YOUR MISSION IS TO SAVE THE WORLD FROM VEHICLES THAT TRANSFORM INTO ROBOTS...and you are going to need between 80 to 200 US dollars to do it...
Yes, Zero Gunner 2 is in the mid-to-high section of the grand echelon of rare and expensive Dreamcast games, but it is one of the best ones that you can get. If you manage to get your hands on a copy, you will not be disappointed by the astounding Zero Gunner 2.
Zero Gunner 2 is a shoot 'em up game by Psikyo released in 2001 for the arcades and the Dreamcast in Japan. Amongst the massive wave of shoot 'em ups on the console, it ranks amongst the best, if not THE best. The game is the sequel to Zero Gunner, which was released in arcades in 1997 and has remained an arcade exclusive since it's release. It has never been ported to a home console, which is sad, because Zero Gunner is also great.
Anyways, back to Zero Gunner 2. The primary concept of the game is similar to almost every other shoot 'em up: unleash an endless amount of firepower to blow up everything on the screen! Also like most shooters, this can be done more easily by powering up your ship. In Zero Gunner 2, the enemies you destroy will regurgitate small floating capsules with the letter 'E' on them. Some enemies release even larger versions of these capsules. These capsules charge up your power bar, and filling up your power bar all the way gives you a special attack which you can use to take down enemies and bosses more efficiently. Certain enemies (all of the "red" helicopters in the game) will release a large capsule with a 'P' on it. This powers up your gun, which essentially starts as a pea shooter, and can be built up to a nearly unstoppable piece of artillery.
Zero Gunner 2 contains an innovative feature that sets it apart from other shooters; even it's prequel: the ability to rotate your ship 360 degrees. By holding either X or B, a cursor with an arrow appears on screen near your chopper. Then, you can use the control stick or D pad to turn your ship either clockwise or counterclockwise, adding strategy to the game since enemies can come from all directions. Also unlike other shooters, colliding into an opposing ship will not destroy yours. They just bump off of each other, which was nice of them since a ship could come up from behind you and hit you at any time out of nowhere.
For those who are curious about the original Zero Gunner, it shared a similar "rotation" concept but was not fully realized. Instead, whenever you started firing at an enemy, you would automatically lock on to it and be able to rotate around the enemy plane.
That was just an introduction and a basic explanation of what the game is all about. Now we can start the review!
This game looks incredible. It has to be one of the best looking shoot 'em ups on the Dreamcast, even one of the best looking games on the console PERIOD. Each and every one of the environments look breathtaking and the game has somewhat of a dark, pale and cold color scheme, but that's not a bad thing. In fact the game itself is pretty bright with the neon lights and lasers everywhere. I especially love the city stages, with fully rendered buildings. Originally running on the powerful Sega NAOMI arcade hardware, it is a perfect port from the arcade version. The game runs at 60 frames per second with hardly any slowdown (the only time it slows down is when a boss explodes, when you don't even need to do anything.) Once again, the game is eye candy, especially in VGA mode.
Not much to write home about, but it has catchy music tucked neatly into the background, and it accompanies the gameplay very well without disturbing or getting in the way of it due to it being played softly. The sound effects are great. The lasers sound cool, and the explosions sound big and dynamic. Well done.
The game is very simple and easy to control. It may take like 10 minutes to get used to the ship rotation feature, that's about it. The ship uses auto-fire so you can easily hold down the A button while holding either X or B to rotate your ship. You can spin firepower around in full circle! Pressing Y unleashes your special attack maneuver. The unfortunate thing is that your ship moves a bit too slow at the expense of having full mobility around the screen and the ability to face in any direction. But this could also be a beneficial thing seen by the developers since you are constantly twisting and turning. Another minor quib will be for those who like to use the analog stick: only the D-pad works for movement. Fortunately though, I'm not one of those people and I would rather use the D-Pad.
The game only has 7 stages, each with its own boss at the end, so it can be beaten in almost less than 20 minutes, which means you can just keep coming back for an endless amount of quick and fun rounds of ZG 2. Another cool perk to the game is that the stages (except for the final one, of course) appear in random order every time you play them, so you're not actually playing the same game over again. There are a couple of city stages, a stage above the clouds, one over water, among others, and they all look great. And the game increases in difficulty as the game goes on, so the train level will be easy peasy if you get it as the first stage, but it will be harder if it appears as the second to last stage. The only game mode is the arcade mode, so unfortunately that is the only thing you can do, but it is highly entertaining and you have 9 different difficulty levels to choose from, and 3 copters available, each with their own brands of firepower and special attacks, so you can take on the game in a various number of ways. There is also a cool replay feature, which gives you the option to save a replay of your recently finished game and watch it whenever you want in the replay gallery. The game supports 2 player simultaneous gameplay. When you first start the game, you unlock another credit (continue) every other time you play the game until Free Play is unlocked, allowing infinite continues. Unfortunately, once you unlock free play, you're stuck with it and there is no way to lower the credit count, so the only way to challenge yourself is put yourself on your own credit limit (pretend you only have 6 quarters on you) and play at a higher difficulty level. If you are playing at a higher difficulty level, you'll be continuing a lot since you only get 3 lives, another thing that can't be changed.
To be honest I'm not even sure if there is one since the manual is in Japanese and I can't understand it. I'm giving it a 10 since everything else about the game is awesome.
There's not too much to say that hasn't already said, but the game plays amazingly. The controls work very effectively, and even though there is strategy involved, it is easy strategy and doesn't get in the way of the core gameplay. As mentioned before, it is a short game but very fun and it is also fair. You get 9 different difficulty levels to choose from, the easiest one is very easy to complete, the hardest one is quite brutal. You can easily find the one in between that fits your skill level, and you'll be coming back to play endlessly to improve your ability and rank in higher scores on the scoreboard since it's so much fun to play and beat your records.
I only have one major complaint with this game: the fact that it was only released in Japan! And I guess not a whole lot were made since getting your hands on a copy will cost a lot of money. The only home version of the game was the Japanese Dreamcast release, so unfortunately that's the only one you can get for now, and it is unfortunate since it does cost quite a hefty amount of money to obtain. The good thing I can tell you is that it is worth it. Hell I would pay $200 for it. I've probably spent an equivalency of $5,000 worth of gameplay on it (in quarters, of course.) Whatever you pay for it will be totally worth it and it'll never feel like a waste of money or a regretful purchase.
I can't recommend Zero Gunner 2 enough. This game is just awesome. I would go as far to say that it's pretty much perfect. If you love shooters you will drool when you play this game, and if you love the Dreamcast, make it happy by treating yourself with a copy of this game if you are able. Aside from it's scarce release and limited availability there is virtually nothing wrong with it. I've owned this game for a few years and I still throw it in for a quick game on a regular basis. It's arcade-perfect fun for everyone! I'm crossing my fingers for a re-release of this game (along with Zero Gunner 1) for everybody to enjoy, because everybody should get a chance to play this masterpiece.
- Brian C.