Review #1 by Mark Magdamit
They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. If that's the case, then the Sega Saturn's Panzer Dragoon series should be in full blush, since Gamera 2000 borrows heavily from their play mechanics. However, Gamera 2000 does what it does well , and is not only one of the best games made with the characters from the Godzilla/Gamera universe, it's also one of the most stunningly fun shooting games ever made for the Playstation.
The graphics in Gamera 2000 on the whole are done exquisitely. Everything is rendered with sharp, crisp polygons, and succulent colors. During gameplay I didn't detect any signs of pop-up, flickering, or overlap.
Let's begin with the backgrounds. All the backgrounds vary quite a bit, and really make you feel as if you're in that particular part of the world. Tokyo Bay features wonderful blue skies and several islands, and the Deep Forest level features absolutel y INCREDIBLE graphics. As a matter of fact, you'd swear the Deep Forest level was Star Wars inspired, with the speeder bike you use, the two-legged walkers you need to destroy, and the lush green trees that rush past you at dissying speed. Alcatraz is perhaps my favorite level so far. As you and Gamera rush to defeat Neo Gaos, you pass the Golden Gate Bridge, and watch as Neo Gaos swoops in on Gamera and tiny Alcatraz Island. The feeling is cinematic, and really makes you feel as if you're in a real- life 3-D Gamera movie.
All the minor monsters are rendered well, and are clearly defined. As I said before, the colors used in this game are great, and serve to clearly define each enemy. The bosses and sub-bosses, however are a real showcase for the Playstation. Panzer Drago on Zwei featured huge bosses with tons of spots to kill, and Gamera 2000 does the same, only sharper and crisper. I thought that the first large boss I defeated was the main boss the first time I played, but it turned out that it was only a sub-boss! Large billowing clouds of smoke, transparent lasers, tons of lock-on sights, and a giant Gamera right next to you the whole time spewing out large beautiful swooping fireballs at the sub-boss. You really have to see it to believe it. As a matter of fact, The Neo Gaos battle is perhaps the best example of a boss fight. Gamera stands at the base of Alcatraz, waiting to fight Neo Gaos. Neo Gaos swoops down from time to time, shooting lasers and large fireballs. The best part is seeing Neo Gaos swing down to meet Gamera, pecking and shooting the whole time. When Neo Gaos is defeated, he falls back into the bay, and di sappears in a gigantic splash of water. Stunning, simply stunning.
The only problems I have with the graphics are the sometimes pixelly explosions. This only happens when you're fighting a boss and are up too close, but at times the transparency on the explosions don't let you see the rest of the monster falling apart o r running away. It's a really minor point, however, since by the time you're witnessing a large cloud of smoke, the boss is pretty much toast. Actually, the only boss to really have that problem is the second level boss - everyone else tends to fall apart in huge chunks of robot metal, or fall victim to a cave avalanche that automatically buries them. Awesome!
The framerate tends to remain high throughout the game. I'd say at least 30fps on average, at at times the framerate seems even higher, perhaps 35-40fps. I noticed slowdown furing a couple of boss fights, but it was so minor that you won't really notice . I never detected any jerky motion at all. For the most part, it was silky smooth. All the textures
I really wish the music was better during actual gameplay. The music is a mix of light techno sounds, and some ambient as well. I'm a fan of that type of music, but it seems like the compositions weren't exactly Wipeout XL quality. Even if it was, I'd recommend that they go with a more cinematic feel, and go with a huge orchestral sound. It would fit more into the image of Gamera and the classic movies. However, what music there is, is fairly decent, and there are a few good tracks that I'd play agai n on the sound test mode now and again.
The sound effects, on the other hand, are super! Gamera screams out now and again, and the sound of whooshing fireballs is great. Explosions are nice, and the sound of enemies crying out in pain is great. I think there should be more sound effects, but the ones that are there are great.
