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1995-2001
GamesFirst! Magazine

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by Capcom

 

scrn06-01.jpg (7896 bytes)The top-down, vertical-scrolling shooter is not dead. Indeed it may never die. It has, however, become a niche genre of gaming, resigned to pleasing die hard fans and perhaps a few stragglers. But if the makers of these games are hoping to change this, releasing stinkers like Capcom’s Giga Wing 2 isn’t going to help.

scrn04-01.jpg (8528 bytes)So far as I can tell, all college creative writing workshops share one rule: something positive can be said about even the worst of submissions, and a constructive critique should begin on that note. This leads to the joke where, after a long silence, during which the class contemplates a particularly ripe piece of writing, someone finally pipes up with "I like the font this is written in." Well, I like Giga Wing 2’s font. That is to say, the graphics have obviously been created on a next generation system. The backgrounds, the ships, the cannon fire, everything is rendered vividly in 3D. There are even inspiring moments, as when your ship flies over a body of water that reflects the sky. (It isn’t often that you get to see the sky from this perspective.)

scrn02-01.jpg (9629 bytes)Then, maybe ten seconds into the game, all of this goes straight to hell. As the screen is flooded with the relentless onslaught of enemy fighters, mid- and end-level bosses, and the dozens of shots they fire, you can kiss your 60fps goodbye. Adding to the clutter and slowdown, the programmers decided eliminate all notions of convincing depth and movement as well. Let’s face it, all games of this sort have problems with depth. How exactly does an aircraft, flying at the same height and firing on the same plane hit both air and land targets? Well, in a fun and otherwise logical game we don’t care. However, to spice up the simple vertical scrolling, Giga Wing 2 includes areas where your fighter ascends or descends into different levels within the background. This would be neat if done to move the story, say, in cut-scenes. But this game does it mid-action so that everything on the screen—your fighter, enemy fighters, even cannon fire and bombs—ascends and descends evenly at the same pace, moving around exactly as they would otherwise. Having the action and setting independent of one another in this way not only makes the game look absurd, it invokes a sense of vertigo in the player that detracts from the game play.

scrn03-01.jpg (10175 bytes)I also must address a worn out trend that Capcom just refuses to let go. Every time the player of one of their games encounters a boss or decides to pull off a special move or, in the case of Giga Wing 2, detonate a bomb, these guys think that the screen has to erupt into a big, swirling acid trip. This was sort of cool once, but anymore it is just the graphical equivalent of being hit in the face with a sledgehammer—painful, disorienting, and just plain overkill. Is anyone still impressed by Capcom’s Technicolor Dreamcoat?

scrn05-01.jpg (10206 bytes)I could not possibly exaggerate the amount of clutter this game throws at you. It is so much that there is no way to make heads or tails of it, to discern where you are, what is in the air, or what is on the ground. Games of this genre thrive on reactionary, panic-stricken game play. But the good ones also allow for good reflexes and a certain amount of skill. No such luck in Giga Wing 2—the barrage of enemy aircraft and their scattershot are just too thick. Often there isn’t enough space anywhere on the screen to squeeze your fighter through (go ahead, stop the game and measure—I did). The game counters this by including screen-sweeping bombs and a device called "reflect force." At the start of the game you can choose to wield either a reflect barrier or a reflect laser. Reflect barrier ricochets enemy fire back in the direction from which it came, and reflect laser absorbs enemy fire, then targets the enemies and fires them all back at once. During the game, when the gauge is full enough, you can hold down the A button and your reflect force of choice will work its magic. Essentially, the game play is reduced to this: weave around and have fun until the action gets too thick, then rely on the bombs or reflect force, your virtual deus ex machina, to clear the screen for you, and then repeat. And after you can’t help but die three times, continue. Continues are infinite and each time you use one, all gauges and ammunition are refilled—it actually benefits you to die. Once you throw away skill and reflexes and play this game as it is set up, it suddenly moves from seemingly impossible to incredibly easy. So easy and so short, in fact, that you can beat it in less than twenty minutes. I kid you not.

scrn01-01.jpg (13328 bytes)Giga Wing 2 tries to expand this time a little by including five different playable characters and allowing up to four players to play at once. Well, yeah, each character has a different fighter, different bomb effects, and subtle strengths and weaknesses, but none of this is exciting enough to give it true replay value. Even if you play it through with each character, you only end up with around an hour of playing time. And as far as the multiplayer thing goes, if the disorientation and slowdown are bad on single player, guess what happens when you add three more?

Admittedly, I am one of the stragglers I mentioned in the introduction. For me, these shooters peeked with the 16-bit revolution. And yet there is that stand-up of 1942 at the skating rink that never fails to seduce me with its simple, addictive, quarter-gobbling goodness. However, I am not about to go easy on Giga Wing 2 just because I think a few loyalists will be more forgiving of its overwhelming faults than I. This game is terrible. With less than twenty minutes of playing time, it doesn’t even earn its $19.99 price tag. I wouldn’t recommend it at rental price. If someone tries to give you this game, I suggest you back away slowly and then run like hell.

Jeremy Kauffman

Snapshot

Ups: Some cool visuals; seizures, if you're into that thing.

Downs: Way too short; way too much action; way too repetitive.

System Reqs:
Sega Dreamcast

 

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