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Gaiares (Genesis) artwork

Gaiares (Genesis) review

"Zigfried Ages 2500 Volume 1: Gaiares
Across a series of 5 or 6 ads spanning SEVERAL YEARS, we learned important things like how to pronounce the name "Guy-Are-Us" (no comment) and we got to watch "professional gamer" Jamie Bunker fumble his way through puberty. The interesting thing about Renovation's misguided and ridiculously extensive ad campaign is this: Gaiares is actually pretty damn awesome."

Zigfried Ages 2500 Vol. 1:


Some people might start this review with a THRILLING story about Funcoland, Gamestop, or Jethro's Redneck Recyclery. Those people could talk about how they casually strolled through the used game section, noticed a long-forgotten Gaiares cart tucked behind thirty copies of Madden '92, and decided to give a $3.99 sidescrolling shooter an old-school try.

I can't do that. I paid $63.99.

Fortunately, it was $63.99 well-spent, because Gaiares is Number One!

Throughout the early 90's, pretty much every issue of every game magazine ran a cheesy full-page ad for Gaiares. Crazy, but true! Across a series of 5 or 6 ads spanning SEVERAL YEARS, we learned important things like how to pronounce the name "Guy-Are-Us" (no comment) and we got to watch "professional gamer" Jamie Bunker fumble his way through puberty. And I actually fell for it.

The interesting thing about Renovation's misguided and ridiculously extensive ad campaign is this: Gaiares is actually pretty damn awesome. In the vein of other memory-based shooter classics (like R-Type), Gaiares is pretty friggin' hard unless you're blessed with precognitive talents... but it's possible with persistence, and this is one game where persistence pays off.

If you're looking at screenshots, the most obviously impressive things about Gaiares are its awesome bosses. See those three guys on the right? THOSE AREN'T BOSSES. The end-of-level leaders, such as an enormous strutting cyberknight and a sickle-slinging grim reaper named DEATH GHETTO (who uses Raster effects to warp from one side of the screen to the other), are even more creative, inspired, and downright stylish. The level of detail and loving care put into each enemy -- even minor ones, like the orbital satellites and their rotating reflective mirrors -- is incredible.

The less obvious (but just as real) appeal of Gaiares is its variety and strategy. Each of the game's eight levels are seamlessly divided into several subsections with their own visual flare and environmental challenges (such as destructible space junk or indestructible giant worms). One level begins with a descent through the clouds, followed by a swift attack on an arctic outpost's laser cannon emplacements. After the bright blue sky fades to black, the Aurora Borealis shines beyond distant mountains... and a dragon appears.

Even though it's not a boss, this dragon battle is fairly significant. Since Gaiares is an unabashed checkpoint shooter, dying here means you're forced to replay the atmospheric descent scene. BOOOO! More importantly, the dragon guards a powerful weapon. But getting that weapon isn't easy.

Your ship is equipped with a TOZ device; it's like a boomerang that steals the power of any enemy it touches. Counting the secret weapons, there are about 12 different upgrades that can each be powered up three times. Most have their occasional uses, although the thick and frothy Giga Beam is a bit better than most.

So basically, instead of killing the dragon, you need to zap it in the head with your power-stealing TOZ... then you'll gain the "VERTICAL LASER", which comes in handy later in this same level, when you need to obliterate white rocks Gradius-style to advance (other weapons aren't quite as effective at rock obliteration). That's the kind of experimentation and planning that makes Gaiares more stimulating than its "memorize where each enemy appears on the screen" brethren. Whenever you find a new and better way to overcome difficult obstacles, you'll feel like a SUPER GENIUS.

SUPER GENIUS tip: Before picking up a forcefield icon, zap it with your TOZ. Doing this will let you absorb 5 hits, instead of 3!

Throughout each level, the backgrounds are just as detailed and vibrant as the enemies. White lightning crackles and sparks across the nebula stage's rich purple tapestry; black holes suck tiny stars into their all-engulfing maws. At times, Renovation has even coordinated the music (which is always catchy and memorable) with the onscreen action to make certain scenes even more exciting. During one favorite moment, your spacecraft enters a large metallic chamber. A door shuts from behind... and you're TRAPPED! The music fades and a new track, introduced by a dangerously high-pitched glissando, kicks in as water starts pouring in through the floodgates. The music, the sense of desperation, the warping water effects... it's just so perfect. Gaiares features so many amazing scenes that it's simply impossible to describe them all.

Gaiares -- short for Gaia Restoration -- caps the experience off with a pair of adorably cheesy and nostalgic anime cinematics starring the heroic Dan Dare, his beautiful sidekick Alexis, and the evil piratess Queen ZZ Badnasty. It's supposed to be an environmental "save the planet from pollution" tale; however, like an early 80's anime, it's typical good-vs-evil fluff, featuring unequivocally valiant heroes and unquestionably evil villains... but I'll swear to high heaven that Queen ZZ Badnasty's introduction gets me excited every time I see it. From the powerful musical prelude to the elaborate and colorful costume, there's no denying her ruthless awesomeness.

Look deep into Queen ZZ Badnasty's evil eye! With spectacularly epic music, your inspired final encounter against her weapon-stealing powered suit feels important, made even more dramatic because we've already seen the woman inside the suit. Forget other titles' wimpy fire phoenixes and silly dice games; this is some of the best the 16-bit generation has to offer. This is Gaiares.


zigfried's avatar
Staff review by Zigfried (December 30, 2005)

Zigfried likes writing about whales and angry seamen, and often does so at the local pub.

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