible to consider Tyrian the perfect game. It has a flawless mix of action and humor with excellent replay value. It's also quite possibly the best top-down airplane/spacecraft shooter of all time. Taking place in the distant future, you play as Trent Hawkins, an ace pilot working for a huge, evil corporation. Said corporation kills your best friend and parents, at which point you embark on a lengthy adventure featuring revenge, escapes, twists, backstabbing and stuff blowing up spanning 5 episodes. The plot itself unfolds through transmissions you receive between missions. Following the plot is entirely optional and doesn't affect the gameplay at all. So whether you're a "story guy" or not, you're set. If you DO follow the plot, you will really get an appreciation for this game's humor. Amongst the plot driven transmissions, you will run into ads for silly future products as well as reference to other games from Epic like One Must Fall 2097 and Jazz Jackrabbit.
|*pew pew pewwwww*|
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There are many game modes, including Arcade Mode which takes out the plot elements and shopping for upgrades with money turns into in-game instant powerups. There aren't as many weapons as story mode and you can't upgrade armor, shields or generator, but in this respect you're outfitted with a decent ship from the beginning. Additionally, the multiplayer (2-player co-op) is a fun, not to mention different, experience. Both players essentially control half of one ship, designated "Dragonwing" and "Dragonhead". Dragonhead is the small and maneuverable, yet fragile ship while Dragonwing is, naturally, the big, slow heavily armored ship. They also have abilities and power-up unique to each other. When joined together, they form "Steel Dragon", where player 1 controls the ship whilst player 2 controls the turret. It's a blast!
Many top-down shooters originated in the arcades, so they're inherently difficult; designed to eat up your coins. Tyrian isn't so hard that you want to rage quit, but it certainly isn't easy. You really feel a sense of accomplishment from completing a level. The fast paced gameplay prevents you from ever using the word "boring". Even by today's standards it's an action-pack title and there really are few things in life as pleasurable as having hoards of enemies mowed down before you by your awesome firepower.
Sure, the *bang bangs* and the *pew pews* are solid, but the music of Tyrian is a defining feature for the title. The effort and passion from the composer is blatantly evident. In most video games, the music nice, but forgettable. Then every once in a while a game comes along where the music becomes part of your life. I mean, who doesn't know the tune to Super Mario Bros? Can you imagine where Contra and Castlevania would be with mediocre music? Tyrian's music is brilliant; something you would listen to even without the game.
Given the sheer amount of weaponry and other upgrades in the game, by the time you finish the story mode you usually want to play again just so you can try out more weapon combinations. Challenging yourself to play "Super Tyrian" mode will keep you going for a while and the 2-player co-op is still fun, even by today's' standards. In fact, you can play this classic with a friend over the Internet (although it will take a little research into how). I still find myself play Tyrian 16 years after I first experienced it.