Giga Wing 2 is the latest in what most people today would classify as a rapidly dying breed—the genre most commonly known as "shooter." Reaching the height of their popularity during the late 80s and early 90s, shooters usually consisted of a spaceship or aircraft of some sort controlled by the player versus enough enemies to fill an arm of the Milky Way. The fate of a planet, sometimes the universe was usually at stake, though very few of them ever featured characters of any sort besides the ships. The genre itself was divided into two basic camps (not counting the occasional hybrid or mutation). Classic titles such as Gradius or R-Type are perfect examples of the "side-scrolling" format, with games like the NES classic 1942 and Raiden changing up the gameplay with the "overhead" or "vertical-scrolling" type.

While connoisseurs of these genres may try to debate which species is superior, the answer is crystal to me. In my experience, side-scrollers tend to incorporate more elements than just the enemies. Most often there are rock formations to dodge, rapidly multiplying amoebae to blast through or narrow passageways to navigate while fending off attackers. Overheads usually rely upon heavier concentrations of enemy formations, have little to no interactivity with the stages and throw huge amounts of enemy projectiles to be avoided. Looking at those criteria, it's my opinion that the side-scrollers are the superior sort, a thesis that gains strength by looking at the subject of this review—Giga Wing 2.

While I usually like to start off by discussing a game's finer points, Giga Wing 2 has such a huge flaw that I can't even begin to describe anything else about the game before I elaborate. Simply put, there's too damn much stuff on the screen.

There's nothing wrong with being required to pull off some fast-paced, evasive maneuvers, but Giga Wing 2 takes it to such an utterly insane level that it's a joke. The enemy fire is so thick, so heartless and so unavoidable that it's literally impossible to make it through a single stage unscathed. I can't even begin to describe how many projectiles are fired onscreen at once, and forget about using any kind of skill to dodge them. Looking at some of the patterns of fire, I doubt it's even possible to successfully evade the amount of flak aimed in your general direction. Without trying to sound like a broken record, no amount of manual dexterity whatsoever is going to get you through this one.

As a consequence, there's almost no gameplay at all. What you'll find offered here amounts to moving your ship around the screen while holding the fire button down and launching super-bombs while you constantly die and respawn amid a pyrotechnic lightshow. The only positive thing to note here is the "reflect" feature, which is the main gimmick of the game. Since the developer (Takumi) obviously knew that there were more bullets than any unenhanced human could ever possibly hope to dodge, its added the choice between "reflect lasers" and "reflect barriers" for each ship in addition to the regular guns and super-bombs available. I suppose it's possible that Takumi upped the shell count in order to fully utilize the reflect feature, but either way the effect of this "which came first?" situation is the same. Basically, the lasers absorb enemy fire and then release it as offensive beams, while the barriers bounce enemy shots back. It's the only way to survive the hell storms you fly through (without using a super-bomb). Unfortunately, you have to hold down the button and charge up the shield before you can use it, which means that it's generally too late to save you from being blown into airborne meaty chunks.

The positives of the game are few. While the graphics of the areas are indeed attractive and eye-catching, they're little more than a scrolling polygonal backdrop with no effect on gameplay at all. In fact, I can only think of one stage out of approximately five where anything in the backgrounds had even the slightest degree of interactivity. In this perspective, the game might as well take place on a blank screen. However, lack of interactivity with the stage environments isn't really an issue since the screen is usually so covered with swarms of enemy bullets and multiple explosions that you need every inch of maneuvering space to (unsuccessfully) attempt to survive.

The sheer spectacle of the game itself is something to behold, as well. With all the red bullets, blue bullets, reflecting lasers, power-ups and point multipliers floating through the air as well as the ubiquitous explosions and the seizure-inducing super-bomb effects, its enough to melt the corneas of your eyes. Impressive, but utterly chaotic and so overwhelming that you just have to laugh.

Multiplayer co-op always earns a mention from me, and in this respect Giga Wing 2 earns marginal props for including the option to fly with up to four players simultaneously. This might be good news for party people if the play consisted of more than holding down the rapid-fire button and charging up the shields, but it's not. As an example of how boring the game actually is, my son announced that I could play alone after he had been mashing the controller for only a paltry 10 minutes. I enjoy playing co-op games with my son whenever the opportunity presents itself, and this is the same kid that I had to forcibly remove from Metal Slug Xafter a three-hour binge. If you can't convince a five-year old kid who loves videogames to play, you know that can't be good. Another thing to note is that the game can be beaten in about 15 minutes (using many, many continues), and I doubt anyone will want to play through it more than once or twice.

Overall, Giga Wing 2 is just a sad effort, really. To put an even harsher spotlight on the title, I had just finished up playing through Square's Einhander only a few nights earlier. To go from the technical emphasis and understated elegance of that side-scrolling gem to this "no skills needed, even a rutabaga could play this" excuse of a game just reinforced my feelings regarding side- and overhead shooters and left me wondering why the game was even released. Just because its bargain priced, doesn't mean that it's worth a purchase.Rating: 3 out of 10

Brad Gallaway
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