These skies aren't very friendly!
Ahhh…the good ol' top-down shooter. The quintessential videogame. No searching for keys or crates, no princesses to rescue, and no complications. Just you flying a heavily-armed craft by the seat of your pants versus about a bazillion enemies. Depth shmepth.
That's why I'm really enjoying GigaWing 2, the sequel to Capcom's GigaWing. While it doesn't offer anything new, it certainly gives some seriously frantic arcade action.
The story is silly and sort of inconsequential. It's the future and you play a mercenary pilot hired by the Union to crush the Serbenian Republic's rebellion. That prettty much wraps it up. But considering that it's only a shooter, you're not playing this game for the plot.
Before the chaotic dog fighting ensues, you'll need to select one of five pilots and their respective fighters. Naturally, the fighters have different characteristics from one another. Mastering the game with each ship, considering their varying speeds and weapon load-out, will provide virtual pilots with a long lasting challenge and an incentive to play over and over again.
Part of that challenge comes from the nostalgic and ubiquitous 'three lives' per game. Capcom doesn't leave any room for error. Unfortunately, they tried to balance this by giving you unlimited continues, so it doesn't really matter if you die a lot.
In fact, by using the continues as they come, I was able to finish the game in about fifteen minutes. And despite how good you think you are, the difficulty of the gameplay sort of demands using the continues. However, it is challenging to see how far you can go without continuing, and I recommend playing like you're dropping quarters.
As with any shooter worth its salt, GigaWing 2 rewards players with weapon upgrades galore. Believe me, you need every one of them. Wave after wave of the enemy's armada swarm over you with no breaks whatsoever. It is actually hard to see the background as it's so obscured by enemy fire. Yes, it's that thick.
The general strategy for shooters is find a pattern in the enemy fire, look for a break, exploit it, and repeat. That technique works for this game for about twelve seconds. Fortunately, your ship is equipped with its own high-power ordinance, such as the Force bomb, which annihilates everything onscreen. But the showstopper is the rechargeable "Reflect Force," a shield that gives you temporary invulnerability and sends enemy shots back in their faces. It's great!
The Reflect Force can be used in a couple of different ways. You can select either Reflect Barrier, which sends shots back in the direction they originated, or the more offense-oriented Reflect Laser, which envelops your ship in a force bubble. When shots hit the bubble they are absorbed and held while your ship locks on to every available target. When your bubble hits capacity, the stored shots launch into the advancing horde, decimating them. Way cool!
Speaking of cool, every fighter has a distinct energy signature to his or her bomber, and all are incredible to behold. My favorite is Raven's Wing Bomber; when maxed out, the ship grows huge wings (Gundam like) which slice through the bad guys with pyrotechnic glory.
GigaWing 2 delivers in the fine print as well. For instance, in the middle of a firefight you really don't have time to shift focus and see if your Reflect Force gauge is recharged. Instead your "jump-pack" equipped controller gives a little internal thump when it's ready to go, which is extremely helpful.
This game is not only old school fun, but it looks great. 3D backgrounds that rotate and move independently of the main action dazzle the eye and add to the immersion. Or would, if you weren't so busy trying to survive.
Which raises the first of GigaWing 2's problems - the difficulty. Seriously, this isn't an easy game, and frustration isn't out of the question. The unlimited continues is a nice thought, but that also means that finishing the game is merely a matter of time.
And despite the tweaked graphics and nifty weapons, this is still just a simple, mindless shooter and might bore some of you. The multiplayer adds some replay value, but in this day and age (and next gen system), I'd kind of prefer to see just more varied gameplay. Beating a game in 15 minutes is a little too old-school.
But all in all, this is a good game. For a mere $20, you get plenty of mindless old-school fun, albeit for a relatively short time. But hey, it's more than worth the dough!