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Gunbird 2 for Nintendo Switch (Switch) artwork

Gunbird 2 for Nintendo Switch (Switch) review

"There are no online leaderboards and Morrigan is MIA, but Gunbird 2 on Nintendo Switch is still a delight."

I've always enjoyed scrolling shooters, but I've rarely ever been much good at them. There have been exceptions over the years, because I have played a fair few games from the genre and eventually lightning is bound to strike, but for the most part I suck at scrolling shooters and I don't even care.

Gunbird 2 for Nintendo Switch is a scrolling shooter, and it's not even one of the ones I'm especially good at, but I like it anyway. I think that's the case because it's pretty and it scrolls vertically. Those are qualities I like a lot in a shooter. I actually owned the game for a number of years on the Dreamcast, after buying it back when it cost around $40 to purchase. And I also owned an arcade stick. Looking back, that sort of investment was probably irresponsible. I spent a bundle on games and hardware I played only occasionally. Nowadays, you don't have to make that sort of mistake. You can drop $7.99 on Gunbird 2 on the Nintendo eShop and have as much fun as I ever did. Maybe you'll have even more!

Gunbird 2 for Nintendo Switch (Switch) image

Psikyo, the team that developed Gunbird 2 for arcades back in the day, was well known for its vertically scrolling shooters. They are often described as "bullet hell" games, meaning you periodically wind up with a screen full of shrapnel to dodge. You will probably fail at dodging. Repeatedly. And then, if you're not like me, you will keep playing for many hours and get considerably better at dodging. You will become a more technical player, know when to move up close to your foes to blast them with what essentially amounts to a (very risky) melee attack. You'll know when to drop back because a swarm of bullets is about to converge on your location. And you'll have boss patterns memorized, so that you can dodge huge lasers that splash down the screen with little in the way of warning.

I'm not that sort of player, though. I don't feel sufficiently rewarded by even the best of vertical shooters that I would willingly devote hours to the same level in hopes of getting ever so slightly better and shaming my friends. I just play to unwind and have fun. And Gunbird 2 is a lot of fun, even for scrubs like me.

The basic premise changes depending on which character you choose. But whatever your precise reasons for blasting everything that moves, your journey will eventually take you through the same handful of stages set in the usual sort of fantastic places, such as dark caverns and palace courtyards and eerie forests. As you go about your mission, you'll repeatedly run up against cartoon villains who pilot monstrous machines that defy the laws of engineering and physics. Big explosions rule the day, and your score keeps climbing until you die your last life and then it doesn't.

Gunbird 2 for Nintendo Switch (Switch) image

So, what makes Gunbird 2 different on the Nintendo Switch than it was on Dreamcast? For starters, there's no Morrigan. She's the sexy vampire character you might recall from the Darkstalkers series of fighting games. For some reason, she was included as part of the package when Capcom published Gunbird 2 on SEGA's hardware. And I'll miss her, I suppose. I don't remember actually playing as her very often because I preferred other characters with different offensive capabilities, but more variety is always nice and it's a shame she couldn't return for a second engagement.

But whatever. There are other differences, and they're for the better. The biggest of those differences is that thanks to the hybrid nature of the Nintendo Switch hardware, you can now turn the screen 90 degrees and play in handheld mode on a perfectly shaped screen. Just press the + button and make the appropriate changes on the options menu overlay. The filler to either side disappears, and suddenly you're playing the game almost like it was always meant to be played. It's bliss, and you can even play it with a Pro Controller if you like... which is exactly what I do. It's not the same thing as an arcade stick, obviously, but it works fine for me.

There also are other settings you can adjust that affect the gameplay experience. You can decide how many lives the player starts with, up to a maximum of nine. You can set the number of continues anywhere from 1 to 99 or even unlimited. It's easy to modify the game so it suits what you want to get out of it, whether you're looking for a demanding shooter experience only the hardcore can hope to endure, or a simple romp through a vibrant landscape where death is merely a minor nuisance.

Gunbird 2 for Nintendo Switch (Switch) image

Not everything is perfect, of course. Besides the absence of Morrigan, there are no online leaderboards. Admittedly, this doesn't matter one bit to me personally because I have no desire to showcase my pure suckage. But if you're the sort of person who spends dozens of hours perfecting your run and you would like the world to quake in fear of your prowess, I can imagine the lack of an in-game system to document the results of your obsession will rub you the wrong way. Ah, well. At least there's YouTube, right?

Gunbird 2 for Nintendo Switch is (usually) available on the Nintendo eShop, and for a very reasonable $7.99. You don't have to brave the mean streets of eBay, or hope you get lucky at a garage sale or in a retro specialty shop where everyone knows just what a good game is worth and isn't afraid to charge it. You just have to have a Nintendo Switch and an interest in classic shooters. If those qualities apply, then you're safe spending what you otherwise might squander on a sandwich at Subway. The Nintendo Switch already has an impressive and growing library of shooters available, but Gunbird 2 is still one of the best of the breed and not one genre fanatics should do without.


honestgamer's avatar
Staff review by Jason Venter (October 30, 2018)

Jason Venter has been playing games for 30 years, since discovering the Apple IIe version of Mario Bros. in his elementary school days. Now he writes about them, here at HonestGamers and also at other sites that agree to pay him for his words.

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