So, what do you do when you're learning a new language, like videogames,
and have a little expendable income laying around that you can't think
of anything else to do with? Oh, and you're also stupid. Clearly stupid. Well, of
course you HAVE
to do what I do and just blow it as quickly and mindlessly as
possible on things you probably really don't need in the first place!
It's the American way after all! Such is the case with my recent importing
of Gunslinger Girl vol. 1
for the PlayStation 2. I've had my PS2 flip-top
modded for a while and haven't done much with it, so it can't be THAT bad a
use of funds can it?
is an ongoing manga series by Yu Aida and also currently
has two seasons of animu under its belt (First season: Fuckwin. Second
Season: Fuckshitassshitfuck). It tells the story of little girls (it's
Japanese, you can't tell me you expected anything else) who were rescued
from the brink of death by the Social Wellfare Agency and brainwashed into
the most gosh darned cutest little assassins you'll ever see. CUTE AS A
FUCKIN BUTTON!!! Despite its
title, Gunslinger Girl
typically tugs at your morals and emotions more
than focusing on amped up action sequences (though those ARE a part of it).
The struggles the girls face of accepting their fates and trying to live as
normally as possible are the main points of the franchise, and overall
usually makes for pretty good drama. But that would have made one intensely
shitty videogame and it'd probably be filled with about 7,000,000 Kanji
that I don't fucking know yet.
Thankfully, the PlayStation 2 game focuses soley on the action aspect of
the franchise. There's a stab at a story here, which focuses on a rogue
Fratello of characters that never appeared in the manga or animu, Earnest
and Pia. But sadly, nothing's going to get resolved. I'll go over
that in a bit.
Gunslinger Girl vol. 1
is a straight-up action arcade shooter with
a cover mechanic. Each stage is a series of run and stop sequences, where
you're put behind cover and have to pop out to shoot the bad guys while
keeping yourself protected or moving to a better position in the area for
better cover. Mop up
that area and move on to the next. You're sometimes given different routes
to take through a mission, but it all ends up at the same place.
If you're thinking Time Crisis
you wouldn't be that far off the mark.
The controls can take a bit of getting used to, as they feel almost
backwards for this kind of game, but once you settle into the groove
it ends up feeling natural. Shooting bad guys' faces off and ducking behind cover is
a snap and controls are as responsive as they
should be in MOST cases. The big issue is with one of the more vital
points of a shooter... The fucking AIMING. You use the left analog
stick for aiming purposes, but the designers apparently didn't feel much
of a need to work with that whole "analog" thing. It feels like you're
using the D-Pad to aim as the reticle just zips around the screen, oftentimes
overshooting the enemy you were trying to kill. If this is what they
were going for, they probably should have put movement on the analog
stick and aiming on the d-pad. It'd feel less annoying that way. Still, there's
the auto-lock ability that helps you lock onto your nearest targets, and that
helps out quite a bit, but it takes some of the skill out of getting a
good kill and is a slight dent to the game's overall difficulty.
Graphically, overall the entire game is bland and there are some technical
issues as well. While Henrietta and her weapons' models are done with
a nice bit of detail and in uniform with the first season of the anime's
look, the environments and enemies (Even Earnest and Pia) are entirely
forgettable. Get used to seeing a whole hell of a lot of Generic Thug
Guy and Generic Guy In A Business Suit. There's just not a whole lot
standing out here.
The technical issues come from the fixed camera angles that you're stuck
at behind each cover spot in a stage. More than a few times, I ended up
running back and forth between two cover spots not able to get a shot off
on some twerp that was always JUST BARELY off the screen at every spot
I could try. But, bad gameplay design is pretty synonomous with licensed
properties anyway. And Sonic Team. Fucking Sonic Team.
The sound department isn't QUITE as bland as the graphics. There are
some nicely done tunes that play while the story unfolds and in menus,
but the action music sounds like the same old recycled techno garbage
you'd hear in any two-bit crappy Flash game. Unsurprisingly, the voice
work is flawless as the VAs for Jose and Henrietta reprise their roles
here bantering back and forth during missions. Also, given
the manga and anime's attention to detail, the weapon sounds are
nice and realistic and have a good bit of oomph behind them. I guess
it's a good thing there's so much fucking gunfire going off all the time,
because it at least drowns out the soundtrack.
Gunslinger Girl vol. 1
features two modes of play: Story Mode
and Score Mode. They're pretty self-explanatory, I think. Story Mode
takes you through four stages (including a tutorial stage) each with
a varying amount of sub-stages. Only four stages?
There's SIX MORE STAGES**********ASTERISKASTERISKASTERISK
*if you buy the other two volumes lol!
Yes, it's a bit of a stupid way to dish out a game. It took me no longer
than 90 minutes to run through the story mode only to get stone-walled
and told to BUY VOLUME 2! It's fine that they wanted to release the
game in bits and pieces since they were packaging it with the anime,
but fucking hell they really needed to offer a "full" version
of this game with all 10 stages and all weapons to those who didn't want
or already have the DVDs. Come on, Japan. I know you love milking the
poor Otaku over there dry, but making them pay for THIRDS of a game?
I think even Valve might look at that and go, "Wow...that's fuckin
greedy...how can we pull it off?" I'm almost convinced this is
where they got this fucking episode nonsense.
Alright, bullshit distribution method aside, we move on to Score Mode which
is more fun and more rewarding than Story Mode. Scoring mode capitalizes on
the game's strong point which is an interesting scoring system. Using the
lock-on mode and waiting to fire until you have 2 or more targets lined up
nets you a bigger point bonus than picking off one guy at a time. It's easy!
Lock-on your intended targets, and press fire once and Henrietta will mow down
all the dotted enemies. It's simple, yet effective.
In Score Mode you run through
the same stages that you do in the main game trying to, you guessed it, get
high scores. Performing well in stage can net you a range of new weapons to
play around with or level up your current arsenal. The nifty idea here is
that weapons you unlock in volume one can be transferred over to volume 2 and
so on. Which would actually be "nifty" if vol. 2 was an ENTIRE
NEW GAME AND NOT JUST THE SECOND THIRD OF ONE ENTIRE GAME!
There are a total of thirteen guns you can unlock and level up in
both Story and Score Modes and once you've exhausted those, there's really
not much else left here other than to keep driving your scores up as high
as they can go.
Another real disappointment is that you're stuck always playing as
Henrietta. You can add the other girls' special weapons to your arsenal,
so it doesn't make sense that the girls themselves aren't in here.
Even if just for looks, they could have given you a choice
of who you'd want to take on a mission. Since every girl is proficient
in a unique set of weapons in the manga and anime, this could add even more replay
value as well as having to level up each girl and their arsenal getting
them all ready for volume two.
For what it is, Gunslinger Girl vol. 1
isn't necessarily a bad game.
It is decent fun and can get challenging, but it's over before you can even
blink. Truthfully, a Gunslinger Girl
game needs to be something more
along the lines of Rainbow Six
mixed with this action-arcadey
feel. Maybe even mix in a little Syphon Filter
for good measure.
It's never likely to happen, as companies just don't want to spend
that much time on licensed products. If you're an importer, you could skip
this one and never miss a thing. This game is strictly for the tardcore, such
as myself who enjoy the franchise as a whole. Will I buy the other two
volumes to finish it out, even though I know it's the same shit? Fucking
income retax returns...