30 Days of Dreamcast – Day 7: Gunbird 2

Gunbird 2
Publisher: Capcom
Developer: Psikyo
Genre: Vertical Shooter
Release Date: 11/17/2000

Ah Psikyo. This is the second of your games to be featured here in the 30 Days of Dreamcast feature. It’s another shooter, but unlike Cannon Spike and its Smash TV style gameplay, Gunbird 2 is a classic old school vertical scrolling shooter filled with seven levels of bullets, bombs and…cyber pirates? It also has an Alucard (although not the character from Castlevania and Morrigan from Darkstalkers (who also appeared in the recently published Cross Edge as well).

Does Gunbird 2 still hold up nine years later? Let’s take a look.

1. Story

For a shooter, Gunbird 2 actually has a lot of story. Sure it’s not translated every well and at times, it is exceptionally stupid, but I can’t deny that this has the most plot I’ve seen in a shooter until Castle of Shikigami III…which actually did the same thing in regards to story as this game.

Each character has the same main goal – to gather the three elements in order to create The Almighty Potion. Although no one is quite sure what this potion will do, everyone seems to think it’s worth the risk and potential power contained within. You have seven characters to choose from and each of the seven levels ends with a battle against the Queen Pirates and their strange robotic onslaught machines. Of course the 7th level also puts you up against the Potion God as the true final boss, which is a strange and hilarious end boss.

You have two options for playing. The first you choose a character and after each level you get a bit of the story. At the end, you get a choice of two endings – if you take the potion or not. With two players, which can either be co-op players or one player flipping between both characters . Here you get a neat co-op story between the characters and generally a pretty odd ending. For example if you take the last vampire Alucard and the robot Valpiro, the two bond over being the only one of their kind. Then at the end they befriend the Potion God and do a can-can. Yes. For real.

I was really impressed with all the different options and combos for stories in this game, even as I laughed at how bad they were. In Gunbird 2’s defense, the game is meant to be a comedy and is excels in this regard. It may be a bit of culture shock as most traditional shooters, when there is any sort of plot, tend to be dark and brooding. As such, Gunbird 2 does a great job of turning the genre on its head and being a nice light and silly shooter. Great ideas through and through.

Story Rating: Good

2. Graphics

Although nearly a decade old, Gunbird 2 boasts bright colours, some large and well done character portraits (although filled with jaggies by today’s standards and some boss battles that still hold up today. A lot of the rank and file cannon fodder are pretty generic in design and as that’s the majority of what you’ll see on screen, the game can feel a bit lackluster in regards to visuals. Thankfully, if you have the chance to look at the backgrounds and the bosses, you’ll be a little more impressed by what was possible in ’00, but it’s still nowhere near the top tier visuals produced for Sega’s last system.

Thankfully there is no slowdown to worry about, even when doing a co-op game in those last few levels where the action is frantic and the bullet count is high. This means you can experience Gunbird 2 without any annoyances other than one’s own lack of skill.

For those looking for an arcade perfect version of the game, there is the option to play the game with the proper visuals, but you’ll have to be able to position your TV vertically to do so. Please do not try this unless you know what you’re doing. You don’t want to break your screen after all.

Sure the graphics have lost a bit of luster by today’s high-definition 1080i/p visuals, but it’s still a fun game to look at, and that’s all that matters.

Graphics Rating: Decent

3. Sound

The music and voice acting in Gunbird 2 is acceptable, but none of it is what I would call good. As you should be able to breeze through the game in about a half an hour, the music and occasional line of dialogue from the characters will get you through the various stages, but trust me when I say you won’t be looking to rip tracks from the GD-Rom any time soon. The only thing I’d actually say is above “serviceable” is that the game uses the actress from the Darkstalkers series to reprise her work as Morrigan here. Yay for continuity.

Sound effects, like the rest of the aural aspects of the game, are something you’ll be able to live with. It’s all very generic and they’re shooting sound or explosions that you’ve heard numerous times before in others game. However, they do get the job done, and there’s only so much can do with sound effects in a traditional shooter, so it’s not that big of a deal.

Middle of the road package for GunBird 2 here. There’s nothing offensive, but neither is there anything remarkable or beyond the norm.

Sound Rating: Mediocre

4. Control and Gameplay

Gunbird 2 has some very generic, albeit it tight controls. You have one button for shooting and another button for your highly damaging bombs. You use the D pad for moving your character around which lets you dodge incoming fire and also aim your own. This however, is where the similarities end and the game adds two new (Well, it was new back then)touches on an otherwise almost cliche -ridden genre.

The game introduces a power gauge that fills in a manner similar to a gauge in say, Street Fighter or King of Fighters. As the gauge fills you can use a charge shot (holding down the A button). Although a charge shot has been around since the days of R-Type, you can use the gauge to get your charge shot up to even new levels of power, with a maximum of level 3 ala Street Fighter once again. Each charge shot uses a bit, or a lot, of the gauge depending on how long you hold the button for.

Finally there is the Vicinity Attack, which can only be done at very close range. Your ship is quite unprotected when you attempt this, however it’s about as strong as several bombs being released in a single hit. For most characters, the Vicinity Attack isn’t worth the risk, especially on higher difficulties, however it’s a great option for the more suicidal amongst you. One final word on the VA: if you do want to test it out, Morrigan is your best bet, as she actually has some range to her with her.

Overall, you have a great set of controls. The Dreamcast controller is amazing as always, and Capcom’s published titles always tended to work the best with the system, even beyond several of Sega’s first party excursions. If you’re looking for a simple but solid shoot ’em up that anyone can have fun with, this would probably be your best bet on the Dreamcast.

