Another solid shooter from Capcom and Psikyo - Review By Mr. Domino
t's the year 20XX. A very, very large brownie is heading straight toward the planet Earth or some similar looking planet also populated by humans. It is estimated that the brownie will collide into the planet in approximately six hours, give or take a few minutes. The Super Brownie Eradication Taskforce Elite (SBETE) is on the scene and ready to take on the foreboding dessert. However, budget cuts have only left enough money for a single tank of gas, enough to power just one fighter. Straws are drawn. They drink and pass out, leaving the sober janitor alone to save the planet.
Like most shooters, Gunbird 2 has a story and, like most shooters, no one really cares. Who cares that the characters are going after some legendary Almighty Potion? The point of the game is to blow stuff up while dodging other stuff and barely surviving, like any good shooter. Psikyo does include short cinemas between each level to further the story, but, while some are amusing, they are not why we're here. We're here to shoot and kill, Lieberman be damned!
Shooting and killing -- that's what makes Gunbird 2 good. Really, Gunbird 2 is a great shooter. It's just fun to play. Better yet, with seven available levels of difficulty, it's fun for people of any skill level. You say your grandmother hasn't touched a shooter in years? Just put the game on the baby setting and crack her hands around the controller; she'll have no trouble blasting away ships which are too afraid to shoot back. For those who are looking for a challenge but still find Gunbird 2's normal mode too tough to handle, the seven selectable difficulty settings will allow them to turn it down a notch or two until they are ready for more.
Alucard the vampire dodging a typical bullet spread.
One of the things Gunbird 2 does best is challenging players to be brave. Each character is equipped with a standard shot, a close range attack, a charge shot, and a bomb. The close range attack is the most powerful normal attack available, and a number of extremely dangerous situations can be escaped by taking out the threats with a close attack. Of course, the close range attack also puts players in jeopardy of being shot at with little time and room to react -- a nice trade off for the increase in attack power. Both the close attack and the charge shot make use of a power gauge at the bottom of the screen which gradually fills as enemies are fired upon with the regular shot. As in most other shooters, players collect power-up icons to increase weapon strength (up to three levels) and bomb icons to increase the number of bombs.
Any power-up icons collected after reaching the max weapon level adds to the player's score. Bombs are also a scoring factor, since a point bonus is given based upon the number of enemy bullets close to the player when the bomb is launched. Gold coins are also hidden within certain enemies and level obstacles, and collecting them rapidly will create a chain, increasing the point value of each successive coin picked up. To sum, Gunbird 2 is fun on its own, but thankfully has enough scoring methods to satisfy those who enjoy playing for points. (Hello? Hello? Well, I'm sure some of you still exist.) Another nice touch is that different sets of high scores are maintained for each of the different difficulty levels, so that million-plus score you always brag about won't mean squat when everyone can see you were playing on the child level.
Speaking of children, it would help to keep a few handy to flip your TV on its side for the arcade mode presentation. Gunbird 2 is a vertical scrolling arcade game which is meant to be played on a vertically-oriented monitor. The game is nice enough to include this option along with the ability to rotate the controls to suit this position. The two Dreamcast modes provided for normal televisions include a fixed scaled-in position with black borders (kind of ugly) on the sides and a scrolling view which has the same screen length as the arcade mode but must be scrolled up and down to see the entire playfield (not quite ideal).
The character designs aren't especially great, but then they go and say stuff like this. I love it.
The graphics are quite nice with lots of color and detail. Think of a cute version of Raiden with Metal Slug's artists. At the more difficult settings the game will literally throw a billion bullets on screen without a hint of slowdown or flicker. Remember flicker? I do. It's nice to live in a world where a shooter can do so much without bogging down the system, even if certain people still proclaim that it's nothing a 16-bit machine couldn't do. However, aside from the amount of sprites on screen, there's not a whole lot to be amazed with graphically, except maybe a handful of rendered bosses later in the game.
The character designs are passable but not too appealing, at least to me. Capcom did add Morrigan (of Darkstalkers fame) to the mix, which is nice since she adds style to the otherwise weak line-up. The seven characters may not be interesting visually, but they each play differently, having his or her own strengths and weaknesses. The attacks and bomb effects vary among the characters, so repeatedly playing through the game with each will yield different experiences requiring some changes in strategy. The cinemas and endings also vary for each character, and there are even unique endings for pairs of characters, should you play 2 player. So, if you really want to see all of the variations, you'll have to play through the game dozens of times to catch 'em all. If you have no friends or don't know of anyone skilled enough to play through the game with you, Capcom has included a "single player 2-player mode" which alternates between the two selected characters at death to let you view all of the cinema variants. Thoughtful.
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