"Very cool game, yep."

Introduction:
As you probably know by now, Gunvalkyrie was originally slated for the Dreamcast. A combination of the fact that Sega morphed into a third party publisher/developer, and maybe a little monetary contribution from Microsoft sealed this game for Xbox. I have come to respect Smilebit more and more with each new release, so let's see if they can continue their trend of greatness.

Graphics:
Absolutely stunning. Smilebit has the Xbox GPU down pat. You'll see a seamless universe right out of your wildest sci-fi imagination. Areas include a Valley (filled with pillars, caverns and lots of room to move around); Civilian Base (reminiscent of Burning Rangers with multi-level rooms and corridors); Naglfar's Pit (an enormous cavern with a towering ceiling, many platforms and a poisonous lake); and Yggdrasill (a cavernous realm littered with danger which leads to the ultimate encounter). Of course, each locale has multiple levels to complete and bosses to defeat. Special effects are abundant in Gunvalkyrie. These are some main aspects of interest. The Xbox warping effect occurs when you do one of various jetpack boosts. Your weapons create a halo of lighting effects as they travel to their target. Last but not least, in Naglfar's Pit, you're in a sort of pixie mist throughout, which really helps give you depth perception and a sense of ''being there''. Cool.

Control:
This is where you'll either love or discard this game. Initially, the controls are rather intuitive, and the advice you get along the way is helpful. You can run in all directions, independently look around and target enemies simultaneously. Selecting weapons, firing, and jumping is simple too. As you progress, you'll need to master the jetpack boost techniques. This is the part that everyone is talking about when saying the gameplay of Gunvalkyrie has a steep learning curve. Gunvalkyrie features a boost technique combo system which allows you to remain airborne almost indefinitely (if you're really good). To achieve this, you must press down the left stick and alternately boost forward, to either side, or backward. Ideally at the same time, you need to target enemies and adjust your point of view with the right stick, while firing with the right trigger. Sounds hard because it is. But it's not impossible and is very rewarding to anyone willing to master the boost combo. Hovering is also a much needed move, which can easily be mastered though. Power-ups can be acquired as well and are useful. Kelly has two weapons at her disposal (machine gun and multi-target capable rifle) and a Plasma Hook for Bionic Commando like movements (which allows her to reach new heights). Saburouta has only one, more powerful gun and is not as dexterous. After each mission you're awarded GV points (based on your grade in various categories), which can be used to upgrade your weapons, shields, etc...

Sound:
Gunvalkyrie's music is mostly mood setting and melodic, yet not really memorable. It's quite solid and well suited nonetheless. The sound effects are great and get the job done nicely. Targeting and warning cues help with situational awareness. Lastly, the voice acting is well done while not being over used. All the sound levels can be set in the Options Menu.

Fun:
There are a lot of levels and bosses to defeat in this game. If you make it to the end, you'll surely be a master of Gunvalkyrie's gameplay. You can play two characters in the game -- Kelly (more agile, extra weapon, and highly upgradable), and Saburouta (slower, more powerful gun, and not always available). The briefings and maps are detailed and helpful. This game is much more fun than I thought it would be. I'm certain, though, that your enjoyment will be a function of learning the gameplay.

BOTTOM LINE:
Gunvalkyrie continues Smilebit's charge into the future of quality, original games. The graphics are state-of-the-art; the control is unique, challenging, and rewarding; the music is solid but not too memorable; and ultimately your fun will be measured by your ability to master the gameplay. This game reminds me of something Treasure is capable of making...


Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 10/30/03


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