theuselessgod's Giga Wing (Dreamcast) review

SO MANY BULLETS. SO MANY POINTS.

The Short

Pros

- Crazy bullet hell shmup

- Has INSANE SCORES. Like seriously, it just gets ridiculous how many points it gives you

- Fun Reflect Force mechanic makes the game a bit more manageable

- Four ships, and the levels slightly vary on order depending on what ship you pick

- Unlimited continues in the Dreamcast version

- Can also customize number of lives and bombs in the DC version

- One of my favorite shmups ever

Cons

- Isn't the best looking game, especially the cheapy explosions

- That would be the Dreamcast version. The arcade version is very crisp and not-blurry

- Story is duuuuuuuuuumb

- Even on the standard setting, the game just coats the screen in bullets

- My DC copy won't save. I have no idea why or if that's normal, but not saving high scores sucks

- Will encounter a fair amount of slowdown when compared to the arcade version

Most of these screenshots will be from the arcade version. Just sayin.

The Long

Giga Wing was my introduction into bullet hell shooters. Way back in college my friends and I all got hooked on arcade emulation, having Marvel vs Capcom tournaments and playing enough Metal Slug to make our downstairs neighbors think World War III was going on. It was through this I discovered the arcade version of Giga Wing, a name that clearly evokes thoughts of awesome explosions and airplanes. Giga Wing is a vertically scrolling bullet hell shooter from Capcom, and while you could argue it stays pretty rigidly to the genre's trappings it manage to strike that fine balance between "easy" and "impossible" so that even novice Giga....wingers will have a chance.

So let's get into this, shall we?

Believe me, this is one of the easier levels.

Giga Wing's core concept revolves around Reflect Force, or Reflect Barrier, or "The magic bullet shield" or whatever you want to call it. As stated it's a bullet hell, meaning even if you crank the difficulty down to 1 it's going to punch you in the face on the later levels. Even on the default arcade setting (3 out of 9) the game gets pretty dang insane very quickly. The main means you have to survive is this shield. Holding down A for a second will activate a temporary sphere around your ship, causing all bullets to bounce back at enemies (dealing damage) and then turning into point-giving medals (that also increase your multiplier). This shield is on a recharge, so the game can quickly become surviving between recharges, which makes it frantic and fun.

The Reflect Force is also well designed as it takes a split second before it'll activate, meaning you have to plan for it rather than use it as a last ditch attempt to survive. One hit an you're down a life (and your multiplier), so it's important to quickly decide when is best to use the shield, taking into account your seconds of vulnerability during its recharge. Luckily, Bombs in this game last several seconds and wipe the screen of bullets, so for a really last ditch effort you can use those, but that's kind of cheap (and doesn't give you the massive score boots reflecting does).

Protip: You can't reflect THAT thing back...

As you reflect bullets and mow through enemies, golden medals drop EVERYWHERE. These serve as two purposes: they give you points (a given) and also up your multiplier. Because there are just trillions and trillions of medals on screen at a time (and bullets, yours and the enemies) your multiplier gets insane very fast, resulting in crazy scores. The high score for this game on the arcade is 2,954,296,261,700. THAT'S KIND OF A LOT OF POINTS.

Aside from the reflection mechanic and bananas scoring system, the game is pretty much standard fare. You collect powerups (up to three) that makes your ship better. You have four ships to choose from, though everybody should just pick the blue one because it has homing missiles which MAKE EVERYTHING EASY. Or easier, rather; this game is freaking difficult. Anyway, don't expect too many surprises here; you just blast and shoot your way through a steampunk shmup complete with weird anime story bits that make no sense whatsoever.

You show 'em, headband...guy

As stated, I originally played this game on arcade emulation and absolutely loved it. Yeah, I probably spent $100 in quarters doing a first run, but hey...I loved it. The game isn't particularly long with unlimited continues (you can beat it in around 20-30 minutes, tops) but the challenge, of course, is getting the high scores.

Which is stupid that my Dreamcast version won't save. I dunno if it's my disc or something, but the stupid thing doesn't seem to have any save options in the menues or whatever. If it doesn't save, what the crap is the point?

There are a few other points against the Dreamcast version (and a few for). Graphically, it looks considerably worse. It obviously isn't widescreen, but the bright and crisp arcade visuals are blurry and darker (though the medals are still golden and super shiny!). Explosions also look more pre-rendered than actually pixel drawn, which looks weird and kind of worse. The Dreamcast version also suffers occasional slowdown which wasn't present in the arcade version, which is weird because the Dreamcast is a pretty powerful system. Well, whatever.

In the Dreamcast's favor, you have the option to pick how many lives and bombs you get, a difficulty selection, as well as unlimited continues. This actually kind of makes the game...really easy, if you are lame. You can just bomb all five bombs you have, die, and bomb again. I suggest not giving yourself more than one or two bombs, least your ruin your experience.

Stuff just keeps gettin' crazier!

As it stands, Giga Wing is an excellent shmup, and since it was the first bullet hell game I ever played and really loved, I have a real affinity for it. I don't know anything about "high-tier" bullet hell play (I'm not particularly great at these games anyway) and I know games like Ikaruga did this formula better, but I still really, really like Giga Wing. When I heard it was out on Dreamcast I just had to grab it, and being able to play co-op with my wife only makes it that much more fun.

If you see it in an arcade, give it a shot (just be warned: you'll die. A lot). The Dreamcast version is inferior to the arcade port but is hardly bad, and is certainly worth picking up if you have even the slightest affinity for the genre.

Plus, the robotic "OK!" voice that plays when your shield meter has refilled is stuck in my head forever.

Four out of five stars.

Floating continents! Sorry, inside joke.

More at http://nathanvsvideogames.blogspot.com

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