Control and Gameplay Rating: Great

Replayability

With seven characters that have two different endings, you can actually get a lot of replay out of the game with just single player mode. With co-op or when playing as two different characters, you also have all the different combinations of the seven characters giving you a completely different plotline. That’s a lot of replay value for a shooter, even by today’s standards. However, with the game always playing the same and enemies appearing in the exact same order each time without any variation, only a true “diehard” shooter fan would bother to sit through all the possible storylines.

Shut up. I like shooters, okay?

The game is quite short though, so with qualities skills and time on your hands, you could feasibly seem them all in a single weekend.

Finally, for the truly elite gamer, if you beat the game on difficulty level four or higher without using a continue, you get to go through the second leg of the game. Now that’s a goal worth trying to accomplish.

Replayability Rating: Good

6. Balance

As Gunbird 2 boasts a sliding difficulty scale and unlimited continues, anyone should be able to beat this game with practice. After all, the more you play, the better you’ll get. Although I’m never a fan of infinite continues with a shoot ’em up, Gunbird 2 does have an interesting bit with the sixth and seventh levels. If you lose all your lives on the first five levels and choose to continue, you’ll start exactly where you last died. With the last two levels however, you have to start over from the beginning. Although this isn’t as cruel as some shooters, it does force those that get by only via the magic of continues to work for their ending.

One thing the game does do for the more hardcore gamer is through medal-chaining. Collect as many medals as you can to increase your score. Sure, it’s not much, but at least there is some attempt to give both newcomers and veterans of the shooting genre something to try for without alienating an audience.

Overall, Gunbird 2 is a great game for people new to the shoot ’em up genre, while still allowing longtime fans a bit of a challenge thanks to the second loop, medal chaining and the many choices in difficulty.

Balance Rating: Great

7. Originality

The Gunbird series was Capcom’s answer to Konami’s Parodius. It was an attempt to create another comedy shooter series. While both have their fans and both have their good and bad points, Gunbird 2 is the only one of these two “rivals” to make it stateside for a home console.

Gunbird 2 does bring (or rather, did) a few new things to the table. It was the first shooter to have a large amount of storyline options, including multiple endings for each character, which is still unheard of for this genre. GB2 even brought in a few new game play elements, which gives the game a welcome change of pace…even if the vicinity attack is more trouble than it is worth on the higher difficulty levels.

It may be meant as a joke, but Gunbird 2 does a fine job of bringing in new and fun elements to an often cliched genre.

Originality Rating: Above Average

8. Addictiveness

I’ll admit, as a big Darkstalkers fan and as a gamer who consumes nearly every shoot ’em up released, this was a match made in heaven for me a decade ago. See? That KoF shooter isn’t all that outside the box after all.

Putting this game back into my Dreamcast brought right back to where I was in 2000. I could remember with perfect clarity playing this game in my condo’s living room in Portland, OR and having a big ass grin on my face. Now here in 1999, Gunbird 2 remains just a fun to play.

The only downside is that the game is the exact same each time. The only thing different will be your character and the type of spread, rate of fire, and bomb attack they have. Two player mode (or co-op) breathes a little more life into the game as the stories are better than than in the sometimes painfully dull solo storylines. Of course, you can only beat a game so many times in a row without getting bored, and as Gunbird 2 is quite short, you’ll probably only be able to pull off a tandem run and a story run in one sitting without things blurring together and finding yourself in need of a new game to play, or even a bit of fresh air and exercise.

Addictiveness Rating: Above Average

9. Appeal Factor

If you were going to choose a gamer’s first shooter, Gunbird 2 would be an excellent choice. As the game is funny, short, and can be as easy or as difficult as a gamer requires, Gunbird 2 allows one to slowly ease into the nuances of the genre while still having fun and improving their hand-to-eue co-ordination. Long time shooter fans will still have fun with this for the same exact reasons. Throwing in Morrigan as a console only exclusive is a great way to get fighting fans (or Capcom zealots in general) to give the game a try as well. Gunbird 2 might be lost in the annuals of time for most gamers, but it’s a shooter that most gamers can have fun with, which is a hard thing to say about the genre these days. I mean, I adore them, but I also can’t deny they’re a niche genre at best in 2009. Gunbird 2 is one of those games that manages to be appealing to people outside that niche.

Appeal Factor: Above Average

10. Miscellaneous

The only really bonus in the game is an art gallery. There IS a debug mode which you can find by holding down the start button when you first boot up the game, but other than that, this game is bereft of extras. Back in 2000, the game was considered overpriced, but nowadays you can find it for only a few dollars. It’s definitely a fun game, so if you have a Dreamcast, it’s well worth tracking down.

Miscellaneous Rating: Decent

The Scores
Story: Good
Graphics: Decent
Sound: Mediocre
Control and Gameplay: Great
Replayability: Great
Balance: Above Average
Originality: Above Average
Addictiveness: Above Average
Appeal Factor: Above Average
Miscellaneous: Decent
FINAL SCORE: ENJOYABLE GAME!

Short Attention Span Summary
Gunbird 2 may not be the best shooter for the Dreamcast, but it’s easily the most accessible one to gamers of all different skill levels. Games like Mars Matrix, Bangai-O and Ikaruga are all amazing titles, but they’re best left in the hands of long time veterans of shoot ’em battles. For newcomers to the genre, Gunbird 2 makes for an excellent introduction, providing wit and plot, two things usually missing from this genre, and a fun gaming experience. Longtime shooter fans might find the game a little too easy for their liking, but they’ll still have a smile on their face while playing it as this nine year old Dreamcast game has aged exceptionally well.

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