Review by: Mike Laidlaw
Published: March 10, 2001
Long-term console gamers may recall that in years past, you just didn’t talk about titles like Final Fantasy or Dragon Warrior. Even into the years of the 16-bit systems, Chrono Trigger and their ilk weren’t brought up all that often. Instead they were hoarded like secret gems, with players occasionally asking each other how to solve certain dungeons and quickly shuffling away embarrassed. It seems strange now, but the titles that eventually became system-selling blockbuster series were once considered second fiddle to the easy to learn and adrenaline-charged scrolling shooter. Presented in a variety of themes, you could pilot a space ship (Gradius), a WWII fighter (1942), or even a top-secret automobile (Spy Hunter) through miles of scrolling terrain and heavy fire. The objective was simple: unload enough ammunition to destroy several small countries into wave after wave of opponents while maneuvering clear of blankets of enemy fire. With the development of faster processors, deeper storylines and more advanced controls, these staples of the early consoles have largely fallen by the wayside. They are not forgotten, however, and Capcom is more than willing to fill the void with their release of Gunbird 2 for the Sega Dreamcast.
The story, such as it is, behind Gunbird 2 is exceptionally simple: a host of characters set out to find three “elements” of the Sun, Moon and Stars. These three powerful tokens may be combined to form the Almighty Potion in the Temple of the Potion God. Essentially, the Almighty Potion is capable of doing anything, and each of the playable characters has their own reason for unlocking its power. Marion, for instance, is a seventeen year-old hoping to release herself from her nine year-old’s body, while the ingenuous Tavia is desperately seeking the Potion to cure her mother’s fatal disease. Following in the years-old Capcom tradition of a single universe for all their games, Morrigan, a succubus from the Dark Stalkers series of arcade fighters joins the crew in their quest for the omnipotent elixir.
Opposing these heroes are the Queen Pirates, a group that clearly received the short end of the translation stick. Despite several suggestive images evoked by their band name, Shark, Blade and Gimmick are dead-set on finding the elements themselves and creating the Almighty Potion for their own nefarious ends. The Queen Pirates always seem a step ahead of the heroes, and have time to deploy large flying robots and ships that serve as the boss characters at each stage. As the magical elements are acquired and the conflict escalates between the two groups, their stories unfold through a series of still-image cutscenes with plot exposition taking place as written text.
There are three separate modes available to Gunbird 2 owners, each of which offers a different take on the original presentation. Since the arcade version used a long and thin screen with a 3:4 ratio rather than the typical 4:3 ratio used by TV’s, some adjustments had to be made to fit the action onto one screen. Original 1 mode deals with this issue by running a pair of black borders down the sides of the TV, thus creating the proper perspective at the loss of some screen area. Original 2 mode fills the screen and shifts the camera back and forth as the flying heroes move up and down the battlefield in addition to the normal steady scrolling pace. Purists may wish to take advantage of Arcade mode, though, as its perfect conversion balances size with viewable area. There’s only one catch, however: to make Arcade mode work properly you have to physically rotate your TV onto its side. Given the extensive warnings in the manual regarding the risks of this procedure and the inherent difficulties of rotating a 25-plus inch screen, it’s unlikely that many will take advantage of this extra feature, and instead settle for one of the two Original modes.