30 Days of Dreamcast – Day 20: Giga Wing 2 (DC)

Giga Wing 2
Developer: Takumi
Publisher: Capcom
Genre: Shoot ‘Em Up
Release Date: 05/06/01

Sequels can either be good or bad for the series in question. A good sequel contains all the aspects that made the first game enjoyable and improve on them. It also contains some new features so that the second game will not feel like a rehash of the first. A bad sequel mangles the good aspects of the original game to the point of unrecognizability. While it may have some new features, those features feel extraneous and tacked on. Bad sequels leave an unpleasant aftertaste in the wake of all the positive memories of the original becoming tainted with the negative ones associated with the sequel.

Let’s see which category this game falls in.

The story in Giga Wing 2 is similar to the one in the first Giga Wing – save the world by destroying a powerful object before it ressurects and causes the end of humanity. This time, it’s an ark rather than a medallion. The ark was created to absorb negative energy, but obviously that backfires, with the ark gaining consciousness and trying to destroy humanity. In addition, there’s a war going on and the group of pilots in this iteration (called the Giga Wings in this game) set out to stop it. Nothing spectacular here; the translation is stiff at best, and the plot’s not particularly riveting. While different characters do get their own scenes between stages, the endings and story progression remains mostly the same, and there’s less individualized story paths. You do get a choice at the end between a good ending and a bad ending at the end. Of course, story doesn’t generally play a large role in shoot ’em ups, and you can get through cutscenes quickly by mashing the A button. I’d actually recommend that if you’re going through multiple playthroughs at once, as the cutscenes near the end of the game are essentially the same no matter which character you picked, and sitting through the same cutscenes can get rather boring. Also, screw the story, we’ve got enemies to shoot down with neon projectiles!

The graphics have received a facelift in comparison to the first Giga Wing. The enemies are all polygonal models, with the bosses being especially large and detailed. The prerendered backgrounds are nice to look at, if dominated with shades of tan and brown. The ships themselves are rendered in 2D and look decent, if a little flat next to the 3D enemies and backgrounds, but then again you don’t really have time to gaze at them much. The waves of bullets that nearly constantly beleaguer you are just as brightly colored as ever. Even the points icons and powerups and bombs received some sprucing up, with the points icons looking somewhat like jewels (which could provide further motivation to collect them all) and the powerups and bombs somewhat resembling aircrew badges. The character portraits and cutscenes have a more muted color scheme than the ones in the first game and look like anything you’d see in a typical anime. Generally, animations are smooth, and the bomb explosions are suitably flashy, with translucent wings sprouting from the plane. However, there’s slowdown whenever a lot of point icons emerge or if there’s a ton of shots blanketing the screen. While it doesn’t affect your ability to dodge shots (or use a reflect force/laser or bomb), it’s still offputting.

The soundtrack is heavily orchestral and adds an epic feel. It’s enjoyable to listen to even after hearing them multiple times. It’s funny – in the first game I could point to one track I liked, but I can take or leave the rest. This time, I can’t name any one favorite track, but I prefer this game’s soundtrack overall. It does nicely complement the explosions from enemies getting shot down and adds a dramatic flair to it all. The “OK” that chimes in whenever your reflect force/laser finishes recharging is still present and sounds exactly the same as it did in the first game. One can hardly complain about consistency in that regard.

This time around you have a choice of five pilots, with each ship having different speeds, firepower, and shot spreads. Chery’s Stork is the second fastest plane and has seeking missiles, but the shots themselves aren’t particularly powerful. Romi’s Sparrow is the fastest plane in the game and has decently strong firepower, but little shot spread. Kart’s Kingfisher is the slowest ship but has good shot spread. Raluga’s Albatross is the second slowest ship and shoots a narrow stream of bullets, but also fires green shots around the sides of the plane, which is good for nailing any enemies near you. Finally, Limi’s Raven have average speed and has the most powerful shots. You can even change planes midgame and switch from reflect force and laser (or vice versa) if you use a continue, which is handy should you get tired of playing with one plane and want to use the other reflect ability.

Like in the first game, the reflect force is something you’ll be using a lot. In addition to a reflect barrier, you now have the option of choosing the reflect laser. Naturally, both have their benefits and drawbacks. The reflect force absorbs shots and then immediately fires them back at the enemy, but it’s possible for the reflected bullets to miss the enemies if they move. The reflect laser also absorbs shots and shoots lasers that home in all the enemies, but the lasers only fire after the barrier expires, which leaves you vulnerable to enemy fire. The reflect laser also has a limit on how strong it gets from absorbing shots, whereas the reflect force does not. I slightly prefer the reflect force (an oldie but a goodie, as they say), but I tend to switch back and forth between the two. There is still that half second lag between holding down the shoot button to activate the reflect force/laser and it actually activating.

The time limit for defeating bosses is still in place. Even if you don’t defeat them within the allotted time, you still proceed to the next stage, but you don’t get the score bonus that you would from defeating them. Again, you have to destroy every part of the boss to get the full bonus, not just the central portion. Like in many games in this genre, each of the bosses have a set attack pattern, and familiarizing yourself with them will help in taking them down.

