One type of game which seems to be in short supply on the US Playstation is the arcade-style run and shoot game. Sure, we have games like ASC's One, Midway's Assault: Retribution, or Activision's Apocalypse, but some of these games are hampered by odd controls and the occasional weird camera angles that detract from the mindless fun of blowing up hordes of evil aliens or whatever else gets in the way. Japanese gamers are a lot more fortunate, to some extent, in that there are a lot more of these games to choose from. But in the case of Konami's Gungage, this may not be so much of a cause for celebration, despite some good points.
Gungage is yet another third-person run and shoot import game that most likely won't make it to these shores, thanks to it being just about average in every respect. The game starts off with a rather nice intro, complete with some nice music and the requisite anime-style character artwork. But the first thing you notice upon starting a new game (besides the awful name of the first selectable character, Wankle Skade!) are the first to second generation graphics. Sure, the environments are huge and varied, but also full of seams, some warping textures and walls that flick in and out, often revealing the locations of some enemies (which actually helps at times!). Speaking of enemies, the ones in this game exhibit the tried and true tactics of either popping up out of the ground directly in front of you, loitering in groups just around a corner or near a door or item that you need to get to, or my personal favorite: coming from behind you and shooting you in the back! In other words, there are few surprises in this game, if you've played anything remotely resembling this one.
The main problem here stems from the extremely stiff movements of the hero(es) in the game; you have to clear Gungage once in order to select another character, but poor Wankle moves so slowly (his running animation is basically a short-strided light jog!), that you'll want to yell at the guy half the time to HURRY UP!!! He sure can jump and strafe, however, and manual aiming is pretty cool, once you get used to it (L2 + the D- pad). The gameplay is the usual for action shooters such as these- run, shoot enemies and boxes, pick up power-ups, meet and shoot level end boss numerous times while avoiding super white-hot death, rinse and repeat. The bosses are the coolest part of the game, though, since they're all huge, look great, and blow up real good without putting up too much fuss. Yes, the game isn't really all that hard to finish the first time out once you get the patterns down, but generally, Japanese games aren't as frustratingly difficullt as some of their US counterparts. Anyway, once you complete the game, you can select another slow moving, stiff hero(or heroine, in one case) to play around with, but the game plays a little bit differently, with new weapons and some alternate paths through the levels. I'm guessing that the title Gungage comes from the different weapon icons in the lower right corner of each character's action screen, the gun gage, if you will.
Gungage isn't a bad game, it's just not anything special, which is too bad when you realize it's a Konami title. It reminds me of Squaresoft's 1997 flawed, but enjoyable action/RPG, Soukaigi, and yet another game that you play for a couple of hours looking for (and occasionally finding) the bits of gold buried in all the mud. If you're looking for a big fan of the genre, and looking for a companion to your played-out copies of Crisis City, Cyberorg, or the US games that I mentioned above, give Gungage a try. Unless you're expecting the second coming of Metal Gear Solid, you won't be disappointed, and besides, it's a lot better than any of the 32-bit Contra games that were released!!!
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