What's up? Last week, we took a look at one incredibly gorgeous Wii game.
Today, we check out a game made of pure adrenaline, as suggested by fellow TAYer Aikage!
Released in North America in 2002 for Xbox, GunValkyrie is a third-person shooter developed by Smilebit, known for developing greatness like Jet Set Radio and Panzer Dragoon, a series I wrote about some time ago.
GunvValkyrie is no exception here. Choosing between two playable characters, Kelly or Saburouta, players set out on the planet of Tir na Nog and wage war against giant insects. Of course, there's more to it than that. There's a whole backstory involving one Dr. Hebbel, a genius inventor who basically conquers the world through sheer influence. And so the tale gets a little complex in a great anime sort of way.
The story is pretty good if you're into anime, but what you're here for is the gameplay. And GunValkyrie delivers.
Regardless of whether you play as the nimble Kelly or the powerhouse Saburouta, you'll almost immediately find yourself tearing through Tir na Nog, blasting every insect that passes into your field of vision. GV sets itself apart with its unusual control scheme, using the left joystick to move and turn while the right aims. While this sounds normal at first, especially nowadays, what it means is, you'd have to turn with the left stick, not strafe. This means the right stick is for fine tuning your aim, in a way. You have to be physically facing whatever you want to shoot, in other words. It takes time to get used to, but it works well enough once you get the hang of it.
This is before you factor in lock-on attacks (of which only Kelly can use) and the jetpack, which you can-and will, heavily-use to traverse the environment. A click of the left stick combined with a direction will send your character flying in that direction for a short burst dodge. Combined with the sheer vertical nature of most levels, expect to be jetpack jumping and boosting throughout.
You'll have to learn all these controls mighty quick, because GV is damn hard. Essentially, Kelly is the easy/medium character, while Saburouta, with his inability to lock on and short range, is the hard/expert choice. But regardless of who you pick, the game won't hold your hand. Insects attack from every possible angle. They particularly like to flank you, attacking from blind spots, which makes mastering the quick-turn a necessity. Boss battles are similarly epic, and will test you on everything you've learned. The game's also a wake up call for those who've grown accustomed to the liberal use of checkpoints. Got all the way to the end of a level and died? Tough. Go back to the start.
So GV's not a game for one who doesn't like a challenge.
It shines in the graphics department, though. This is a game from 2002, yet like Panzer Dragoon Orta, it's aged tremendously well. The main characters animate fluidly, and the enemies are nicely varied, though of course, they're all insect based. There's not really an awful lot of cutscenes, but what's there is a neat combination of still images and more traditional scenes. The game holds its 60 frames per second well amidst all the carnage, too.
Can't leave without mentioning the art style, too. GV looks like a bizarre mash-up of Starship Troopers, Star Trek, classic anime like Evangelion, and just the right amount of steampunk. It's a look that's really all its own, a look you don't really see today. Level design is pretty good, but they tend to fall into either canyon or cyber-ish interior categories.
Audio consists mostly of the sounds that come out of your gun, as you'll spend most of your time shooting. Insects blow apart with a satisfying splat. The music is basically what you'd hear in an anime (or an anime-influenced game like this one). Mostly J-Pop-like tunes. Look, personally, I love the music in GV, but I can see how it would get on peoples nerves after a while. Here's the final boss theme as an example of what you'll hear in the game.
All in all, GunValkyrie is a blast to play. You have to master the intense controls, but it's a pure arcade experience, as you try harder and harder to get that elusive S rank for any particular level. If you own a copy, dust it off and check it out, for a level of challenge you don't see anymore (save for the Souls games, I guess). It's the kind of game you impress onlookers with as you jetpack through a level, blasting bugs and dodging, looking very much like an insane anime hero as you do.
If you don't have it, it's very much available online for dirt cheap. Though, sadly, it's not backwards compatible, so you'd have to dig up/buy an original Xbox. It's worth it, I think.
Thanks to IGN and Wikipedia for the images, and to Aikage for recommending this awesome game!
Hit the comments as always for, um, comments, and recommendations for future Games of The Week!
Next week, we take another shot of adrenaline. Which may lead to an overdose.