| paleface [sys=DC; cat=Shooter_Horiz; loc=JPN] |
|Man alive, my DC hasn't had a workout like this in... dang... maybe since I first discovered Gunbird 2 over a year ago.|
The scoring system, the challenge and the stage design keep you coming back again and again--just one more play, I'll get that boss this time! Aside from a boss attack or two, the game doesn't blindside you at all (and you'll have to memorize the boss patterns anyway), just pours on bullets and obstacles in ever-increasingly difficult arrays.
Scoring can be a bitch, since the only real score of note comes from chained hits on your charge laser, and it takes a tough guy to stand up to more than one of those--in other words, you only really rack up a score in the bossfights (and the bonus isn't awarded until after the boss fight), so if you're playing through a level and don't quite beat the boss, you can kiss that huge chain hit bonus sayonara. There are, of course, midlevel areas you want to watch for where you can use the laser to good combo effect, but it's a careful balancing act: how much can you use here and still have enough left for the boss?
That's a particularly important question because you're invulnerable while lasering. So not only is it a deadly weapon and a huge score key, it also saves your butt. Howsomever, using up laser power also drains the power of your regular gun, so you could use the laser to generate a huge combo only to leave yourself defenseless against the next wave of pygmies. Ah, and I'll just mention in passing the massive energy buildup that ensues when you and a boss lock lasers together. Suffice it to say then that mastery of the laser's intricacies, and the where and when to use it in each stage, form the true core of the game, and one which you won't quite find anywhere else.
Stages seem ever varied, even after playing through the same damn level over and over. Many have vertical sections (oh, damn the vertical sections!) and really tough obstacle areas--ship generators, massive laser turrets, huge laser-backed centipedes, robot-packed elevator shafts--it can get pretty crazy.
And of course it gets even crazier when the game's "Border" system kicks in. You don't really have lives in the game, but you have "Borders": Green, Yellow, and Red. Each time your ship gets blowed up you have to drop down at least one border level (from green to yellow to red)--you can drop down more than one if you like. Why in tarnation would you do that? Because, I think, you can get higher scores at lower border levels. The difficulty also increases significantly, for the most part. And for the capper, the levels themselves vary depending on what border you're at: you may go along an entirely different route, or see some parts that you'd see at a different border, only under vastly different lighting conditions and sporting a completely different array of badguys. Each level, then, really becomes three levels in one. Lose a ship on the red border, however, and it's game over--but on the upside, if you score above a certain amount in a level, you get a border layer restored.
Graphics are surprisingly gorgeous, out-doing, to my eye, even the vaunted visuals of Ikaruga. Sound is so-so. Control is impeccable, you can even switch between three ship speeds on the fly, though I haven't felt comfortable enough to try doing that during gameplay.
If you should somehow (haha!) master the regular arcade game, the DC version has "Remix" mode in the amount of enemies gets completely ridiculous. Fun stuff! You may, now and then, encounter some slowdown, particularly if you've left some enemies alive that you really ought to have taken out, and then filled the screen with a big laser beam. It's scarcely noticeable for the most part and probably more of a relief than irritation.
This is, come to think of it, the first horizontal shooter that has really gripped me the way that some vertical shooters have. Horizontal shooters can now stand toe-to-toe with their taller, slimmer brethren in my little mental trophy case. And it's all thanks to Border Down, who'd have thunk it!
|Forgot to mention: the main gun has two modes. Tap-fire shoots little individual arcing lasers, more at higher power levels. these track on enemy ships. Holding fire shoots the beams straight ahead in a concentrated shot, good for big targets. |
Firing the main gun gradually charges up your battery power, which increases the power of the main gun itself and/or provides more big laser shooting charge. If no enemies are onscreen at the moment, hold fire to get in just a bit extra charge. Destroying enemies with it charges it faster than just firing it.
|Whoops, I was wrong about firing charging the gun--it just charges slowly over time. But taking out enemies does charge it faster.|
The game does so many nice things for you. You don't die immediately if you just graze a wall--you kind of bang off it and raise sparks, unless you really smashed into it. Hit detection for bullets on your ship is quite generous.
You can skip the little cinematics between stages by pressing Start. :)
Laser combos are called "Breaks." The laser also takes out bullets, and each bullet destroyed also counts as a Break, so be sure to shoot down as many bullets as possible while lasering a big boss.
Hm, the FAQ says that bordering down doesn't increase the difficulty unless you purposefully select a lower border at the beginning. I guess that make sense, because I actually find it quite tough to get through the second mission entirely on Green, but once I die, it actually gets easier to make it through.
Something funny with break combos--you can't combo a single enemy more than once, I think. For instance, the stage 1 boss has two forms. If you laser the first form, and then laser the second form, the hits on the second form don't increase the break combo.
Whoa, I'd been assuming that, as in most games, the more time you have left on the boss counter when finishing the stage, the more bonus you get. But it seems that here it's reversed: the closer you are to time zero, the higher the bonus. Sweet! Talk about incentive to milk a boss. But if you go overtime, you get a big negative. Very interesting. Not that I think I can milk any boss safely except for the first one, so far.