Developer xdanond successfully merges two disparate genres in Starwish, a horizontally scrolling "RPG shooter" playable for free at Kongregate.

Starwish's power-up mechanics and level design exude a strong Gradius vibe, while the RPG elements put a fun spin on the formula; each destroyed enemy awards the player with money and experience points, and new weapons and ship parts can be purchased between levels. Interestingly, weapons can be switched on the fly via a mouse-driven menu during gameplay -- an unusual design choice that works better than expected thanks to autofire being an option.

The game also features a strong narrative element (even going so far as to resemble a dating sim at times), and probes the player with a barrage of personal questions before gameplay begins. These sequences can be skipped, however, for those who prefer to jump straight into the action.

The game's catchy soundtrack is available for free streaming via a YouTube playlist.