Gekirindan
by sunburstbasser



Gekirindan is a vertical shooter which may have a story involving blowing stuff up. If you read Japanese, you might get a little of that story between levels.

Taito has a long history with shmups, going all the way back to Space Invaders. They also acted as publishers for other developers, including Toaplan at one point. When Toaplan dissolved, some of their programmers made one more game with Taito, called Gekirindan. It has some of the later Toaplan style, along with some of Taito's own touches.

Gekirindan doesn't really bring anything new to the table, and I've seen it referred to as a textbook shooter. Shoot enemies, grab powerups, and don't die. It even goes so far as to reuse graphics and effects from earlier Taito games. What it does do that I've not seen other shooters do is a time travel mechanic. Each level takes place in a different era, sometimes centuries apart.

As usual for shooters, button A shoots and button B bombs. You have a good autofire rate in the game, and it's constant so no button mashing or turbo controllers needed for this one. The bomb is just a bomb, no real special properties. Your guns are powered up with canister icons. A B icon adds a bomb. A C icon changes your main gun into a different kind. Each plane has two kinds of guns and sometimes one has major advantages over the other. You can also acquire side weapons, including Taito-brand twisting homing lasers.

Something that I recently found out is that while the 2P side is just palette swapped versions of the 1P ships, all of them are stronger. The difference is enough that the 2P side is effectively an entire step down in difficulty. Go ahead and use that side if you are having trouble with this game.

HOKUTO and GROTHER


These guys pilot a standard space fighter. The standard shot turns into a spread shot with a few powerups. The graphic for the bomb has a skull in an explosion. Collecting a C icon switches your guns out for lightning beams.


ANNE and SHARIO


Possibly the odd pair, one is a young girl with a book and the other is a cat lady. They fly space helicopters. The helicopters shoot straight ahead, but add options to make a wider shot with successive powerups. The bomb is a pink explosion. The C icon switches the options to Gradius style, following your movements. It's possible to cover around half the screen with bullets using this version, though the power per option isn't very high.


DIETZA and ORSA & MAYORU


Dietza is a rocker, Orsa and Mayoru are elves. They pilot vintage biplanes. The biplane has a spread gun, but is the most powerful of the choices. The bomb is a standard explosion, nothing fancy. The C icon changes the machine guns into a powerful piercing wave with a slow rate of fire.

I suggest the biplane characters. For fun, if playing on MAME you can map 1P and 2P controls to the same buttons and play as both at once. Just fly into a corner and they'll line up. You've now nearly doubled your firepower.

The graphics for the game are all about average. The powerful F3 hardware is used for some background effects and sprite scaling. Bullets are easy to see, enemies are easy to follow. Later on, some stages use the background capabilities of the F3 to add some depth though it never looks as good as Ray Force. This being a Taito game, your hitbox is effectively the entire sprite.

The sound is average. Explosions sound good and sound effects are generally acceptable. Your gunfire's sound is constant and can get a little old. Neither your own attacks nor your enemy's sound particularly powerful. And while it is common to reuse music in a game, Gekirindan has only a single song that plays on each stage. In a unique move, however, each stage has a different arrangement of the same song. It's all golden- age Zuntata goodness, from the time when every Taito game had a kick ass soundtrack. Gekirindan's music has the standard Zuntata warbles and most of it has a nice strong beat to it as well, sometimes approaching dance music.



The first level takes place in 3195 AD. This is a pretty basic level and with all the junk floating around is more like asteroids than a standard shmup. Early on you'll encounter a big robot. The red robot piloting it is your antagonist, and will be making multiple appearances. Behind him is a rotating cylinder space station that was designed mostly to show off the power of the F3. You can see inside of it, to the buildings and even clouds in the artificial sky. This tube was actually recycled from Darius Gaiden and rotated ninety degrees.

The red guy (I'll just call him Bashinet) shows up again at the end of the level. You can target the face he rides on, or the arms. The arms have a couple of different forms, like rocket launchers and flying fists. To beat him, you'll have to destroy the face. When destroyed, he fires some pink homing lasers at you before leaving. He opens a time portal behind him (it isn't even close to as cool as Chrono Trigger's Gates) and flushes himself down it.

Between each level, you'll get a neat view of your fighter flying over some snowy valleys. Any medals collected or bombs left in stock will be counted to give you a bonus.



The second level is set in 1942, a nice shout out to the classic Capcom shmup. This stage is wider than the first and scrolls left and right quite quickly. You'll encounter a few tanks that spew a ton of bullets, but they are all aimed and are easy to avoid. Early on, you'll encounter a large turret with dozens of smaller ones all around it. Playing the 1P side, this area was hard to get through but the 2P side's higher power makes it possible to cut through these turrets without a bomb fairly easily.

The boss fight is against a transforming blimp. This reminds me of a Psikyo boss. You can destroy either gun pod on the sides, and when the blimp itself takes enough damage it changes into a flying gun turret. The bullet spreads are also Psikyo in nature, though this game came out before most of Psikyo's really famous ones.



Stage 3 takes place in 1999. This stage has a Giant Battleship in it, quite literally. About half of the stage is set over a battle ship that you blow up piece by piece while it sails forwards. It is so large, it actually plows right through aircraft carriers. Bashinet pops out when it finally beaches itself and shoots some bullet spreads at you. This stage is the only one that I've found the Napalm weapon on, which is identical to the red weapon in Toaplan's Truxton II.

Bashinet plants himself on a big tank for the boss fight. This tank has four turrets, one per corner, that fire aimed shots at you. The central turret can fire a big pink blast as well. In all honesty, this is a pretty easy fight and had the pink blast not caught me off guard, I would have beaten it on one life on just my third time seeing it.



For the fourth stage, you warp to 2373. This stage is pretty long, and has many sections. Enemies on platforms will accost you, but you can shoot the platforms themselves and watch them plummet to their fiery death. Bashinet shows up with a snake tail and flings a few bullets at you. One cool section has pieces of floor twisting and falling out, revealing a hole that you dive through to reach the next area.

The boss is a big airplane. It starts off by throwing off some missiles. The missiles are far below you, and come up from behind. The boss also throws out some mines. As the boss is damaged, it will throw off destroyed pieces until it's about the same size as your fighter.



The final stage takes place in 4580. Check out that trippy swirling background, a Taito trademark. This stage places enemies along each side of the stage. Scroll to one edge, and the enemies on the other won't shoot, giving you a little breathing room. Right in the beginning, some cabinets come down from the top of the screen. When they open, they reveal three turrets which individually don't fire anything hard to dodge but when all three fire it can be tricky. The cabinet itself must be destroyed, or the turrets will respawn when it opens again. Another portion of the stage has lasers that fire at a fixed angle. Line up vertically with them, and they can't touch you.

The boss is a two-part affair. Bashinet flies a plane for the first part, and fires right-angle lasers at you though it really isn't hard to get around the bullets. In the second form, he fires straight lasers, then a wave. This is practically a Gradius end boss in how easy it is.

And that's it. You get a nice scene of all six fighters scaling and flying at once while the end credits roll, and a still shot of your character at the end.

Gekirindan isn't really anything special, just a fun little shmup. Unlike many other arcade shmups, this one is actually not that hard especially with the Elf kids and their biplane. I might come back to this later and go for the 1CC, as just in writing this review I managed to go from a ton of credits to about 6 or 7 to finish it, and my deaths were mostly silliness on my part.

Overall:







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