Game Description: A mysterious object called the Medallion has been fought over by good and evil for thousands of years. It's up to four courageous fighters to seek out the Medallion and destroy this agent of power that has been blamed for every war that's ever been fought. You're one of these noble men who've been selected to execute this mission. Jump into the cockpit of your specialized fighter plane and take on all comers, as you journey towards your toughest opponent, the Medallion itself.
Just a few weeks ago, I reviewed Capcom's Strider 2 for the Sony PlayStation. In the process of dishing out heavy doses of praise for the game, I talked at length about the joys of "old-school" arcade gaming and expressed a desire to play a 2-D action game in which "there's so much going on at one time that you can't comprehend a damn thing," only to lament the fact that we're not likely to see too many games of that sort nowadays.
As the old saying goes, "Be careful what you wish for because you just might get it."
The generically titled Giga Wing—an overhead perspective, vertically scrolling airplane shoot-fest—is another console release in the same vein as Strider 2. Once again, Capcom is responsible (in this case I would call them the guilty party), only this time Sega's Dreamcast is the target. Both games are straight-up translations of the semi-popular arcade titles of the same names. The difference here is that while there was no shortage of action in Strider 2, the game was controlled and had a definite pace. It had a sensibility. Giga Wing, on the other hand, is the perfect example of the floodgates left wide open. It's no-holds-barred constant chaos—action gone awry—and it gets tiresome quickly.
Giga Wing is essentially an evolution of two Capcom classics, the World War II-based 1942 and 1943, but it plays like more recent arcade efforts like Seibu's Raiden Trad or Taito's Ray Force (though it's not nearly as good as those two games). You guide one lonely aircraft (or two in the two-player mode) against thousands upon thousands of land- and air-based enemies of varying size—shooting anything and everything that gets in your path. In this latest incarnation however, the action has been pumped up to utter insanity, as the bad guys clutter up the screen like never before and spray so much colorful gunfire that it appears as if your tiny plane is flying through a blizzard. I thought I had seen the ultimate game of this kind when I bought Radiant Silvergun for my Sega Saturn. Although Giga Wing can't compare to Treasure's shooting masterpiece, the amount of stuff happening on-screen is simply astounding, if not ridiculous.
Actually, everything in Giga Wing is ridiculous. If you can manage to make it through just the first level without continuing, you'll find your score inflated to a ludicrous number—something like 258,994,721,620, and that's being modest. I did find it interesting that you have to acquire points by collecting icons of various size that bad guys leave behind after they explode—just like in Strider 2. As you can imagine, these icons muck up the action even more. Capcom seems to like this system of awarding points—and it is different—but I don't think it works well in Giga Wing.
The simple action does allow for some nice firing. You can blaze a trail through the madness with a constant stream of brilliant destruction, not to mention a handy shield attack that deflects enemy ack-ack fire right back in their faces. However, unlike the aforementioned Strider 2, Giga Wing doesn't turn up the cool factor to compensate for its one-dimensional gameplay. In fact, the game is so old-school that it's almost unhip. The visuals certainly don't reflect Dreamcast's superb rending capabilities. Except for the constant extreme overdose of on-screen commotion, Giga Wing's smudgy 2-D sprites and backgrounds scream 16-bit Genesis, not 128-bit Dreamcast.
It's not that we shouldn't be seeing shooters being released on the new consoles. Games like Squaresoft's Einhander, Irem's R-Type Delta and Taito's RayStorm and G-Darius have shown us that there's still a place in today's scene for the most classic of all videogame formulas. As far as overhead shooters go, Giga Wing will forever take a back seat to Radiant Silvergun on Saturn or Robo Aleste for Sega CD. Capcom would have been better off releasing an update to Forgotten Worlds, U.N. Squadron or 19XX.
Since Giga Wing has neither style nor substance, there's really not much to talk about. It's all about laying waste to screen after screen full of enemy war craft. The game tries to make things more interesting by throwing in a side story for the good guy characters, but it only adds to the confusion. Giga Wing's five short and forgettable levels fly by in an incoherent adrenaline rush of messy action and colorful explosions. It's fun for about 15 minutes.The unforgiving difficultly level might work for the arcades—where quarter-munching is the order of the day. But at home, after constantly unleashing force bombs to keep my fighter plane from exploding for the 50th time in the endless barrage of enemy shells, Giga Wing became a pointless exercise in video gaming, not to mention a thorough waste of time.
Like Ben, I was eager to get my hands on a mindless 2D shooter like Giga Wing. It was supposed to be a welcome break from the huge involving RPGs I've been playing of late. I never intended to scrutinize Giga Wing too severely as I usually lower my expectations for arcade ports and this type of game in particular. That's what makes the game such a sad case—it only needed to be at least average to garner a positive review from me, and it couldn't even do that.
Ben is not kidding when he says, "the action has been pumped up to utter insanity." From the very beginning, the shear amount of enemies and firepower thrown at my fighter plane was overwhelming. No matter how adept you think you are with 2D shooters, you will find yourself dying just as many times as I did while playing. If you don't die from any of the hundreds of projectiles that can come flying at you at every possible moment, you will after losing sight of your plane in all the confusion, and you'll only realize you bought the farm after the continue menu pops up. During two player modes—where these games can really shine—Giga Wing becomes downright unplayable. It is twice as exhausting to keep track of each plane's position on-screen, let alone collect power-ups and multiplier icons.
About the only positive thing I could find in the game—aside from the fact that it didn't melt my Dreamcast—was that there is a nice selection of planes. They aren't anything spectacular, but they are unique enough to offer some replay value to the most diehard of gamers. The only other positive I noticed while playing was the game's length. To keep this torture as short as possible was the least the developer could do for suckering someone into shelling out $50 for this game. In the end, neither of these points can take away from the fact that Giga Wing is one of the most unimaginative and unexciting games I have ever encountered.
According to ESRB, this game contains: Animated Violence
Parents need not worry themselves over the game's content. The action is strictly old-time arcade shooting, and there's no adult content of any kind. This is one of those games that has seen better days on lesser platforms. Thankfully, Capcom's Giga Wing didn't receive a very wide release, so the game is pretty hard to come by. It's certainly not worth the trouble of searching for the game, much less the exorbitant $50 price tag charged by the few stores that carry it.
Giga Wing is challenging though (to say the least), so hardcore shooter fans might want to pick this one up.
Casual gamers will probably be overwhelmed by Giga Wing's confusing action and relentless difficulty.