Rom Player: MAME
Synopsis: --- 360 Degrees of Galaga? ---
Take Namco's beloved Galaga, cross it with Atari's hit Tempest, and you get one of Konami's most-beloved early shoot-'em-ups: Gyruss, released in 1983!
You drop in your quarter and hit the start button... and find the first very nice departure from Galaga chiming in your ear -- a very-well-done synth version of Bach's "Toccata and Fugue in D Minor"! I remember hearing on the PBS show Computer Chronicles that a well-known metal-rock group had done the remix of the Toccata, but I don't remember which! It doesn't matter, 'cause the music is damned cool and it contributes heavily to the game's atmosphere.
The game's controls are simple enough: You have your "Blow Stuff Up" button and you have your eight-way joystick, which with you can direct your spunky little fighter to move in its frustrated circles 'round the screen's periphery, Blowing Stuff Up.
Gyruss has a game structure very similar to that of Galaga in that the player faces off against 2-3 stages of hostile enemies, then gets to cool off in a danger-free target-practice state.
It has game mechanics like those of Tempest's early stages in that the player's craft moves in a circle around the edge of the playfield, firing towards the center of the screen, while enemies approach from the screen's center... or, at times, materialize right in the player's face!
Each stage consists of four waves of 8-10 enemy ships that come flying in and try to assemble around the screen's center. As in Galaga's "Challenging Stages", vaporizing an entire pattern garners a bonus -- but unlike in Galaga, the amount of the bonus increases by 500 points with each consecutive pattern you smash. Missing a pattern resets the bonus to 1000, the minimum. If you manage to crush enough ships before they form up, a fifth wave appears, using a different flight pattern than the other four. After the first stage, the aliens also toss bombs at you while they're moving into formation. After you've passed Neptune (the first stop on your Solar System tour), some of the aliens from each pattern may also try to crash themselves into you. The game is very fair, though -- if the aliens start their pattern by rushing in from the screen edge that you happen to be inhabiting, they don't hit you! After they've passed through you, though, you become vulnerable... so be careful!
In any case, once all the bad guys have fallen into what remains of their formation (maximum 36), they attack in earnest, cruising up from screen center to try their hand (or whatever it is they have) at ramming into your ship or blowing you away with odd yellow pointy-tipped l'il bombs.
If you've left at least 3 aliens from the incoming patterns, you will get to fight off a further trio of aliens (only one set per stage) that materializes right inside the circle your ship moves around! This is where Gyruss beats Galaga, hands down: In Galaga, you have to get a ship shanghaied by the aliens, then recapture it, to get more firepower. In Gyruss, you merely have to defeat a particular kind of alien! If you're currently using the default single-barreled shooter, the central member of the alien trio will be an orange ball-shaped fellow. Blast him to get a dual-gun upgrade for your ship! Just be careful -- this dude (and the brace of whirligigs flanking him) are NOT shy about slamming bombs into your cockpit at near-pointblank range! If you already have dual guns, you get to dance with three whirligigs, which are worth 1000, 1500, and 2000 points. These enemies are a bit impatient, and fly straight off the screen (and through you, if you're in their way!) after about 10 seconds.
In later stages you have to contend with indestructible meteors and with energy barriers. Killing either of the satellites on the end of an energy barrier turns off the barrier itself. The arc covered by the barrier is so small that it's often just as easy to move somewhere else and simply ignore the satellites.
After you've completed the first two stages, you get to relax near Neptune with a Chance Stage. This is just like Galaga's Challenging Stage in gameplay terms: You get to fly around and blow ships up without any chance of getting toasted. If you manage to destroy every ship from every pattern in a Chance Stage, you get a nifty 10,000-point bonus and CONGRATULATIONS! Otherwise, you get 100 points bonus per ship you killed.
Once you've passed Neptune, you have to deal with three attack stages before getting another Chance Stage. After every Chance Stage, the aliens' entrance pattern changes. The good part is that the first four sets of aliens on any particular stage will come in from the same direction and in the same pattern. It's entirely possible (especially with dual guns) to decimate 80-100% of the baddies before they ever get to camp out in formation, and rack up big bonuses along the way. As with any pattern-based game, practice is the key. Once you know where the aliens will appear, it's not too hard to smack most of them down before they have any idea what to do about it!
Now, I mentioned that you're doing a tour of the Solar System... well, it's not a complete tour -- you'll only go as far as Earth. By the time you make it to Earth, you may very well be glad that you don't have to concern yourself with Venus or Mercury, as the aliens by this point have become real bastards, zooming in at blinding speed so that you have to lash your ship around just to survive their attempts at entry-ramming.
If you can make it to Earth... you have my heartfelt congratulations! It is NOT easy. Your reward? A no-expenses paid trip BACK TO PLUTO --where you started -- to face an even nastier bunch of aliens on your next return flight to Earth. This time, it takes 3 stages to get to Neptune instead of the 2 you deal with at the start of the game. Lather, shave, rinse, repeat. Good old-fashioned shootiness at its best!
Anyway, that's Gyruss, a fun, not-quite-mindless blast from the past that's well worth playing even 20 years after its original release!
Best Cheats: Nothing Entered
Game Play: 10
Overall Rating: 10
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