Giga Wing
by sunburstbasser



Giga Wing is a vertical shooter which has a story involving blowing stuff up. The characters are quite chatty about it, and it was given an English translation.

Takumi was one of the companies formed by former Toaplan employees after that company sank. Rather than applying a typical shoot/dodge mechanic, Takumi implemented a Reflect barrier that encourages running straight into hordes of bullets. The game was originally made for Capcom's CPS2 board, and like other shooters on that system received an English translation and a US release. Of all the shooters I've reviewed for SMPS, Giga Wing is the first one to have a story that is given some narrative during the game and an actual English translation that doesn't get horribly garbled.

The story isn't too bad either. The world has been scorched by a war that has waged for years. At the root of the war is the Medallion. Four pilots in the finest fighting planes ever created set out to destroy the Medallion and end the suffering. Along the way, a similarly powerful fighter known as the Stranger will attempt to thwart your attempts. Beat the game on one credit (something I don't have the skills for), and you'll get a little bit of a twist. It's a B-movie plot, but as a shmupper I'm thankful for any story I can get.

Basic shmup controls all around. Tap the A button to shoot your guns. Hold it for a second and your Reflect barrier will activate. It will take some time to recharge, at which point a robotic announcer will say "OK." The B button drops a bomb. P icons power up your guns, B icons give extra bombs.

Takumi gives four selectable fighters, and gives each one a pilot. Each pilot has their own style and reason for fighting. Since the plot is B- movie fare, you can inject a little life by reading each character's dialog with the appropriate inflections.

SINNOSUKE in the RAIJIN


Sinnosuke is the stereotypical Japanese warrior. He fights for family and honor. The Raijin is very slow, but has a wide attack pattern. The bomb is lightning based concentrated right around the plane. You could read his dialog like any early English-translation anime villain, but do like Giga Wing and go over the top. Read his dialog with the voice of Mojo Jojo from Power Puff Girls.


STUCK in the WIDERSTAND


Stuck is a cyborg powered by clockwork. He has a stone wife, and fights mostly out of revenge. The Widerstand is quite fast. The mines it throws do heavy damage, and when not firing the options can be positioned in many directions for any situation. The bomb is a robotic face that looks like it's trying to eat the enemies. As a cyborg, the obvious voice would be the Borg, but he isn't out to assimilate. He's out to exterminate. The robotic voice of extermination is the Dalek, so read his dialog as such.


ISHA in the PORCHKA


Isha is a nun. A nun pilot who only has a little remorse for slaying thousands of enemies. The Porchka is slow, but not as slow as the Raijin. It fires a straight stream and homing missiles. The bomb is a snowflake, which concentrates damage vertically on the plane's axis. Since the common nun is not a killing machine, her voice can't be that of a common nun. Go watch the movie Future War, which features a chain smoking nun who used to be a prostitute. Pick any character from that movie (including the handpuppet dinosaur) and use their voice for Isha.


RUBY in the CARMINE


Ruby is a sky pirate billionaire who now runs an orphanage. She fights for the riches, but thinks of the children. The Carmine is slightly slower than the Widerstand. All of the firepower is concentrated forwards. The bomb is a flaming blast concentrated vertically but with some swinging arcs as well. Ruby wants the help the weak and beaten. Put some Rage Against The Machine in your CD player and voice her like Zach De La Rocha.

The graphics for the game take a nod from Cave, with bright colors and a stylized military approach instead of the darker Raiden Fighters style. Level design is extremely creative, flying over lava flows and even pyramids on flying islands. The hitbox is small, but a little hard to figure out. It reportedly is circular shaped, and seems to be roughly in the middle of each character's plane. I find it quite tricky to get through bullet spreads while my Reflector charges back up.

The music tends towards a mixture of guitar rock and electronic techno tracks. The boss track in particular is quite bombastic and fits the mood perfectly. The techno inspired sections make use of sampled shouts and noises mixed in with more standard drum and bass fare. It's pretty good stuff all around. The sound effects are quite nice as well. Explosions tend towards a faster, sharper crack instead of a slow roar, and the sound your Reflect barrier makes is one of the most unique in any shooter I've played.

The Giga in Giga Wing alludes to the scores possible. The scoring system is based on your score multiplier, which is the big digits in the top left corner. Collecting medals adds to the multiplier, and it NEVER GOES DOWN. As you collect medals, the amount they add to the multiplier increases as well and this chain only reverts back to one when you start a new level or die. Giga Wing's scores are so inflated that getting 50 BILLION points is nothing. And as you get further, your score climbs faster and faster, to the point where popcorn enemies are worth millions each. The reported record for this game is over 291,000,000,000,000 points. Shoot enemies, grab medals, and go for the Giga score! To get the most medals, use the Reflect barrier with a bunch of enemy bullets around. Each returned bullet will turn into a medal. The Reflect barrier is both the primary survival tool and scoring tool.

Takumi implemented a rank system in Giga Wing. This one is pretty easy to control. The longer your first life lasts, the harder the game gets. So if Stage 3 is costing you all of your lives every time you play, you can suicide on Stage 1 right away and the rank curve will be much lower. You can grab an extend in Stage 4 through somewhat nebulous means, but it shoots the rank right back up.



