Giga Wing - Capcom/Takumi

Giga Wing

1999, Capcom/Takumi

Reviewed by Arun S. Rajkumar.

Come now; how can you go wrong with a game called Giga Wing? Giga Wing, released in 1999 by Capcom and 'supported by Takumi' (who would also be involved with the excellent Mars Matrix the next year) is one of my favourite shmups. The 'Giga' in the title chiefly refers to the insane scores this game lets you make. In how many games can you make a billion without breaking a sweat? It's not that hard to get a trillion either, my best is close to 50 trillions. As the arcade flyer says, "Go for the Giga score!". There also is a literal 'Giga Wing'  later in the game, but we're getting out of line...

On to the game then; it's a vertically-scrolling character-based shmup which can handle up to four players. It was ported to the Dreamcast and followed by a superior (so they say) sequel. There is a second sequel in the works too. The game is set in some kind of steampunkish world, where people fly planes that look like the kind of futuristic planes dreamt of in the Thirties. Being 1999, and this not being a game released by Taito, Giga Wing is a nastily manic shmup. 'Nastily' because you cannot hope to navigate your way (OK, inhuman shmup gods need not apply) through this game without the Reflect Shield/Barrier. This is activated by holding and pressing the fire button, which then marks off a circle about three times your craft's length and reflects all the enemy bullets in it. These in turn hit enemies (obviously), these hits scoring more than a normal hit. There are smart bombs to even things out too. 

To achieve the gigascores we've been promised, scoring is based on a score multiplier whose value grows as you collect medals released by destroyed enemies. These medals are both generated by your normal shots and by reflected shots.  There are six kinds of medals that enemies release:

- Worth 1 point, and x + 1 after that. Generated only by reflected shots hitting home.

- Worth 1 point, and x + 1 after that.

- Worth 5 points, and x + 5 after that. 

- Worth 10 points, and x + 10 after that.

- Worth 20 points, and x + 20 after that.

-Very rare, and gettable in only one stage. Worth 100 points, and-well, you get the idea by now.

The medal tally is cumulative, i.e. if x is your medal count before collecting, say, a medal worth 10, the collected medal will be worth x + 10. And so, if you now shoot down an enemy, its score will be (Base value)*(x + 10). Quite gigaworthy, isn't it? 

The reflect system was new for a shmup as far as I can remember. ESP.Ra.De (Cave, 1998) had a kind of reflection mechanism too, but it's a much more complicated one and not just related to score (I think; please correct me if I'm wrong). 

But gameplay isn't everything; SNK's A.S.O. had a fairly ingenious powerup system but getting it to work was (and is) quite frustrating, and hence, so was the game. Fortunately, Giga Wing isn't such a game. 

Graphically, Giga Wing is good, but the graphics may seem rather primitive for 1999. The enemy designs are varied but generally militaristic (we have a flying pancake, a warship, and a flying wing as bosses), veering towards an Egyptian-Mysterious Cities of Gold-Inca style towards the end; in fact, one of the bosses IS that Inca statue which people have called an astronaut suit (with suitable modifications). There are lots of nice explosions, smart-bomb effects and aesthetic bullet patterns to keep people happy. The character designs are adequate as well (though Ruby looks freaky). Level design, though, is rather weak after a point- my chief peeve with the game.

The sound effects are good, with a very booming 'boom' and engines droning for boss fights. The music, though, is more of a mixed bag. It is adequate in general and downright irritating at one rare moment (the aircraft carrier stage, with some ass shouting 'COME ON!'). The stage 6 music is my personal favourite. But there's a good chance you won't hear much with all the explosions. 

While these dissections may make Giga Wing look not so nice, the whole is greater than the sum of the parts so that we do get an entertaining shmupping experience. I, for one, prefer it over the canonical good shmups.

As I mentioned earlier, this game is a character shmup. And there is a plot to tie it in. There's this Medallion which every one is fighting for (or which causes them to fight), and apparently these four pilots have signed up to try and defeat it for a bounty. You have the choice of four pilots and their fighters, so let me get to that:

Isha- an ace pilot who became a nun (whose habit colourings remind me of the Missionaries of Charity, the order Mother Teresa founded). Come the war, she takes   to the skies again in the Porchka, a decent plane with heat-seeker missiles.

Ruby- an ex-sky pirate who now runs an orphanage for war orphans. Obvious, isn't it. She's in it solely for the money -obviously (again) for the children. She flies the Carmine, the fastest of the four planes and the best one for gettng medals.

Sinnosuke- Apparently this guy's family (with its own medallion) has some long-standing issues with the Medallion. Of course, there's a senseless war in the way for him to settle scores once and for all. He flies the Raijin, with a wide arc of fire and the coolest bomb.

Stuck- Also called Shutock in the game, he is a doctor who also happens to be a cyborg.  Easily the oldest of the pack, he also has some scores to settle with the Medallion. His plane is the venerable Widerstand, with interesting aimable options which fire huge bombs which erupt into tongues of green flames. You have to love that clockwork eye!

Since it's a character-based shmup, everyone says their little bit during and in-between stages. The dialogue is more sober than your average character-based shmup, somewhat in tone with the game. Ruby and Sinnosuke get pretty boring fast, Isha is uniformly vapid, and Stuck attempts to make wisecracks. In two-player mode, Ruby and Stuck like to take the mickey out of Sinnosuke, and Stuck generally is rather sensitive about his clockwork eye. 


Pretty much all there is to the story of the game, barring the characters' histories. It gets sillier from here.


The pilots and their respective fighters. They can't seem to decide how to spell Stuck's name.


Isha strikes an anime-esque pose. 



Get used to the guy- he crops up often. 


And so - the shipyard part of things. A good stage to start with, though not too medal-rich. The turrets like the one I'm shooting now yield bigger medals if shot at from behind.


The boss. Easily the toughest of the randomly-arranged first three stages. Currently at Form #2 of 3. 




Business as usual on a damaged aircraft carrier with decks marked 1941, 1942, 1943 and 19XX. Oh well.  Very good stage for medals.


The boss blows up a city and Ruby does a Zack de la Rocha. 



The culprit. Not really much of a fight, but he has a bullet pattern for every occasion- this is the first time I've got this one! 




Try and kill the medallion while it's still on the train!  


Flying pancake time. Not too much fun- I've just blown off a part that SPRAYS bullets at you. The thing is to blow it off when the spraying occurs, to get as many medals as possible.




And guess who's on the welcoming committee. 


Having fun yet? The Medalion Armies seem to favour a  'flying wing' enemy design.




The trick to getting these medals is to blow up the little red orbs in the lower-right corner in the order of their flashing.

Cinematic interlude, and Stuck draws upon his life as a doctor.   


All in a day's work, dear.  Surviving this stage depends solely on knowing when to Reflect.


After 90-degree lasers and fat beams from wing points, we get this fine rosette of bullets from the boss.

The last boss sucks you out of the ancient city, and it looks like-   

Meet the final(?) boss on PAGE 2!


shmups!   © 1997 - 2007  Malcolm Laurie