Wednesday, June 29, 2005


Genre: Action, Shooter
Platform: PlayStation 2
2002 Sony, Atlus USA Inc. Screenshots courtesy of Amazon.Com

Skygunner Game
Box Cover Description:
Join Ciel, Copain, and Femme in an amazing, action-packed aerial adventure! Only you can stop the criminal mastermind Ventre from stealing the famed Eternal Engine.

We need more games like this!! >>> by Trigon

Skygunner is an anime-style action flight-sim shooter. If you think that sounds cool, then this is certainly the game for you. Although it has been over three years since Skygunner was published by Atlus, it remains one of the most unique and entertaining titles available for the Playstation 2.

This game is in many ways a hybrid of a flight-simulator and an arcade-style shooter. You have the option changing the control setting to fit your style of play - Novice for simple control using the left analog stick, or Expert which allows you to manually adjust the pitch, roll, and yaw of your plane. Similarly, you have an option to change how precisely you target you enemies. An interesting facet of the game is the camera angle, which is always relative to whatever you have targeted. Since you can switch targets with the push of a button, this allows you to move from enemy to enemy very efficiently. With these potential complexities, Skygunner has a fairly steep learning curve, but there is an excellent tutorial available for new players.

Skygunner puts you into some fast-paced, intense action from the very early stages of the game. You will find yourself battling squads of enemy fighters, dog-fighting rival gunners, and taking out some impressively large aerial battleships. You use your ship's machine guns for most purposes, but you plane is also equipped with a limited supply of special weapons, such as fireworks which destroy large groups of weak enemies, or dog missiles, which hinder fast enemies. At first, you will just be worried about taking out your enemies without getting blown out of the sky. But, as your skills improve, you can become more of a hot shot, destroying large groups of enemies at once or pulling off chain attacks to earn extra cash.

At first you can only choose between two of the characters, Femme and Ciel. You will unlock the third major character, Copain, fairly quickly however. Each character flies a unique plane which handles differently. Moreover, each character has an exclusive special technique, such as Femme's Active Turn or Ciel's Heavy Fire. The game gives you an accurate description of how difficult it is to fly each plane. For example, Femme's plane is easy to fly since it is very stable, has a very easy to use Special Maneuver, and is not likely to overheat. Copain's plane is the exact opposite of Femme's, difficult to fly but very offensive and dangerous in the hands of an expert.

The story takes place in an anime-style setting, as you take the role of a special freelance mercenary hired to protect the city of Rive . During the Rive Expo, a perpetual motion device known as the Eternal Engine is revealed to the public. Suddenly, the Expo is attacked by the criminal genius Ventre and his small army of tiny robots. It is up to Ciel and Copain - the Gunner of Rive - and the new Gunner Femme, to stop Ventre's diabolical plans. The story is simple but satisfying, particularly for anime fans.

Even by today's standards, three years after its release, the graphics in Skygunner are strikingly beautiful. The whole game is vibrantly colorful, and the visual effects are sometimes breathtaking. A huge amount of care went into the setting design, from the specific look of each plane to the architecture seen in the city of Rive . A great deal of action can take place on the screen at once, sometimes distracting you from the task at hand due to all the eye-candy. Unfortunately, the game's biggest problem comes from this ambitious graphical design. Often when there is lots of action on the screen at once, the frame rate will drop to an almost unbearable crawl. For an action game like this, the frame-rate issue is a pretty severe technical problem that mars an otherwise terrific game.

The sounds in this game are very impressive. The music is great overall, from the beautiful opening theme during the anime-like opening sequence to the upbeat tempo during the boss battles. The sound effects give you a feel for the explosive action without being too jarring. The voice acting is proficient overall, as the voices are all appropriate to the character and none are especially annoying. Skygunner gets bonus points here for allowing the player to choose to retain the original Japanese voices if desired.

The story mode of Skygunner is very short, but surprisingly difficult for one with a kid-friendly plot. Luckily, there is an excellent amount of replay value to be had here. The story mode is told from the perspective of each character, so it is slightly different each time you play. The mission objectives are different for each character, and the third stage is completely different for each character. There are unlockable Time Attack and Survival modes to play as well. Also, in addition to Copain, there are other pilots/planes that you can unlock. After you unlock all the secrets and play through the story several times, the replay value drops off for a while. However, Skygunner is the kind of game to can come back to after a long break and still find a lot of fun.

The innovative, engaging Skygunner is a buried treasure in a field of tired rehashes and repetitive sequels. It can be fairly difficult to find these days, but I highly recommend playing it if you get the chance.

DIFFICULTY: Easy to Moderate
COMPLETION TIME: 10-20 hours
RATINGS: Gameplay 8; Battle 9; Story 8; Visuals 8; Characters 8; Sounds 10; Replay Value 8

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