New to this game is the multicharacter mode, which lets you control two to four planes at once. You can turn this mode on in the secret options screen, which means yes, you have to unlock it first. On the character selection screen, press start to select another plane. Each plane has its own lives and bombs stocks, so if one dies you can still keep going if the others are alive. You can also set one plane to have reflect force and the other to have reflect laser, which gives you the best of both worlds. Should you run out of bombs with one plane, you can use the other plane’s bombs. The planes control as one, meaning they all fire and use their reflect ability simultaneously. The former is rather helpful in wiping out enemies and bosses, though more planes means more chances of one getting hit. You can change the formation of your planes as well. Just be aware that if one plane loses all its lives, you’ll have to go on without that plane until you have no more planes left to control.

The game is short, with one playthrough taking less than half an hour. If you’re playing the game just to beat it, you could complete in one sitting and never pick it up again. Of course, there’s always the colossal scores that can reach both ends of the screen to earn that were also present in the first game. You can also play with up to four players, which makes this game a good one to pull out if you have a bunch of people over. As you can imagine, things get quite frenetic with four players. In addition, unlocking everything and mastering the game enough to not die will take considerably more time and practice. There’s a gallery to fill out and two secret options in the options menu, which consists of the aforementioned multicharacter mode and character event, which lets you toggle character demo events on and off. You can also unlock altered versions of the ships from the previous game by beating arcade mode with each pilot without using a continue. Kart gets the Raijin-Kai, Chery the Carmine Plus, Romi the Porchka Dash, Raluga the Widerstand Zwei, and Limi the Neo Stranger. If you’re the lazy type, you could just punch in Up, X, Y, X, Down, Y, X, Y, Y in the first page of the gallery to unlock everything. But that method deprives you of the satisfaction you would get from unlocking everything the old fashioned way, and you certainly wouldn’t want that, now would you?

If you don’t care about how many times you die, completing all seven stages of the game is easy due to the infinite continues and the fact that your bomb stock replenishes every time you get killed (though you forfeit any extra bombs you picked up). But considering how projectile saturated the screen often gets, dodging enemy fire can be nigh impossible without using the reflect force/laser. You could technically get by without using bombs if that suits your fancy, but that can prove to be a rather onerous task to attempt, especially on the harder difficulty levels. Oftentimes I’d resort to using the reflect force/laser, then use a bomb so that my reflect force/laser would be recharged by the time the bomb finished exploding, as there would be virtually no room to evade all the projectiles, let alone collect any items floating around. Even with using continue after continue, it’s easy to attain astronomical scores, especially if you pick up as many items and score multipliers as possible.

Those who have played the first Giga Wing will likely experience deja vu while going through this game. The story’s similar to the one found in the first game, and the gameplay remains identical. In this case, that’s not a really bad thing – don’t fix what’s not broken and all that. That’s not to say there’s nothing new to be found here, though there’s not much. The addition of the multicharacter mode was a good one (who doesn’t like wrecking havoc with multiple planes at once?), though that’s not available initially unless you punch in the code. The reflect laser is nice if you were getting bored with the reflect force. But if you were looking for mostly more of the same, you’ll get it here.

This game fared better than its predecessor in terms of critical reception, though not monumentally so. Those who didn’t like the infinite continues and short length of the first game probably won’t like this any better, since this game has those same features (or flaws, depending on your outlook). Like the first game, this is sort of in an awkward position audience wise. On the one hand, this would be good for those new to the genre, as the unlimited continues make it easy to beat the game even if your plane spends more time absorbing shots than doling them out. It would also appeal to fans of the original due to how similarly it plays. On the other hand, the more die-hard shoot ’em up fans will scoff at said infinite continues and at the short length of the game.

Going from Giga Wing to Giga Wing 2 felt like a bit of a shock. I was floored at the differences between the graphics and soundtrack, and I’m not normally a stickler towards either; as long as both do their job and don’t incite a desire to gouge out the relevant sensory organ, it’s all well and good. Of course, if they do an exemplary job they’ll add to the gameplay experience, and that’s what both did here. As soon as I finished one playthrough, I immediately started up another round with a different pilot. I also liked being able to switch planes and reflect ability midgame if I so desired. It was fun trying out different combinations of ships in multicharacter mode, especially the new versions of the ships from Giga Wing. Overall, this falls into the good sequel category, although they could’ve done more to make one playthrough last a bit longer.

The Scores
Story: Poor
Graphics: Good
Sound: Good
Control and Gameplay: Very Good
Replayability: Above Average
Balance: Decent
Originality: Below Average
Addictiveness: Good
Appeal Factor: Poor
Miscellaneous: Good
FINAL SCORE: ABOVE AVERAGE GAME

Short Attention Span Summary:
Giga Wing 2 is an improvement aurally and aesthetically from the original. The gameplay remains mostly the same, but there are a couple of new features that help make the game feel somewhat fresh while retaining the good qualities of the first game. It’s easy to get through, but hard to master. If you’re looking for a quick shoot ’em up fix, this would be a good way to get it.

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