Giga Wing – Dreamcast
Platform: Sega Dreamcast
Release Date (NA): July 19th, 2000
Genre: Shoot ’em up, manic shooter
Nerd Rating: 5.5 out of 10
Perhaps you’re asking yourself just how this fierce SHMUP made it on my radar; then again, perhaps you aren’t. The beginning is as good of a place as any for the story to start, so I’ll start there. While browsing a local used video gaming outlet, I undertook my perfunctory journey through the area, first past the hardware odds and ends, followed by a glance through various cartridges. It’s an alternating dance of tip toes and squats to view everything in the case and almost always accompanied by an “ass-to-ass bump” with the guy looking at the shelf behind me. Usually such intimate contact occurs with a much less restrained nerd, squawking uncontrollably about some fucking best-selling PS2 title to their unimpressed girlfriend. Oh, and I’m the one yelling at my kid to quit laying in the middle of the floor. At least I get some sex cred for having the kid while my companions of awkward contact tend to reek of latex and “is it in there?” conversations.
Inevitably I worm my way through crowds of tall, loud women with no understanding of used game pricing, a troupe of 10-year olds tripping all over themselves (and everything else) to show each other a random FPS that was probably bad-ass controversial shit 7 years ago, and finally past the proverbial fat bitch who in some bizarre act of denial refuses to move, because doing so would be an admission that yes, she is in fact blocking the entire aisle.
Finally I’ve made it to the lonely section of Dreamcast and import Saturn games. Stuck squarely between the regular players previously mentioned and the fuckers with orange hair and zebra pants browsing through manga (who always smell like chili-cheese fries (and in that unappetizing, nigh nauseating way)), I now have a modicum of space to myself. It was here that I noticed a Dreamcast game titled Giga Wing, and damned if it didn’t have a $34 price tag. High prices on games I know nothing about generally pique my interest. I quickly texted The Bacon’s resident Dreamcast
fucker lover, NerdBerry. He’d never heard of it, so I passed on it, made my way back through the horde of mouth-breathers and all around sons of bitches, and put it out of my mind for the time being.
Over the next few days I did several things that have absolutely nothing to do with Giga Wing, but I was prompted to download and later burn this pricey Dreamcast shooter. Both Sega’s console swan song and Saturn built up a reputation for re-introducing mindless SHMUPs to the public, though in the case of the latter many of them were only available in Japan. Not only is Giga Wing a SHUMP, but it’s also categorized as a “manic shooter” where the screen is filled with literally hundreds of objects at any given time.
Playing Giga Wing is a lot like navigating the gaming aisle in the store that first brought the game to my attention. Lots of threats are present: planes, tanks, turrets, and other giant war machines (or other people’s children, idiots, and other giant bitches) and they’re all doing something: flying towards you, launching projectiles, or launching an ass-ton of projectiles (or ass bumping you, remaining inconveniently stationary, or launching an ass-ton of pedantic information in your general direction). After a point, assessing each and every encounter is no longer an option, and the only remaining strategy is to kill everything in the way. Unfortunately I don’t have a license to prance around public places with my Redhawk .44 Magnum, so the real world comparisons will have to stop here.
It’s fairly easy to lose a life, but thankfully the ship respawns exactly where it left off. Cooler still, once all lives are lost, the player has the option to continue…indefinitely! Beating Giga Wing is little more than a matter of perseverance; even the boss battles are timed, so if for some reason pressing A repeatedly is too difficult, the stage is cleared once the clock runs down. Since the game seems to be beatable no matter what, I have a hard time understanding what the challenge is or where its purpose lies. High scores, I suppose?
The options menu provides a selectable difficulty from 1 to 10, number of lives, and button configuration, not that any of it really matters. Gameplay is exceedingly simplistic. The player’s aircraft/spacecraft can shoot “lasers” and drop bombs. By holding A, a sort of forcefield is generated that quickly absorbs and redirects enemy fire back towards the foes. This is sufficient to get one through a couple of seconds of a crazy barrage, but then the meter must be refilled and staying alive long enough for it to do so is nearly impossible. Bombs will always obliterate, or at least damage, everything on screen for a couple of seconds, but the player can only hold 4 at a time. There is positively no way to avoid enemy fire for more than a few seconds. Some enemy machines will literally pour out hundreds of “fireballs” in a second or two and blanket half of the screen. Why!!??
Power ups are available that increase the player’s firepower – again, a moot point. Several gold things in various shapes fall from defeated enemies. They contribute in some fashion to both the forcefield meter and overall score, though I’m unclear on the specifics, and yet again, it don’t matter. Players can choose between 5 different characters at the beginning of the game, and though it has some impact on the paper-thin, badly translated story (not to mention rearranges the order of the first 3 stages), I can’t tell a bit of difference from character to character aside from appearance.
Giga Wing’s overly simplistic gameplay borders on the insulting, but at least it’s got its looks going for it. The graphics are highly detailed and the settings for each stage retain a distinct feel to them. Even with the very busy, scrolling screen, items are distinct, explosions look great, and it’s easy to tell what’s going on. The Dreamcast handles myriad of moving objects in Giga Wing perfectly about 99% of the time. Frame rate occasionally takes a dip and the game will sometimes experience a brief slowdown, but these occurrences are mostly reserved to huge battles, particularly when a large enemy is defeated and breaks up into “gold things” while another enormous mechanical entity is on screen spewing forth electronic death. Overall, the game succeeds in harnessing utter chaos within the confines of the Dreamcast without sacrificing image quality or precision controls. The music and sound effects leave a little to be desired, but seriously, Giga Wing would be better served on mute while blasting the heaviest and fastest music that you can stand. If you can tolerate old school thrash such as the “Big 4” or the “Teutonic 3,” by all means go for it, but if Sum 41 is as raw as it gets for you, then hey, it’s better than nothing.
Giga Wing falls somewhere between “mindless fun” and “exercise in meaninglessness.” In a way I can appreciate the clusterfuck approach to gameplay. Whether I ultimately find it appealing or not, it’s at least clear that Giga Wing is the game that the developers intended to make. My frustration stems from the lack of any appreciable challenge. Admittedly it’s a lot of fun blasting through everything with little regard for damage taken, but the system of lives, continues, and even the forcefield system all feel like they were taken from an earlier version of the game and doesn’t suit the title in its current state. All told, Giga Wing is a great looking 2D game from the early 6th generation that ends up feeling incomplete. Worth a look for Dreamcast completists and SHMUP addicts, but probably not at the $34 price tag. I won’t lie, it is fun to play, though it’s hard to say when I’ll be inclined to pick it up again.
Reviewed by The Cubist
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