Let's put it this way. If you were a fan of the Panzer Dragoon series on the Saturn, get this game. The control is nearly identical. You'll have lock-on fireballs and lasers, rapid fire, and tons of huge bosses to kill. Oh, and you don't control Gamera throughout the whole game. He's merely helping you out. You actually control a cool metallic blue spaceship most of the time. As a matter of fact, Gamera is pretty much there to assist you by locking onto enemies with h is fireballs.
In the event you do have a second player, you can have that player control Gamera. I've found this worked out very well, since Gamera cannot be destroyed. This frees you up to worry about oncoming enemies while the person controlling Gamera focuses on u sing his fireballs and spinning special on larger enemies.
The gameplay is tight and fast, and lock on is a snap, just by holding down the fire button. Gamera also has his famous "spinning fire wheel of death" move, which can be charged R-Type style. However, when you do use his special move, it takes a while f or it to charge it back up again. Best save it for bosses.
You also get the radar, which tells you where the enemies are coming, as well as your field of view. By pressing the top shoulder buttons, you're able to turn your camera around to see where your next enemy is.
At times you are called upon to land your ship and use the hoverbike. Gamera isn't present in this part of the game, so instead you use the bike's lock-on lasers. I particularly liked this part of the game, because your partner on the bike actually hold s out a small blaster whick tuns and pivots along with the riders as you turn your point of view.
In general, the game doesn't rally have you waste too much time fighting lesser monsters. I mean it's great to shoot down hordes of flying creatures and alien ships, but the programmers knew that Gamera fans wanted huge monster battles, so the bulk of th e fighting is really with the bosses. The boss battles can take a good amount of time, and each one is fairly challenging. My only gripe is the fairly easy patterns each one has. Once you know the patterns, it's just dodge and shoot. Also, there aren' t too many obstacles that you have to avoid, such as in Panzer Dragoon or Starfox.. This kind of detracts from the overall challenge. I've yet to see if the Expert mode remedies this or not, so I may be wrong on this.
The game also features what they call an "interactive movie." It's not really that interactive, since all you do is highlight the parts of the screen ala "Wing Commander" during the intermissions, and learn more about the next mission. Still, this adds a bit more to the game in a small way, since it's nice to take a break and view some quick FMV (which I'll get to later).
Aside from the standard keypad/difficulty/sound menu items, there are also a few different ones that should be noted. The first one is the game mode - you can switch between Standard and Family. This enables the two-player mode (which I've only seen my friend at the import store use). When you do enable Family mode, the option to choose between difficulties is disabled. Hmmm.
Also, with each difficulty level you choose, you get to see different enemy patterns from time to time, as well as a different boss here and there. Nice - it's a lot better than just making everything harder to shoot.
Within the keypad configuration screen there is an option between Reverse Mode being Off or On. Again, I have not idea what that means - if anyone knows, let me know.
You also have the ability to save your game if you die in a level. After the Game Over screen you can save the game, or move on to the main screen. This is probably the best thing about this game, since you have to defeat it in Expert mode to see the be st ending, apparently.
Also, you get access to every level you defeat thereafter. It's rather neat to revisit Alcatraz when I want, instead of having to play all the way through. I'm assuming they let you do this so you can practice for Expert mode.
Finally, you get the option to switch betwwn English and Japanese for all the FMV sequences. When it is in English, you get a small Japanese subtitle on all the FMV, and when it is in Japanese, there is no English subtitle.
All the FMV intro screens and "interactive movie" intermissions are fairly cheeseball. I hate to say it, but it's true. They are nothing spectacular, to be honest, but they still set a good tone for the game. Strangely, Dr. Mukunoki's voice is overdubb ed in both the English and Japanese modes. Still, having it kind of cheesy makes the game seem more like the monster maddness movies I grew up watching on TV as a kid. Really, the FMV doesn't detract one bit from the game.
That's it! I highly recommend going out and buying this game, despite the somewhat easy patterns. It's fast, fun, and challenging, and is a wonderful treat for twitch games, as well as fans of big rubber monsters! And if you do buy it, it comes with a small sheet of memory card stickers that you can place on a Sony brand memory card, as well as the memory card case (memory cards in Japan have a small plastic case, unlike here in America - Darn!)
Here's the breakdown: