Gunbird 2 (Dreamcast) review
"Just by mentioning the name Psikyo, no doubt, you'll get a mixed reaction from gamers. Some will moan and groan about how hard their shmups are, being overwhelmed by the difficulty and having to face the usual on screen madness (entire screen being filled with bullets). While others will jump for joy at the challenge, being up to the task of taking on the insanity and attempting to dodge every bullet that rains down on them. Well, Gunbird 2 is no different. It offers you the same type of ..."
Just by mentioning the name Psikyo, no doubt, you'll get a mixed reaction from gamers. Some will moan and groan about how hard their shmups are, being overwhelmed by the difficulty and having to face the usual on screen madness (entire screen being filled with bullets). While others will jump for joy at the challenge, being up to the task of taking on the insanity and attempting to dodge every bullet that rains down on them. Well, Gunbird 2 is no different. It offers you the same type of madness Psikyo has given us in their previous outings. Even though the game doesn't offer anything different from any other typical shooter, it gives you something that's most important in any game: a fun challenge. It's not a game for everyone, though. Like I said, it's a love it or hate it type of game, due to it's difficult nature.
From the start, you get to choose from seven characters, each in a race against another to find the three elements of sun, moon, and stars. All three of which are necessary to obtain the Almighty Potion from the potion god. The characters to select from are pretty varied, both from appearances and abilities. Like Marion: a wizard that got transformed back to a child, Alucard: the last vampire, Aine: the flying samurai (who is supposedly bisexual), Morrigan from Darkstalkers, and so on. Each of which can perform normal shots (which can get powerful through powerups, as you know), bombs, charge shots, vicinity attacks. But some attacks are stronger or weaker, depending on who you pick. Like how Morrigan has a weak bomb attack, or Alucard having a strong vicinity attack.
Now, if you've play a couple of shoot-em-ups, the first three attacks are self explanatory. But there's a catch to performing the charge shot. You have level gauges that slowly get filled up when you shoot enemies, it's basically like the gauges in most fighting games. When one or more level gauge gets filled, you can perform your charge attack. The higher you build up the gauges, the stronger the attack will get. The vicinity attack is definitely the most useful and powerful attack in the game, but using it can be risky. It's a close up attack that you need to perform right in front of an enemy, but it's worth it since it causes so much damage. As with the charge shot, you can use it once a level gauge is filled up. So as you can see, you can't just use this attacks as much as you want. Some strategy is implemented, so you'll need to figure out when to use them and what to use them against.
You're not alone in obtaining the elements, though, because the Pirate Queens are after the Potion as well. They basically consist of three people: Shark (the leader), Blade, and Gimmick, and a legion of robotic machinery that'll make Dr. Robotnik squeal like a seven year old girl. The first three stages are picked at random every time, so don't think a stage that you've played on the first stage will be as easy when it's now a third stage next time. From the very start, these mechanized goons won't let up with there constant assault on your one man/woman army. And it gets harder from there, believe or not. It's a bit overwhelming at first, but after a day or two, you'll get the hang of everything. It's not just a game that randomly throws bullets everywhere at every moment. There's patterns and ways you can approach each new obstacle, you just need a keen eye and quick reflexes to find them.
The three stoo....er....Shark, Blade, and Gimmick aren't pushovers as well when you fight them at the end of each stage. They take control of unique looking vehicles with multiple forms, not once are you going to face them without having to take down two or three forms. Like the giant tank-ish plower that turns into a robotic sumo wrestler, or a desert ship that transforms into a giant dune buggy. While all different in design, they have one thing in common: they pound you mercilessly with every friggin bullet they got. And that's basically the main attraction of the game, the difficulty. Sure it's hard, but really fun for those looking for a challenge. Even when you continuously lose, you have this urge to keep playing and the determination to beat that obstacle that keeps bringing you down. Granted, you do get unlimited continues, BUT, starting with the fifth stage and up, you get sent back to the beginning of those stages when you lose your lives. So, those who think they could easily plow through the game, have to, *gasp*, attempt to play the game with some actual skills.
As you move from destination to destination, you'll notice the backgrounds are pretty bland. The only thing that saves most of them from being completely dull, are the reactions from people that are in the midst of your battles. It's funny seeing people freak out and run for cover during the Japanese shrine (I think) stage, or seeing guards get mad as you invade their castle. Then there's this neat little moment in the western stage. It's when you go up against a dozen cactus turrets and see Shark, Blade, and Gimmick run through them to reach a cave. The visuals as a whole are mostly average, nothing really stands out and wows you. This could've easily been ported to the Saturn late in it's life span (the game originally came out in 1998 in the arcades, minus Morrigan). The same can be said about the music. It consist mainly of upbeat happy tunes, none of which are really good. And since the constant explosions, shooting, and screaming drown out the music for most of the game, it's easily forgettable.
Sure, the game doesn't impress with amazing graphics, or a beautiful musical score (What? Having the option to play the game in its original arcade format isn't good enough for you?!). But, Psikyo delivers something even better: a challengingly fun experience. And even though you can complete the game in under 30 minutes, you get a LOT of action packed into that half hour. So, if you're a shmup fan, an adrenaline junkie, or want to play as a bisexual flying samurai, you may want to check this out. Just be sure you know what you're getting yourself into. The action can get pretty intense at times. I'm sure you won't care, though. Playing as a bisexual flying samurai is intense enough.
Community review by dementedhut (October 11, 2004)
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