Monday 1 November 2021

Gleylancer Review (Switch)


Written by Dan Gill

Shoot ‘em ups were ten-a-penny on Sega’s 16-bit powerhouse; Zero Wing, Steel Empire, Hellfire, Gynoug, Thunderforce, I could go on. Some are remembered as being the finest of their genre (Thunderforce IV, take a bow), while some live on as memes (I’m looking at you Zero Wing). Some titles slipped through the net, and never really received the recognition they deserved. This is where Gleylancer sits.

Gleylancer originally only released in Japan, but eventually made it to western audiences via the Wii’s Virtual Console service. When it was originally released in 1992 it was met with mixed reviews (and was even slated on its Wii release by some), but upon playing it it’s hard to see why. It looks similar to Thunderforce IV, has some lovely anime style cutscenes, and plays well. Perhaps it was a sign of the times where it was another shooter in a sea of many, but now with this Switch port it’s pitched at a tempting price point for fans of the genre.

The story – as told through the game’s lovely cutscenes – details teenage star fighter pilot Lucia’s quest to fight through an alien race’s defences in order to rescue her father, who happens to be a high-ranking admiral in the Federation navy.  While the story isn’t all that important in a game like this, the presentation is great, and it’s nice to have the action broken up with a bit of context. However, if you’re just looking to blow stuff up you can skip the story.

The basic gameplay of Gleylancer is much the same as in any other shooter; blast enemies, dodge bullets and objects. Upon starting a new game, you get to choose your “mover system” (think R-Type's “bits”). You can have the support craft shoot in the direction you’re moving, shoot in the reverse direction, lock on to enemies and so on. The configuration you choose remains with you throughout the game.

Once you start the first level you’re met with an assault of parallax scrolling asteroids in the background, something else that brings to mind TFIV, but it’s initially off-putting. Enemies and bullets can be hard to spot, and later in the level you’ll need to avoid debris that can’t be destroyed. The initial experience isn’t particularly pleasant, especially if you’re playing in handheld mode. However, once you get past level one, things are a lot clearer, and it’s easier to focus on the action.

The game offers the usual fare; blast smaller ships, battle a boss at the end of each level. There are sections however which focus on dodging and manoeuvring through tight sections in levels, meaning you’ll release your grip on the fire button every now and then. This adds a bit of variety, and some tense moments as you squeeze the Gleylancer through the narrowest of gaps.

The game offers a decent challenge, but is still easier than some of its contemporaries, and would come with a recommendation even if it was just the ROM dumped onto the eShop. Thankfully, developer NCS has put in the effort you’d expect of M2. The original game is presented in all its 16-bit glory, with the features and original translation intact. On top of this they’ve added a version of the game with modern conveniences such as a rewind function, various display options, a new script translation, save states, and perhaps most importantly of all, the ability to switch between “movers” on the fly. These updates make the game far more accessible to the modern gamer, and there’s even a cheat mode available.

So, a triumph of a port, then. There’s enough here for genre fans to sink their teeth into, and the game is accessible enough for those wanting to dip their toe into the often-tough world of SCHMUPs. Hopefully there’ll be enough interest here to encourage Ratalaika to publish more shooters from the Mega Drive that haven’t already made their way to modern consoles. I for one would love to see Gynoug receive the same treatment that Gleylancer has, but for now I’m quite happy to jump back into the Gleylancer to rescue Lucia’s father again.



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