Review by Limbrooke
"Giga Wing re-Deux"
Three years, in some cases, may be a blip on the radar in the long run and compared to some periods, however in this case, three years is a long time to cultivate and reflect back on an opinion. Without much surprise, I decided to re-assess my position towards Giga Wing 2 since I felt in many ways there were a few issues the first time around. Mainly, since I had not much experience in the shooting game genre, at least not as much as I do presently, my viewpoint was not very fair towards the game perhaps more importantly towards a specific, definite preference in the genre. Now, having vastly more experience and skill, the review I present is far more accurate and far less biased so that those interested in the genre and perhaps this game in particular can get a better idea what is at hand when booting up Giga Wing 2.
To make note, Giga Wing 2 (2001) is the second entry of three overall in the series, followed by the arcade (Type X)/PS2 game Giga Wing Generations (2004) and follows up on the arcade (CPS-2)/Dreamcast game Giga Wing (1999). Giga Wing 2 was initially released on the Sega NAOMI arcade hardware which is interesting since the NAOMI and Dreamcast share near identical specifications and architecture making for the excuse that the Dreamcast port is very accurate. The developer of Giga Wing 2 and the series in general is Takumi, whom until recently was a somewhat active member of the shooting game scene, infamous for other titles such as Mars Matrix (CPS-2/Dreamcast), Kyukyoku Tiger 2 (F3/Saturn), and Night Raid (G-Net/PS1).
Like most Takumi games, Giga Wing 2 has a distinct feeling in the sea of shooting games, as a result this is one reason why taking such a departure is often a welcome one. Like the progenitor, Giga Wing 2 (GW2 from here on) is fundamentally a score based shooter, revolving around the aspect of being able to reflect oncoming bullets back at the enemy for temporary invulnerability with the prospect of large point gains. At first this description may not lend to a positive note, as some may dismiss this as making the game too easy or dull. Since shooting games are arguably one of the oldest genres of games the evolution of bullet patterns have gone down various paths in order to create more challenge to the ever skilled players: one where the bullet speed and frequency is increased and one where the bullet density is increased and the bullet speed is generally decreased. GW2 tends to lend itself more to the latter, but there are times when speed plays a large role, in particular during the later stages. Therefore, when tonnes of bullets are all over the place, in an ever increasing frequency, GW2 has enough challenge survival wise with one starting out in the game (provided of course it's no relegated to the likes of a panic-bomb). However, the general hit-box size for the players ships are not small, unless speaking when in relation to the size of the ship (approximately the cockpit on a given ship), so weaving through these patterns (as is seen most predominately in titles produced by Cave) is not always recommended, meaning the reflect mechanic doesn't feel tacked on and is an encouraged aspect. In this respect GW2 adds beyond what was available in the first game by adding two type of reflect weapons, Barrier and Laser. To those familiar with the first title, Reflect Barrier has been carried over to GW2, whereby all bullets caught during the reflect sequence(s) are thrown directly back at a given source, no matter what, essentially pushing the bullets' back to where they came from. If the reflected bullets strike the enemy, medals will appear (not only but when enemies are destroyed in general a medal will appear this way); medals which play a large role in terms of scoring. Medals collected count toward a multiplier which is used in sum with the points a given enemy is worth when destroyed. Like the original game, the number and values of medals can go very high, into the quadrillions, but just because ones score looks very big doesn't necessarily mean it is. Carrying on, the Reflect Laser is a new addition and is perhaps geared at a more beginner friendly method. Unlike the Barrier, the Reflect Laser when activated will not do damage until it has been completely released, in addition the reflect mechanism sees a laser lock-on to every enemy on screen, doing damage and creating medals. As I have understood, this method is for lesser scoring and does not offer the same amount of complexity/flexibility as Barrier but it's not bad and a good addition. Is that all there is too it: reflect bullets, produce medals, and survive? There is more and it is the real meat of the scoring; medal volcanoes. These volcanoes or fountains are triggered when a certain number of normal medals have been produced on screen at a given time, thanks to either the Reflect Barrier or Laser release. When activated, the volcano will occur at the source where the most reflected bullets have struck, which can mean there will sometimes be several places on screen where a volcano can occur at a given time. The payoff is huge as the volcano-type medals have large values and occur in huge quantities, helping raise the multiplier much faster than normally. In short, practice to find ways to best activate the medal volcanoes, but as I'd recommend, only after one has decided work out a strategy of survival throughout the half dozen stages in GW2.
