More classic Japanese 2D shooty Dreamcast madness.
Earlier this year, Psikyo’s terrific shmup Zero Gunner 2
got a ‘DC Collection’ re-release. Months and months
later, I’m getting off my Rodent arse to review it.
Well, fuck me, but its good. You can add this
to the great triumvirate of Lost Dreamcast Shooty Legends: Bangai-O,
Ikaruga and Border Down. Er, better make that a quadrumvirate
– although two of those aren’t really lost at all
(Bangai-O you can still get out of the bargain bins at Gamestop
in Padstow, and Ikaruga made it to Europe - albeit in mutilated,
faux-Atari, GayCube format).
Zero Gunner, though, is definitely the most
lost. Its developer went bust, it has a dull cover and both Psikyo
and Zero Gunner mean nothing to most European players. Until it’s
re-release, eBay originals were creeping up to stupid asking prices,
but now £20.50 is all it takes to import this terrific title
– and that, my friends, makes Zero Gunner 2 the shooty bargain
of the century. Better still, you don’t need to understand
Japanese to play it, although you will need a Utopia or DC-X boot
disk when using a PAL DC.
Queasy twisty-turnyness and big
bastard lasers. Apologies for the jargon.
Having selected one of the four-million difficulty
levels (ranging from the fantastically derisory ‘Child’
to the insane ‘Really Fucking Bastard Hard’) you’re
presented with a choice of three helicopters – Hokum, Apache
or Comanche. Genuine real-world models.
But that’s where the realism, thankfully,
ends. It’s then straight out into one of the randomly selected
first four levels. Sensibly, the difficulty level always ramps
up level by level, no matter what order they’re presented
in. So you might play Submergence City first or forth, but bullet
levels, enemy resilience, etc., will automatically adjust. That’s
a good thing because it introduces a nice element of depth to
those restart-riddled early plays.
At its lovely heart, Zero Gunner 2 is all manga
helicopters, planes, boats, trains and submarines that trick you
by transforming into giant mechs. There are bullets, bullets,
bullets and then some bullets. You’ve got brilliant and
challenging control dynamics (you can spin your chopper round
on some weird axis if you want to), power-ups by the fucking bucketful
and lots of explosions.
Mecha Armageddon Death.
Each helicopter has its own weapon and smart-bomb
characteristics. My favourite is the Hokum with its dinky little
suicide smart-gun platforms. Collecting energy (to replenish your
smart bombs) and power-ups can be achieved either by flying over
the floating goodies or – and this is genius – by
letting go of the fire button (which attracts the specials to
you). It makes for a great, and challenging, balance of shooting,
avoiding and attracting.
In common with most other DC shooters, ZG2 looks
and feels like it’s been wheeled straight from an arcade
and into your living room. The feel is extraordinary – especially
in the section transitions, which give you that proper arcadey
sense of I-can-get-in-a-sip-of-Coke-if-I-time-it-right. Sounds
and graphics do a similar job of reinforcing the illusion that
you’re zoning and playing the game standing-up.
RODENT CASH RATING -
nipping doon the shops fer it noo"
Really good walkthrough,
including details on how to access the seven BONUS levels.
Buy a Mitsubishi Zero (to which the name Zero Gunner is an homage)
plane (includes ace accidental Japanese insult).
Waste time at work being a Tail
Slightly rubbish Psikyo
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