U.N. SQUADRON / Capcom / Arcade
U.N. Squadron is based on a manga series in Japan called Area 88, which never saw any kind of release in the West beyond this game. So my assumption with this one is that they were counting on the license to pull people in, and thus felt safe in scrimping a bit on the gameplay and design.
The game isn't a "bullet hell" shoot 'em up, but it is insidiously difficult - mostly due to a design practice of having incoming enemy jets suddenly drop projectiles right on top of you, as well as sticking around to make multiple passes until you manage to shoot them all down. I'm all for a good challenge, but U.N. Squadron just feels cheap - the design is such that the next wave of kamikaze attackers are programmed to come out just at the point where you dodged the last wave, causing you to either have to totally memorize the level layouts or get slammed repeatedly and die quickly.
So, despite not fitting the usual "bullet hell" mold, the game still is basically tailored to the masochistic demographic of hardcore shooter fans who want to get killed over and over while memorizing all the precise moves they need to repeat to get through a level. To me, these shooters are like getting hung up on playing a Rachmaninoff piano piece - yeah, it's an addictive challenge and impressive when you finally manage to pull it off, but wouldn't you rather just have some fun and freestyle with some improvised jazz or something? For those that would rather NOT freestyle, U.N. Squadron will probably beat them up enough to satisfy their cravings. There's nothing much here for anyone else - for 1989 the backgrounds and sound were pretty good, but they have not aged well, and neither the sprites or music were very impressive to begin with. Safe to skip unless you're a hardcore shooter buff.
* Gameplay Video