Just a few weeks ago, I reviewed Capcom's Strider 2 for the Sony PlayStation. In the process of dishing out heavy doses of praise for the game, I talked at length about the joys of "old-school" arcade gaming and expressed a desire to play a 2-D action game in which "there's so much going on at one time that you can't comprehend a damn thing," only to lament the fact that we're not likely to see too many games of that sort nowadays.
As the old saying goes, "Be careful what you wish for because you just might get it."
The generically titled Giga Wing—an overhead perspective, vertically scrolling airplane shoot-fest—is another console release in the same vein as Strider 2. Once again, Capcom is responsible (in this case I would call them the guilty party), only this time Sega's Dreamcast is the target. Both games are straight-up translations of the semi-popular arcade titles of the same names. The difference here is that while there was no shortage of action in Strider 2, the game was controlled and had a definite pace. It had a sensibility. Giga Wing, on the other hand, is the perfect example of the floodgates left wide open. It's no-holds-barred constant chaos—action gone awry—and it gets tiresome quickly.
Giga Wing is essentially an evolution of two Capcom classics, the World War II-based 1942 and 1943, but it plays like more recent arcade efforts like Seibu's Raiden Trad or Taito's Ray Force (though it's not nearly as good as those two games). You guide one lonely aircraft (or two in the two-player mode) against thousands upon thousands of land- and air-based enemies of varying size—shooting anything and everything that gets in your path. In this latest incarnation however, the action has been pumped up to utter insanity, as the bad guys clutter up the screen like never before and spray so much colorful gunfire that it appears as if your tiny plane is flying through a blizzard. I thought I had seen the ultimate game of this kind when I bought Radiant Silvergun for my Sega Saturn. Although Giga Wing can't compare to Treasure's shooting masterpiece, the amount of stuff happening on-screen is simply astounding, if not ridiculous.
Actually, everything in Giga Wing is ridiculous. If you can manage to make it through just the first level without continuing, you'll find your score inflated to a ludicrous number—something like 258,994,721,620, and that's being modest. I did find it interesting that you have to acquire points by collecting icons of various size that bad guys leave behind after they explode—just like in Strider 2. As you can imagine, these icons muck up the action even more. Capcom seems to like this system of awarding points—and it is different—but I don't think it works well in Giga Wing.
The simple action does allow for some nice firing. You can blaze a trail through the madness with a constant stream of brilliant destruction, not to mention a handy shield attack that deflects enemy ack-ack fire right back in their faces. However, unlike the aforementioned Strider 2, Giga Wing doesn't turn up the cool factor to compensate for its one-dimensional gameplay. In fact, the game is so old-school that it's almost unhip. The visuals certainly don't reflect Dreamcast's superb rending capabilities. Except for the constant extreme overdose of on-screen commotion, Giga Wing's smudgy 2-D sprites and backgrounds scream 16-bit Genesis, not 128-bit Dreamcast.
It's not that we shouldn't be seeing shooters being released on the new consoles. Games like Squaresoft's Einhander, Irem's R-Type Delta and Taito's RayStorm and G-Darius have shown us that there's still a place in today's scene for the most classic of all videogame formulas. As far as overhead shooters go, Giga Wing will forever take a back seat to Radiant Silvergun on Saturn or Robo Aleste for Sega CD. Capcom would have been better off releasing an update to Forgotten Worlds, U.N. Squadron or 19XX.
Since Giga Wing has neither style nor substance, there's really not much to talk about. It's all about laying waste to screen after screen full of enemy war craft. The game tries to make things more interesting by throwing in a side story for the good guy characters, but it only adds to the confusion. Giga Wing's five short and forgettable levels fly by in an incoherent adrenaline rush of messy action and colorful explosions. It's fun for about 15 minutes.The unforgiving difficultly level might work for the arcades—where quarter-munching is the order of the day. But at home, after constantly unleashing force bombs to keep my fighter plane from exploding for the 50th time in the endless barrage of enemy shells, Giga Wing became a pointless exercise in video gaming, not to mention a thorough waste of time.