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TigerHeli Logo.png
TigerHeli Title.png

Title screen

Developer: Toaplan
Publisher: JP:Taito, NA: Romstar
Music: Tatsuya Uemura
Release date: July 1985
Next game: Slap Fight

Tiger-Heli (タイガー・ヘリ) Is a vertically scrolling shoot-em-up developed by Toaplan and released in July of 1985. It is notable for being their very first shooting game, and was popular enough that it paved the way for the company to create even more and greater games, turning them one of the most well-known shoot-em-up developers of all time.

Despite the game's simplistic nature, it is very difficult, and often requires proper routing in order to get far into the game.

Gameplay Overview

Default DIP Switch settings.

Tiger-Heli is only four stages long, which each stage containing a large amount of tanks and turrets which the player must shoot down. Alongside them are various ground targets which can be shot for extra points (eg: rooftops, fences, jets). The player helicopter can fire up to 3 shots on screen, which have limited range up to half the screen's length. The helicopter is also equipped with two bombs on it's sides which can be used a create a large explosion, destroying all enemies and bullets in it's range. Additionally, certain ground targets can provide extra bonuses, such as extra bombs, firepower, and lives. There are no continues in Tiger-Heli.

By default, score extends are at 50,000 points, then every 120,000 points.

All enemies that shoot behave exactly the same, which is to turn their barrels directly at the player and shoot immediately when the barrel lines up close enough. All enemy shots fire directly at the player. Bullet sealing is also not a thing, and you can get shot down at point-blank range. On stage 2 onward, larger boss-type enemies will start appearing, which quickly shoot groups of two bullets: one aimed and one at an offset angle.


The titular Tiger-Heli helicopter can move in 8 directions at a rather sluggish pace. The speed can be altered through a DIP switch setting.

Joystick (Two Buttons).png
  • A Fire a shot
  • B Launch bomb


The player hitbox is fairly large, which covers most the of the helicopter. The bombs attached to the helicopter have their own hitbox, and when hit, will explode on their own.

Little-Helis that have been picked up can also be shot down.


The player always starts with two bombs.

All power-ups are acquired through destroying flashing ground targets. Aside from the diamonds, The target will cycle between three different colors which corresponds to a specific power-up. Destroying the ground target will drop a power-up from the top of the screen that is dependent of what color the target was. Little-Helis provide extra firepower to the helicopter, with the first Little-Heli picked up being on the left, and the second on the right. Only two bombs and Little-Helis can be active.

Each stage ends with a point bonus of 5000 per Bomb and Little-Heli, as well as a full Bomb restock.

Item Desciption
TigerHeli Diamond.gif
Periodically appears and disappears at fixed locations. Shoot down 10 of these to earn an extend.
TigerHeli White.gif
TigerHeli WhiteHeli.gif
White Little-Heli
Summons a white Little-Heli to pick up, which shoots straight forward.
TigerHeli Red.gif
TigerHeli RedHeli.gif
Red Little-Heli
Summons a red Little-Heli to pick up, which shoots sideways.
TigerHeli Grey.gif
TigerHeli Bomb.gif
Summons a Bomb pickup.

Score bonuses

There are a few areas where the player can improve their score by performing specific actions.

10,000 points roof

TH Roof.png

If the player shoots enough times at a specific roof in the first stage, the game will offer a 10,000 points bonus and its sprite will change. While autofire greatly helps, it is perfectly possible to obtain it with manual mashing.

10k pts roof.png

Additionally, the player can earn 10 tick points each time their shots hit the roof.

10,000 points cars

TH car.png

At several points in the game, a hidden car can potentially appear. If the player shoots it, they will earn 10,000 points. In order to trigger the appearance of the car, the player has to reach designated hidden areas while their total of shots fired since the beginning of the stage is a multiple of 16.

While it can be very hard to keep track of this number while playing, it is possible to get the first bonus car easily, by only firing once at each enemy or destructible part of the scenery, and stopping right after, as the number of necessary shots is exactly 16.

M2 Secret bonus car.png Shot counter.png

If gadgets are enabled, the M2 port displays the hidden areas for the cars' appearance, as well as the number of shots fired, making the bonus much easier to get.


Tiger-Heli uses a simplistic rank formula, which is only affected by the area reached, each area corresponding to a checkpoint. Note that

  • At the end of the first loop, the rank will have an abrupt increase corresponding to the traversal of 8 areas, despite the area count remaining unchanged.
  • At the end of subsequent loops, the area count increases by 8 abruptly, likely to make up for the disappearance of the first stage. There is therefore a rank increase corresponding to this change in the area count.

Dying, bombing, picking up or losing a Little-heli has no effect on rank.
Rank maxes out in the middle of the third loop.
Rank primarily affects the frequency of enemy attacks as well as the frequency at which enemies will rotate their cannons.

Rank has a maximum value of 87 and follows the simplistic formula area + loop, where loop equals 8 if the player beat the first loop, and 0 otherwise.
"Bullet interval" follows the formula 75 - (rank - 1)/2, with the result expressing the number of frames between two attacks from an enemy.


Tiger-Heli loops indefinitely. After completing the first loop, all loops afterwards will start on Stage 2.

Rank slowly increases as the player makes their way through each area, maxing out near the end of Stage 3 in the third loop (with "Stage 3" being the second playable stage in the loops). This makes the fourth loop the first loop where every stage has its difficulty maxed out, and can be considered, as well as all subsequent loops, the hardest possible loop.


Infamously, Tiger-Heli was ported to the NES a year later, which was developed by Micronics. This version is known for it's bugs and very choppy frame rate. Despite this, it is somewhat playable.

An accurate port was brought to the original PlayStation in the Toaplan Shooting Battle 1 compilation in 1996 by Banpresto. This compilation also includes Kyuukyoku Tiger.

Today, M2's Toaplan Arcade Garage series on the Nintendo Switch and PlayStation 4 also includes Tiger-Heli, which includes gadgets that provide extra game-information.


  1. Rank information deduced from the gadgets on the M2 port