Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Gley Lancer, the coolest game with the weirdest name

When I first came across Gley Lancer I played it on an emulator and how could I otherwise? It was released exclusively in Japan until it got released on the Wii in 2008. Now, this isn't going to be one of my "Oh, what a shame" posts, because its developer is still in business and still making money off of this game. This post is going to be an "Why haven't you played this already?" posts.

Gley Lancer might just look like any ordinary side-scrolling shooter and, in a way, it is. You move left to right and shoot bad guys until you get to the boss and shoot him to pieces. Yet, slowly, but surely, its awesomeness starts creeping onto you. Let me take you on the trip I had when I started playing this back in 1999.

Memory lane
When I first booted up Gley Lancer I was taken aback by the large intro. This intro was really, really long, but also very relatable: girl's father gets kidnapped, girl is sad, girl steals space ship to rescue father, you know, the usual. I didn't speak Japanese at the time and since I learned to, I haven't taken the time to translate the story, but I recon that's what the pictures meant. And then there was the first level.
First level and you get stuff thrown at you.

Gley Lancer features spoken text and its first line is "Stick to it and believe in your power." That first line sets the tone for the rest of the game. I played this in 1999 and spoken language was so common that its presence did not impress me. Yet, I was blown away by Gley Lancer's first level. The brilliance of Gley Lancer is not in its technical abilities, but its usage of its aesthetics.  The designers of Gley Lancer knew that the human mind can not block the brilliance of certain sights and that's why the first level has you flying through the ring of Saturn.

At first it looks like you are flying through an asteroid field, but then Saturn comes in from the right. It's a very simple level to learn you the basics of the game. Enemies come in gently, becoming more and more during the level and around the middle, you get asteroids thrown at you. Saturn fades away to the left and you arrive at the boss, which appears to be literally throwing the asteroids you encountered mid-level. It's a nice pay-off for a gentle beginning. The game is full off satisfying build-ups and pay-offs and the first level is just the beginning of a fantastic adventure.

LIGHTSABERS! (insert SPACESHIP! reference)
While Gley Lancer has great pacing, it's not even its best feature. No, the best feature is that your plane can have FRIGGIN' LIGHT SABERS! Sure, the lasers, spread bombs and even flame throwers are awesome, but come on man! LIGHT SABERS! Nothing I can say can add enough to that. Gley Lancer has different ways of gun movement, one of which is a constant roll around your plane. In my first play-through I combined the roll with the light sabers and EVERYTHING EXPLODED! I was 13/14 at the time, it was the coolest thing I saw in games at the time and since then I've seen very few things surpass that.

And its awesomeness doesn't stop there. The game does its best to make you feel like a true hero. In the second to last level you have to save a ship from an alien attack. The boss of that level is shooting at a starship and you have to kill the boss before the ship is demolished. I have never seen the ship explode, but it can lose a lot of parts. It has 2 engines, a couple of middle parts and an escape pod, all of which fall off as you take longer to shoot down the boss. At my first play-through I (supposedly) saved the ship just barely, leaving just the escape pod. And when you do save the ship, a fleet of space-jet-fighters come in and congratulate you on your accomplishment. The best part? The higher you set the difficulty, the bigger the fleet.

Not for the faint of heart.
Kill it! KILL IT!
The game is not without its flaws. First of all: its art is not very consistent. At one time you fight aliens, but in one of the later levels you fly through ancient Greek architecture, which was a bit confusing. Also, the gun modes I mentioned earlier, there are 7 different modes: normal, reverse, auto-aim, 2way, 2way reverse, shadow and roll; but you can boil them down to 2: 'auto-aim' and 'why haven't you picked auto-aim?' Also, what is a 'Gley Lancer'? Usually I can re-translate Japanese errors in English, but I haven't got a clue what this should have been. (Grey Lancer? Grey Ranger? Glee?)

If its difficulty is a strong or a weak point is up for debate. Gley Lancer is easy in the beginning, but gets HARD around the third level and that might be off-putting. You will run out of lives FAST. On the other hand, some like it hard and 13 year old me didn't care, we had save-states in emulators in 1999. If you ever finish the hardest difficulty, you get a code at the end of the credits to unlock mania difficulty. At the fighter-fleet level, there will be so many fighters congratulating you, you can't see yourself or the ship you were supposed to save.

Have you played it yet?
So, have you played this game yet? Yes, it has some flaws, but it's one of the best I've played. I haven't even mentioned the music, which is awesome. It is still available for sale and if not to you, an emulator is never far away. Even if great gameplay doesn't convince you, let me just remind you: IT HAS LIGHTSABERS!