The Earth Federation is under siege! When her navy admiral father is captured by aliens, Lucia jumps into action by grabbing a highly advanced prototype ship known as Gleylancer with the intent of bringing him home. Originally a Japan-only MegaDrive release, it received a Wii Virtual Console edition back in 2008 and now a slick next-gen port with a few extra modern features that help separate it from basic port territory.
Before you hop into the game, there are a few options to consider. You can go into the options menu and select one of three game modes: Modern, Vintage, and Cheater. Cheater mode allows you to toggle on invincibility mode and the debug menu. Using the debug menu allows you to warp to any stage on-demand, plus modify your special weapons, lives, and other stuff any time you want. Pretty fun if you want to simply play around or jump to a favorite stage. Modern mode is full of quality of life improvements that make life easier for gamers not used to the trials and tribulations of retro gaming; we’ll dive more into that later. Vintage is the most challenging mode, as it is a much stricter shoot-em-up gaming experience and lacks some of the useful features found in the updated modern version.
Gleylancer is set across 11 cool stages and doesn’t deviate much from the typical horizontal-scrolling bullet fests that make up most of the genre. One key difference, however, is the gunner system. By finding and blowing open capsules you can add up to two gunner pods that float around your ship and assist you, but there is a little more to it than that. Before you begin your game, you are asked to select a type of Mover system. This option dictates how your turrets operate. There are several choices but I’ll just give you a few examples. Normal makes the turrets fire in the direction your ship is moving; holding down the lock button keeps them firing in the same direction until you release it. Search allows your turrets to auto-lock on the closest enemy. The Roll mode puts your turrets into a constant orbit around your ship, firing in all directions. When playing in Modern mode, you can change the Mover system on the fly, while Vintage mode locks in your choice for the entire run. An additional benefit of Modern mode is that you can use the right analog stick to fire your turrets in any direction, regardless of the direction your ship is moving. This makes it a hell of a lot easier to focus fire on an enemy as you’re moving about. Also scattered around the levels are powerups that change the type of fire your turrets lay down. Some of the cooler powerups include ricocheting bullets or short-range flamethrowers that can send fire running along the walls a little ways.
Another interesting concept is how Gleylancer allows you to change how fast your ship moves around the screen with the push of a button. Off the top of my head, I can’t think of any other shoot-em-up that does that. It can be quite a handy feature for parts of certain levels where you have to either dodge things or slow down to move through tight obstacle areas. Supposing that you crash anyways, Modern mode has a slick gameplay rewind feature much like the one found in other retro titles like The Disney Afternoon Collection. You can easily rewind time by holding down the left bumper button until you’re out of danger. Whichever mode you select, there is a nice save state feature so you can leave off and pick up whenever you want.
The soundtrack is exactly what you would expect from a 90’s schmup: fast-paced frenetically charged chiptunes with all the bleeps and bloops you would ever need to take the fight to the evil alien invaders. The bit graphics are pretty slick too and the visual effects are great but in a few levels the busy backgrounds help obfuscate the bullets coming your way. If you rummage around the options menu, you can even find some CRT shader options to add that feel of playing on an old monitor. There are even a few arcade-style story cutscenes thrown in along the way that add a bit of exposition to the whole affair. All in all, Gleylancer is the epitome of a retro shoot-em-up and is a great pickup for gamers who are looking for a blast from the past!
*Note: A copy of the game was provided for the purpose of the review.
Final Score: 8/10
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