Sapphire by Hudson Soft, released (sort of) in 1995 for the PC-Engine.
Welcome to Shooter Saturday! Today we'll celebrate by looking at one of those titles which is so far below the mainstream that onlythe nice of the niche have heard of it. Well it's not that unusual, but picking up and having at Sapphire for a couple of rounds wouldn't clue a player in that it is, in fact, one of the rarest releases for the console.
Releasing for a system whose day had come and gone several years prior, the PC-Engine (once the dominant player in the Japanese console market) was looking shaky compared to the already aging Sega Genesis, and absolutely archaic compared to the onslaught of powerful software put out for the even more powerful rival Super Nintendo. This was truly the last gasp of the dying machine, and it was packed with lots of powerful effects to show that the machine could still hold it's own. Sure, several upgrade accessories (CD-Rom and a special RAM card) were required..
They wrapped this all up into a vertical shooter, one of the most common genres developed for the system (so it should feel right at home). Unfortunately, by the mid-90s this genre was feeling fairly stale no matter what it looked like, and the gameplay was just not interesting enough to feel as if the console was doing anything particularly different and new.
This game fetches ridiculous high prices on eBay (if you can find a mint complete version) and it's something of a collector's item for that reason - a low print run, there's debate if it was even technically released commercially or only distributed at Japanese trade shows. Whatever the case, love it or otherwise, Sapphire is a unique spectacle whose story is much bigger than the actual game itself. It's very dated to look at now, but a quick view of a YouTube video will give you an idea of how the game looks and plays.