Giga Wing (Dreamcast) review
"While itís true that you can hang near the bottom of the screen and weave like nobodyís business, such tactics arenít nearly as much fun as worming your way right into the thick of things. Take out a foe from a distance and you can gather small icons that drift through the air. Really move in for the kill and as your adversary bursts into flames, massive remnants gravitate toward you and boost your score into the stratosphere."
There are a lot of explosions in Giga Wing, one of several vertical shooters developed by Takumi and brought to the Dreamcast by Capcom. Aircraft carriers nosedive toward the ground far below, blazing infernos. Bullets pepper the sky and make it difficult to see the beautiful valley floor below, or the roiling lava flows. By the time you reach the end of the final stage and go toe-to-toe with a mobile hangar, youíll probably be reaching for the Tylenol. Yes, itís that kind of game, and I wouldnít have it any other way.
The game works thusly: you pick one of four pilots, you take to the skies, and then you start whimpering. There are too many bullets, too many jets. The screen practically squirms on your behalf. Thunderous explosions make for a mournful dirge and before you know it, youíve lost one of the planes in your reserves. As the replacement soars into sight, momentarily impervious to assault by enemy projectiles, you vow to have your revenge. Then you do.
One of the things thatís so nice about Giga Wing is that once you fall into the flow of things, you may actually find yourself gnashing your teeth and shouting at the monitor: ďmore bullets, more bullets!Ē Thatís because you can charge your shots so that an absorptive shield encases you, cocoon-like. Once your aura is prickly from collected shells, the bubble implodes and shrapnel flies outward. Youíd better hope you timed your charge right, because that tactic will now be unavailable for several seconds.
Thatís where the bombs come into play. Later levels will present you with a gauntlet of destruction. Heavily armored turrets sit astride towering parapets and floating islands (thereís always a floating continent or two in games like this), or a particularly powerful jet might soar into sight while its brethren zigzag across the horizon, guns blazing. It matters not. All youíll know is that you canít absorb the shots for at least a few seconds, so you press your special attack button and suddenly the doom you faced has become your own playground. Chilling arctic winds lash heavenward as pillars of ice freeze your opponents. Or perhaps a widening black hole appears while lightning arcs outward. You are a god.
Then the bomb is spent and everything snaps back into place. Bullets remain, and in some cases there are even enemy vessels that somehow survived the onslaught. Fortunately, you can again absorb those pesky projectiles. You can absorb them because you planned ahead, because youíve done this a hundred times and you know how to dodge and weave just long enough that enemy attacks are stopped just short of their mark.
Or maybe you donít. If that is the case, Giga Wing suddenly isnít half the fun you thought it would be. Those who think they can get by on reflexes alone are in for a nasty surprise. The game knows this, and it throws it in your face.
Razor-sharp reactions may save you at first, when your engines are screaming over a verdant landscape and blue shots float your way almost lazily, but soon enough your enemies are sending spread shots that crisscross over one another until thereís not even the slightest chance of surviving unless you use one of your bombs. Then your special attacks are gone and youíve lost a reserve unit. Sure, you can get to the end of the game like this if youíre willing to continue enough times, but thatís not where the fun is. Instead, youíll glean the most enjoyment from the title if you take the time to really, truly master it. Then, quite suddenly, Giga Wing is exhilarating.
The scoring system is a large part of what helps make this the case. While itís true that you can hang near the bottom of the screen and weave like nobodyís business, such tactics arenít nearly as much fun as worming your way right into the thick of things. Take out a foe from a distance and you can gather small icons that drift through the air. Really move in for the kill and as your adversary bursts into flames, massive remnants gravitate toward you and boost your score into the stratosphere. As an added bonus, this also happens to be the way to most easily absorb a field of shots and really turn the tables on your opponents, end-of-level monstrosities or otherwise. When you reach the final stageís conclusion, youíll be disappointed to find it all come to an end.
Thatís the gameís one true flaw. With only four selectable characters and a mission that ends almost as soon as it began, the game sometimes feels skeletal in its girth. Whatís there is fun, but then itís over and youíre wondering why you didnít hold out for a disc packed with more hours of fresh content. A two-player mode, while certainly welcome, is no substitute for additional stages. Even so, not every game can be epic in its scope. Considering the minimal amount of cash itíll take to make Giga Wing yours, the game is an obvious purchase. Just donít come crying to me when you find yourself thirsty for more.
Staff review by Jason Venter (May 08, 2005)
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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