Author: Dan Haigh
Review date: 4/30/2003
Release date: 2001
follow-up to the arcade-only Zero Gunner, this unique Psikyo helicopter-based
shooter got a Japanese Dreamcast release, but no North American
or European release. Still, a surprisingly enjoyable rotation mechanism
combined with classic bullet patterns and effective stage design
make this well-worth importing.
most obvious distinguishing feature of this game is the rotation
mechanism. Your heli can spin fully around, enabling you to fire
in any direction. In fact, you willll need to make extensive use
of this ability, because enemies will approach from every direction.
This is no classic vertically-scrolling or horizontally-scrolling
game; the screen will scroll in arbitrary directions at different
points in the game. Much of the tactics required to dispatch various
enemies and bosses will hinge on clever positioning and orientation
of your heli.
has been made of the way the rotation is implemented. You press
a button to initiate rotation, which locks your orientation to a
fixed point a bit in front of the helicopter. Any motion while that
button is held down still leaves the heli facing that lock-point.
This seems a bit unituitive at first. Many newcomers to the game
wish that it used the two triggers, one for spinning left, one for
spinning right. Experience reveals the cleverness of the system,
however. Instead of a fixed rate of rotation, you can turn as quickly
or slowly as the situation demands. After a few plays, you will
be executing 90 and 180 degree snap turns at will, and you will
see that you could never survive with a fixed spin rate.
provides no screen-clearing smart bombs. Instead, each heli sports
a special weapon for dealing heavy damage when the situation demands.
Each life starts you out with 2 special weapon charges. Additional
charges are earned by collecting 'E' icons which are released when
enemies are destroyed. 'E' pickups will add to an on-screen bar.
Fill the bar and earn another charge, up to a fixed maximum. If
you stop shooting with capsules on-screen, 'E' pickups will be attracted
towards your heli. In addition, the number of pickups released by
an enemy depends in part on how long you let him survive. Most small
enemies will 'sprout' a few extra 'E' capsules on their wings after
they have been on screen a bit.
is a rank system in place. The longer you survive, the tougher things
get. Both standard stage enemies and the bosses fire more bullets
and fire them faster. Rank control seems fairly limited since it
appears to be contingent only upon survival, not score, destruction
percentage or special weapon charges. The effect of rank is fairly
mild compared to some games, but certainly noticeable.
does not have a sophisticated scoring system. Score will primarily
depend on destruction rate and 'E' collection. There are no stage-end
bonuses nor a combo/chain system. Maximizing 'E' pickups can require
some technique, however. One is faced with a trade-off between rapid
destruction of enemies in order to keep their fire to a minimum
and letting them linger on-screen in order to sprout additional
'E' capsules. You will also have to become proficient at 'herding'
capsules using pauses in your fire to attract them towards the helicopter.
These techniques and trade-offs make for an enjoyable addition to
simple destruction, but they certainly do not add the depth of a
more involved scoring system.
are 3 helicopter options: Apache, Comanche and Hokum. They vary
in both basic attack and special weapon. The more powerful the heli's
special weapon, the more 'E' capsules required to earn an additional
charge. This means an obvious trade-off between frequent use of
a special and maximum damage for taking out the most dangerous foes
are 8 stages altogether. The first 4, in classic Psikyo fashion,
are faced in random order. This makes for an additional challenge,
as you will face different bullet patterns on the same stage, depending
on where in the order you have to play it. Unfortunately, the challenge
level on these initial stages is a bit disappointing. Things do
not really pick up until the 4th stage. The latter half of the game
more than makes up for the slow start. There are some really enjoyable
stage designs, and the second half of the game takes full advantage
of the 360-degree design.
the game drops you into second loop, where you must face all 8 stages
again at a considerably higher difficulty.
enemies are fairly standard fare, which is very much a good thing.
A mix of small drones and mid-size enemies, a mix of targetted 'sniper'
shots and pattern-based spreads. The overall speed of the enemy
fire stays on the low side for a modern shooter. Many stage-bosses
are immediately preceeded by a mini-boss, and the stage bosses themselves
often have a series of forms.
level is always hard to quantify, but ZG2 certainly does not rank
among the hardest shooters to clear, at least on the first loop.
The second loop, however, will take the mettle of even the most
serious player. Multiple difficulties are also provided, with the
arcade default (the choice of all true shooterfans) at 5 out of
game provides an interesting innovation without letting it get in
the way of classic action. A scoring system and a quicker ramp-up
in the early stages would be welcome additions, but those are minor
complaints. The level design is top-notch, the bullet patterns are
demanding and there is plenty of room for innovative solutions to
scores suck. In lieu of an unhelpful and arbitrary number, let me
give you a frame of reference. If your tastes are similar to mine,
you are likely to enjoy Zero Gunner 2 as much as I did. DoDonPachi,
Gunbird 2, Strikers 1945 ii, Juno First, Sokyugurentai and Raiden
2 are all high on my list. I am not terribly fond of Gradius, R-Type,
Truxton/Tatsujin or Ikaruga. Zero Gunner 2 may not be an all-time
great, but it is highly enjoyable and worth a significant investment