Review – Zero Wing (PC)

Back in the early days of YouTube, during that golden era with the classic memes such as “Numa Numa” and “Star Wars Kid”, one of the earliest viral videos to hit the website (the other being, of course, included in the now incredibly dated “Pork and Beans” video by Weezer) was “All Your Base Are Belong to Us“. For those who might not remember (or not alive during that time), it was an introductory cutscene from a poorly translated game released for the Mega Drive back in the early 90s. That game was called Zero Wing, and I’m pretty sure you had no idea about its name; we all know the meme, but not the game where the meme stemmed from.

Zero Wing Meme Beginnings

It’s a decent shooter, don’t get me wrong, but if the meme that made it famous isn’t present, it loses a ton of its appeal.

Well, fear not, you can now finally play Zero Wing on a PC, thanks to a brand new port courtesy of Bitwave Games. In theory, that’s great, as we now have access to a game we have all heard of in the past, which was downright impossible to legally own if you weren’t part of the import scene (it was only released in Japan and Europe for the Mega Drive and PC Engine CD). But here’s the catch: this is a port of the original arcade version, which, granted, is the best version of Zero Wing out there in terms of visuals, controls, and performance, but also the one WITHOUT the cutscene that made it famous.

Zero Wing Bosses

Your side ships don’t take damage, so don’t worry if a boss keeps shooting them.

As a result, I can’t help but feel very disappointed. With all due respect to Zero Wing and the folks who developed it back in the day, but while it is far from being a bad shoot ’em up for early 90s standards, it is exactly that: another shoot ’em up in an era where seventeen of them would come out every week for all kinds of systems. Gradius, Axelay, R-Type, Gates of Zendocon, Darius, the list goes on forever. All of those games had an interesting feature to make them stand out, and all of them were mechanical. For as much as Zero Wing is a competent shooter in terms of gameplay, it’s pretty straightforward and gimmick-free. What made it stand out was the dumb translation from the Mega Drive port, and once again, this is absent in this version.

That’s not to say Bitwave Games didn’t do a bad job remastering the game. All the bells and whistles you’d expect from a competent retro remaster are present in this version. Screen size adjustment, difficulty sliders, bonus point modifiers, post-processing effects, filters, everything is here.

All Your Base

Again: NOT present in this port of Zero Wing.

I’m all for gaming preservation, but I feel like this particular version of Zero Wing isn’t the one that should have been preserved. Or, at the very least, the folks at Bitwave Games should have added the option for us to change between the arcade port (the better one, mechanically speaking) and the Mega Drive port (the one with the meme that made it famous) via a menu option. It’s not a bad game, far from it, and Bitwave did a good job at porting and remastering it, but this was a missed opportunity. Vanilla Zero Wing just doesn’t have that many interesting elements that make it stand out from the ten billion other space shooters released in the early 90s.


Graphics: 6.0

Some noteworthy graphical improvements, namely in the resolution and performance, but all in all, a modest-looking game from its time.

Gameplay: 7.0

Zero Wing is an old shooter with a pretty straightforward gameplay loop and control scheme. No gimmicks, no nothing. Passable, but dated.

Sound: 5.0

Since the “all your base are belong to us” cutscene isn’t present in this port, what we have here is a handful of average-at-best Yamaha YM2612 tunes.

Fun Factor: 6.0

Zero Wing is mainly known for its hilariously bad opening cutscene, which is NOT present in this particular port. As a result, what we have here is a decent shooter for early 90s standards, but one that doesn’t stand out from the rest.

Final Verdict: 6.0

Zero Wing is available now on PC, Arcade, Mega Drive, and PC Engine CD.

Reviewed on Intel i7-12700H, 16GB RAM, RTX 3060 6GB.

A copy of Zero Wing was provided by the publisher.