Apparently, Gunbarich and Strikers 1945 were not the only arcade titles Zerodiv had up its sleeve. The publisher’s been intending to re-release more titles from Psikyo’s archives, and Gunbird is the third title to get this treatment. This game was actually ported to the Playstation back in 1995 in Japan, but for Europe and North America it was released under a much different title in 2002 and 2003 respectively; if you didn’t know that, it’s probably because of:
A) the fact that the sixth generation of consoles was already a couple years old by then.
B) the game was masked under perhaps the most misleading boxart I’ve ever seen.
Riddle me this: Does this look anything like it represents an arcade shoot ’em up with magical characters in colorful settings? Of freaking course not! Who thought this was a good idea?! At least Phalanx‘s infamous banjo guy cover encouraged buyers to look at the box. THIS idiocy screams “Skip me. I’m a crappy Charlie’s Angels ripoff that only exists to cash in on the PS1’s final years”. Fortunately, this Switch re-release is a clearer port that doesn’t have any of this nonsense attached to it.
Anyway, Gunbird has a simple plot. The character of your choice is simply trying to gather up pieces of a magic mirror to be granted a wish from it. Each character has his or her own implied personalities and traits, but they don’t really play much of a role in the actual story. It’s kind of like the Mr. Driller series in that regard since the story takes a backseat to the shooter gameplay anyway.
Par for the course with arcade shoot ’em ups are the stunningly crafted sprites and their respective animations. From start to finish, Gunbird fills the screen (er…what the arcade monitor takes up of the screen, anyway) with a variety of baddies to shoot and bullets sprawling all around the interface. Like the other arcade ports brought to us by Zerodiv, the game window only takes up a third of the whole screen when played horizontally. It’s not too big of a deal on the TV, but in handheld mode you’ll likely want to change it to a vertical layout so the window takes up more space.
Yep, this game hails from the 90s; the soundtrack has that “CD quality” that couldn’t be replicated properly on any console before the Playstation. It’s not as in-your-face as other games that push the hardware in that regard, because this is a shoot ’em up. You would likely forget there even is any music since lots of ricochet and explosion bytes sound off over it. Still, I’d say the sound design is positively fundamental.
You know the drill: Shoot at anything that moves, and avoid anything that moves towards you! There are seven stages to go through, each with plenty of action-packed moments and big bosses to encounter. Gunbird has a variety of difficulty options in case you either don’t want to be mercilessly pummeled or you have a death wish. For me? I am most comfortable picking the easiest difficulty and starting out with nine lives.
What? Even at that, this game can kick butts if no one’s careful!
Anyway, I think the game design is solid all around. Enemies are varied and well choreographed, and the bosses make for good genuine challenges in their own right. It’s also always enjoyable to build up your weapons by collecting power-ups obtained from destroying baddies. It’s not the most original shoot ’em up around (There are certainly a lot of shooters that follow this formula), but it doesn’t have to be to provide quality arcade entertainment.
With that in mind, Gunbird gets a thumbs up from me. Fans of oldschool titles and shooters of this caliber would get a kick out of it for sure, and having it on the go has its benefits. I await to see what else Zerodiv may follow this release with.