Lachlan's misadventures in games programming

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Giga Wing

4/10/2011 11:07:00 pm Posted by Lachlan No comments

Continuing on the Arcade theme started with Metal Slug X, I played through Giga Wing this evening. Giga Wing is a 1999 Arcade Shoot 'Em Up game. It is notable for cool graphics, but primarily for ridiculously high scores. It comes from a school of Shoot 'Em Ups generally referred to as Bullet Hell.
This is why...

And this...

And I really don't have a clue how humans can live through Bullet Hell sections like this. I didn't. I died. Repeatedly.
The gameplay is fairly generic for a game like this. You either shoot by tapping the shoot button, raise a protective shield (works for about 2 seconds, and requires about 5 tear jerking seconds to reload) or shoot one of a limited number of bombs. In between times, you dodge enemies, insane amounts of lasers and collect power ups and medals.
To be bluntly honest, a while since I've played, and not a great score. But the fact that after the first level it reached more then 32 Billion, it'll do

This is where Giga Wing begins to differ from many other games. Its scoring went very much along the pinball lines that bigger is, by and large, better. Scores in the trillians are not unheard of. Unlike most games which a medal might be worth 10, 20, 50 or even 1000 points, in Giga Wing a medal is worth 10 more then the previous one, 50 more then the previous one or in extreme cases 200 more points then the previous one. So when (as pictured below) you find massive amounts of low scoring medals, each is worth the cumulative sum since last time you died.
Those gold shields are medals and good for scoring. If you can actually dodge the bullets that is.
The game is (as arcade games are) fairly short. What this does mean is that whilst it is a very sweet and detailed experience, the difficulty bumps are noticeable. If you're even half competent (like I am), you should be able to make it up to the second level without any continues. However, by the last level, you're requiring 3+ on occasion. At least if you suck as badly as I do.
Unlike most Sh'mups, there is an attempt at some story. I have really no idea what it is, other then something do do with destroying some medallion. The medallion is lodged within each boss, and serves as the final boss itself. The game also uses static cut scenes drawn in an anime fashion which tell the story... Kind of. I think I was missing something about it.... But the genre isn't one particularly known for its storytelling.
The medallion is the thing in the middle of the boss
Typical anime cutscene
In general, the game is a lot of fun. It does tend to suffer from minor slow downs when there are large amounts of coins on the screen - but I only noticed once or twice. Its about 20m long - maybe  - but it feels about the right length. Without change, the style of game can only go so long without going stale. I played it on Mame, but it (and a sequel) was available on Sega Saturn.

Personally - I think it is a genre that hasn't been adequately explored for the last decade. It may not be in vogue, but considering the current rise in casual games - Sh'mups seem a natural extension. They're easy to pick up, particularly difficult in some cases to master. They seem to me to be a natural choice of casual games for hardcore gamers. That - and who doesn't like having scores in the trillians? I also think they're a really natural choice for indies to develop. In Japan particularly, there is somewhat of a cottage industry producing new sh'mup's but it surprises me that we see none of it in the west. The style of game can handle somewhat simpler programming then most games, and being limited to 2D graphics by design. Unfortunately, I fear that their renaissance is not coming any time soon.


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