The first three stages are played in a different order for each character. Regardless of who you pick, the first stage is generally pretty tame. For Ruby, the first stage is the airport. The airport has a few airplanes and ground enemies. Shortly in, an alarm starts sounding and the whole place starts blowing up. When you come out of it, you'll be surrounded by tanks with big bombers shooting at you with gatling guns. Giga Wing throws a lot of aimed bullets, kind of like Sengeki Striker, but unlike that game using the Reflect mechanism makes the game fun instead of frustrating.

The boss arrives by nuking a city. Your character is understandably a little upset at this circumstance. This boss is a huge plane that has loads of turrets all over and is Medallion powered. Take out all the turrets on each wing, then go for the main body. Destroying every piece of a boss gives you a pretty nice bonus, and this one is fairly easy to smash.



Ruby's second stage is the Train stage. This one starts out with some defenseless trains that drop big medals, and two streams of fighters that shoot at you. The midboss, and most of the stage, is spent fighting a pair of trains powered by the Medallion. I generally destroy the left one first, then the right one. Once they are done, the next section is where bullet counts start to pile up. The big turrets on either side of the screen spray a lot of bullets at you, and you'll also get more bullets from the pod enemies between them. This stage also has a mirror enemy on the left side that fires a fuck ton of bullets. Reflect them, and you'll get a huge number of medals off of it.

The boss this time around is a Flying Pancake. This is a giant-sized version of the experimental fighter plane that also found a home in Strikers 1945 II. The tail fins will extend to fire salvos, and the Medallion can shoot a ring of fireballs that is actually pretty easy to dodge, but reduces dodging space for those other bullets. If the Medallion lifts up, it can shoot out a ray about twice the width of your fighter.



Ruby's third stage is the Vulcano. That isn't a typo. The initial section is a fight against flying enemies of various shapes and sizes, before the music changes and a big black plane arrives. This is the Stranger. It's actually a plane similar to yours, but with another plane bolted on top. Defeat it, and the real plane will fly off. You now fight your way through a naval base, with cranes and turrets all over. The big tanks in this section all look the same, but have different attacks. Sit right below them with the Reflect active and shoot, and try to take them down before you run out of invincibility for great scores.

The boss is a fight against a battleship. Not a Giant Battleship, just a regular one. All kinds of turrets spraying bullets everywhere, and even after knocking out the tower the Medallion keeps fighting, this time with some red discs that spiral out and can be a little tricky. This boss also shoots torpedoes at you. It may just be me, but the bullet patterns on this boss look vaguely like Battle Garegga streams, only in a pretty shade of blue.



From here on, all characters play the stages in the same order. The fourth stage is the attack on the floating continent. I wonder if video game artists are all fans of Roger Dean. Bullet counts jump up pretty high in this stage. First, you'll have to get there. The opening section takes place far above a very well-drawn forest with a river running through it. The midboss is the Stranger again, with a new suit for his plane. The actual floating continent has some stone structures on it that look a little like Medieval European structures to me.

The boss is a giant robot. Haven't had much in the way of robots in this game. This guy has two huge arms with shoulder pads Samus would be envious of and big guns strapped to each. It's possible to blow them off but he can grab them back. This guy also has some laser beams that he shoots straight down. If you are gutsy, you can fit right between them but you'll only have vertical dodging space. The Reflect barrier won't send those beams back at him, but will let you move through them unharmed.



Stage 5 is more aerial shenanigans. The bullet count in this stage hits Cave levels at the least, and most of them are aimed. Reflecting back a stream of a couple hundred bullets will kill the enemies, but be cautious with your timing so you don't get caught with no bombs, no Reflect, and another hundred bullets coming your way. This stage also has Egyptian- inspired pyramids. And the Stranger makes a return in a red suit of armor that wouldn't look out of place if Bashinet from Mahou Daisakusen was wearing it.

The Medallion plugs itself into a fish plane for the boss fight and proceeds to spray bullets everywhere. The bullet streams are extremely varied. I found that the bullets were so continuous that after reflecting a whole bunch back, I would still have to dodge through fairly tight bullet mazes. Once the boss dies, you'll be treated to a very cool sequence with lights blasting out while the plane explodes, and everything goes white.



The final boss is a fight with the Medallion as it controls an enormous weapon contraption. The background and music in this fight are both very trippy, and when combined with the glowing blue orbs everywhere it's a bit like if Pink Floyd's music was turned into a shmup. Maybe. This fight has many sections. Each side must be taken down, then the central portion. The final battle is against a Tetris square block. Beat it, and you'll chase down the Medallion in a cutscene and destroy it in a suicide attack.

BUT WAIT! If you practice the game enough to beat this portion on one credit, you'll fight the True Last Boss and get some more plot and background. You'll also get a different ending.

Giga Wing was eventually ported to the Dreamcast, with some changes. Enemies have been moved around in some stages, and bullets are overall slower to compensate for the reduced lag of the system. The CPS2 version is perfectly playable in MAME, and if you can play PCBs Giga Wing can be found for pretty reasonable prices as far as PCBs go.

A very good shmup that you should try if the Cave/Raizing/Psikyo games aren't doing it for you.

Overall:







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