Air Gallet (Arcade) review
"When it comes to the wild and wacky world of shooters, few things are as much of a sure bet as the simple fact that youíve probably seen it all before. It may look nicer or be better executed in some games, but true originality is hard to find because every good idea ever made has seemingly been replicated over and over again by companies in the hope of squeezing as much money out of the concept before it becomes as stale as old bread. "
When it comes to the wild and wacky world of shooters, few things are as much of a sure bet as the simple fact that youíve probably seen it all before. It may look nicer or be better executed in some games, but true originality is hard to find because every good idea ever made has seemingly been replicated over and over again by companies in the hope of squeezing as much money out of the concept before it becomes as stale as old bread.
Such is the case with our project for today, a 1996 endeavor by Banpresto named Air Gallet. A six-stage romp which appears to be over the land and seas of Europe, this game pours on a very robust dose of the 1940s series before concluding with a dab of Aerofighters-inspired weirdness.
For nearly the entire duration of the game, youíll fly your little plane over cities, water, mountains, airports and various other forms of terrain while constantly blasting the everloving crap out of planes, ships and all the other beloved military shooter staples. Is it a well-executed concept? No doubt about it. Is it a stale and generic concept? You betcha.
The problem with Air Gallet has nothing to do with play control or aesthetic value -- it simply has to do with the fact that youíve seen just about everything here in other games of this genre. Just create a checklist of all the staple elements of the vertically-scrolling military shooter and count how many are present in this coin-op.
Do we have bosses and mini-bosses ranging from space shuttles to stealth bombers to giant gunships? Check.
In certain levels, are you able to blast assorted buildings and structures to get various goodies (typically point bonuses)? Yep.
Do the enemies and levels seem to fall into the time-honored rut where you are almost constantly fighting planes, tanks and boats while flying over cities, airports and oceans? Most definitely.
And if you keep thinking, Iím sure that you could probably name a couple more elements of Air Gallet WITHOUT even picking up one single quarter for the purpose of trying your hand at it.
For example, ever notice how a few games in this particular genre conclude with a really weird fight that seems a bit out of place with the rest of the game? Sort of like Aerofighters, where a number of levels against planes, tanks and boats were followed by a final confrontation with a giant super-powered ape. Essentially, this is an element that a player looks forward to because, for one fleeting moment, they will get to do something that will actually separate the game they are playing from the pack.
Well, you wonít be disappointed by Air Gallet if you are looking for something along these lines. Sure, this game seems pretty straightforward with your plane fighting what appears to be an evil military force for nearly six full levels, but the final confrontations of that sixth level are enough to make the average player do a double-take at the screen. Maybe itís not a flying monkey, but itís still pretty darn cool.
To your shocked eyes, you will find out that the mastermind and/or overlord of the enemy forces is a gigantic angelic statue with several lethal guns plastered all over it. Pump enough ammo into this monstrosity to destroy it (an event which some players may have to refinance their home to complete) and a plane with a skull face plastered on it will pop out to challenge you to a brutally difficult two-part fight. Itís not your standard, run-of-the-mill battle, which is both a positive and a negative. Itís a positive because itís nice to see a little creativity get used in the gameís design. Itís a negative because it really makes one wish said creativity would have been used a bit more often.
Fortunately for Air Gallet, that lack of creativity is the only true flaw of the game. You have good play control, two types of ďbombĒ attack, a few very useful special weapons, nice sound effects, a decent soundtrack and some very nice graphical effects.
Fighting the second levelís stealth bomber boss over the Eiffel Tower of Paris is a nice touch. The opening of the third level, where youíre flying over reddish-orange clouds at sunset is beautiful. Several of the city and town graphics are also wonderfully portrayed, especially level fourís village.
Air Gallet also does an excellent job with providing nice level designs. For the most part, there is no single theme to any particular level. Instead, themes get combined to make just about every level seem like a full, varied experience. Take the fourth level, for example. You depart from an aircraft carrier in the ocean and fly over water for a little while. The water soon turns to land and you get to traverse the skies over the European village before going back to an ocean setting to fight a complex multi-segmented boss.
And that is refreshing. After playing a number of games in which land levels are land levels and water levels are water levels, it is wonderful to play a game where the various forms of terrain mix with each other to turn an otherwise unspectacular level into a diverse experience.
To be completely honest about a game like Air Gallet, one has to step back and admit that it does a solid job of carrying out a tried-and-true formula. It looks good, sounds good and plays good. It's probably not on the level of 1944 or 19xx, but it's still better than the average game of its type. Players should be prepared to dish out the money, as this is a difficult game with many enemies flooding the screen with countless bullets on a pretty regular basis as well as some diabolically difficult bosses.
The problem is (as stated before) that this game does very little to stand out -- instead just seeming to place itself one step below the more venerable games of this type. Capcomís 1944 had a life meter to make the constant barrage of projectiles a bit easier to stomach, while 19xx had a couple of breathtaking moments which this game is unable to match.
Air Gallet is a quality game that will offer a reasonable amount of good times -- however, it doesnít really offer anything spectacular enough to warrant being recommended to anyone who is not a big fan of this particular sort of shooter. If you played 1944 or Aerofighters and came to the opinion that you canít get enough of that sort of game, youíll love Air Gallet. If you played those games and felt indifferent toward the experience, it'll do nothing to alter your feelings.
Community review by overdrive (March 05, 2004)
Rob Hamilton is the official drunken master of review writing for Honestgamers.
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