Can much more be said of the game-play? Well, I might say the game is a little short and that pardon the first four stages, the last couple are not far removed from boss only affairs. Very interesting and tough bosses, but no real stages, just phases, so to speak. This may only be an issue to the seasoned player so it's not a huge deal. GW2 on top of carrying over from arcade mode has a stage by stage score attack mode, which although has different scoring than the regular game, can be seen a quasi-practice area. Then there is the multi-player: personally I've never had an opportunity to utilize it and I never expect to do so. GW2 offers the prospect of a four player simultaneous, which makes sense since the Dreamcast has four controller ports built-in. The problem of course is that this is a shooter, which generally is a one person game, for more serious play anyway. The option is available though for some fun with three other friends, although I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for this to happen.
Unlike before, this plays a very small role although it is still valid. The graphics for the time were excellent and even now remain some of the best 3D on the system. Some people generally don't like the big polygon look of most NAOMI based games but the use of colours and some 2D make this a quite varied and generally easy on the eyes game. It runs at a smooth 60fps and while detail is low (pardon some textures); the effects used look very nice. It stacks up there with the best 3D games on Dreamcast.
This is an area which isn't really important but it is worth mentioning for atmosphere and presentation as a whole. I still don't dig the soundtrack. I tend to lean towards more rock or electronic game soundtracks and sadly this game offers up neither. The explosions and sound affects are clear and high quality and outside that no issues. It's a matter of personal preference but it in many ways is an improvement over Giga Wing's Come on! dozens of times over in a single song. GW2s orchestral soundtrack isn't my cup of joe, but perhaps others out there might really be drawn to it.
What a surprise, another area that hasn't changed. Perhaps I have come to a point where I can properly illustrate my view on the characters on story, as non-imperative as it is. I still don't care about the story and since the thing I seek the most before starting a stage is skipping the bloody character dialogue I wouldn't be surprised if most people simply don't care. I'd much rather there was an option available from the start to turn off dialogue since I'm always skipping it. Eventually I'll understand why it's called Giga Wing, perhaps something to do with the final boss? Who cares, as the game doesn't suffer as result of lack of understanding the background, much like most other examples in the genre.
Conclusion and Summary
In the past I couldn't see the forest for the trees as I was determined to compare GW2 to something or anything else in an effort to somehow express my (then) dissatisfaction with it. I was way off, and as such I didn't really understand or appreciate the game until the past year or so. It doesn't matter if another game has a better aspect or is more enjoyable, the point is to see how the game, GW2, stands out on its own. To that end, GW2 is a solid shooter, with tight controls, good visuals, and a really flexible scoring system than can appeal from veterans to beginners alike. I think it's my favourite in the series although I've yet to try out GWG (soon enough) on PS2. As mentioned earlier, try and practice GW2 for some hours to figure out if it's for you. If it's not gelling then and there, put it aside and let go on the backburner. Come back a couple months or years later and perhaps you'll see a different side this game has to offer. The different characters, each having different stage routes to the final boss adds immeasurable depth and diversity not to mention each having the Barrier or Laser game style on offer. Try out the various modes as nothing here doesn't speak to the time and effort Takumi spent on this (apart from length) so you never know what the future has in store so long as you aren't set in stone on your particulars in shooting games. Don't forget the gallery, various secret options, and characters which could keep one occupied for several hours or months on end. There is a lot to offer and while it's not the likes of Cave, Takumi shows a different side of the often overlooked genre.
In closing Giga Wing 2 shouldn't be hard to find for under $35, which compared to most Dreamcast fare, is pretty cheap and with all that was mentioned, if that cannot satisfy, one will be sure to get the return back in a short time. Even better is that it was localized, unlike most of the Dreamcast shooters so perhaps someone can get lucky and find it a thrift or old used games store.
While Giga Wing 2 isn't my favourite shooter, it's definitely one I can enjoy and get great satisfaction out of. It's funny looking back as I was vehemently comparing GW2 to another Takumi game, Mars Matrix, which I then said I preferred. How things have changed since I learned of the very demanding aspect of medal chaining in Mars Matrix things couldn't have done more of a 360 than planned. Now I respect and enjoy GW2 while MM sits on the backburner for an extended leave of absence. Final thoughts would be to consult the work of a venerable Takumi and Giga Wing expert, Rob of the shmups.com forums and to try and avoid watching super-plays so that one might enjoy the fruits of the game fresh and through ones own labours.
Final score: 7/10
Reviewer's Rating: 3.5 - Good
Originally Posted: 01/31/06, Updated 01/12/10
Game Release: Giga Wing 2 (US, 05/16/01)
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