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Gunbird 2 review –

Developer: Psikyo    Publisher: Capcom    Release: 2000   Genre: Shooter

There were many, many classic shooters released for the PlayStation and Saturn in Japan. Unfortunately most never left the country as the genre was on the wane in the West despite Working Designs and other’s best efforts. There was a mini resurgence around the time of the Dreamcast as publishers were willing to take a chance again. While it was short lived we got some good out of it. Gunbird 2 is an accessible bullet hell shooter that does not overwhelm with its mechanics or chaos. Instead it excels thanks to simple yet polished mechanics and great pacing.

Seven warriors from different walks of life are all on a search for three powerful elements representing the Sun, Moon, and Stars. Legend has it that when all three are gathered and brought to the Potion God it will award the Almighty Potion, capable of almost anything. For those wandering what happened to Gunbird we did get that in the US as Mobile Light Force. Chances are if you were ever in a Gamestop in the early 2000s you saw the ghastly Charlie’s Angels knockoff box art.

Gunbird 2 has a simple set of mechanics with a subtle sense of depth. Everyone’s primary attack differs but is relatively straightforward. Their power varies per character (Valpiro is strong, Morrigan is weak) but the real difference is the melee and charged attack. By collecting coins and Power icons you build up the meter and can expend some of it at any time. Charge attacks are short range and wildly different per character but devastating in practice. If you are really adventurous melee attacks are the strongest. But you need to be incredibly brave to risk using it.

Each of the seven characters has their strengths and weaknesses that make for a unique experience on each play through. For a hidden character Morrigan is not that good. Her search spears are weak despite homing in on enemies and her charge attack is barely better. Her bombs are powerful but not enough to shore up her weaknesses. If you are chasing high scores Marion is your pick. Her bomb does no damage; instead it turns bullets into bonus point candy. It sounds like a detriment if that is not your style but it also benefits in that it removes bullet waves and places you closer to earning extra lives. Alucard is the most well rounded next to Valpiro but honestly you almost can’t go wrong with anyone.

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Gunbird 2 is a bullet hell but not to the extent you would expect. True enemies spew a shower of bullets left and right. But there is always a pattern to each array that you can spot. The bullets are also slower than in similar titles making it more manageable as well. The levels are a bit short but the multi-stage boss battles make up for it. Every giant mechanical contraption cooked up by the queen pirates has multiple phases and lasts almost as long as the levels themselves depending on the character. It may sound like the game is short but there are seven stages and two loops. The first three stages of loop 1 are random and the game’s story (such as it is) changes depending on your decisions. The game is long enough and with multiple characters and their quirks fun enough to warrant multiple runs.

Like most games in the genre Gunbird 2 poses a significant challenge however I found it more accessible than other bullet hell titles. The scoring mechanics are simple yet have enough depth that thrill seekers and score chasers have room to game the system to rack up points. The game gives extra lives at a decent clip although you will probably burn through them fast the first time through. Yet in spite of the daunting challenge that lies before you I never felt it was unfair. Every time I died I could see where I was too slow or the path I should have taken. Hoarding bombs and the power meter is not necessary as the game is fairly generous with both. The tools are there, use them. You will have to work to complete the second loop but it is a battle worth fighting in my book.

In Closing

Gunbird 2 is a good shooter and a great game all around. I enjoyed this one more than I expected as its mechanics are solid and married with great design. Do not let the bullet hell label deter you; while challenging it is manageable even for novices and rewarding as well. There is a reason it has been re-released on every modern platform, it deserves it.

8 out of 10

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