As the variety of shoot-‘em-up games on the DSiWare service continues to expand, it’s expected that some titles are going to stand out better than others. With releases such as Metal Torrent and Paul’s Shooting Adventure already available and rated highly, being a new contender is no easy feat. The G.G Series of DSiWare games, known for being incredibly inexpensive and shy on gameplay features, is finally throwing its cards on the North American table with the release of G.G Series: Z-ONE. But does this side-scrolling shooter have what it takes to stand out from the rest?
Your goal in Z-ONE is simple: fly through each level and try to get to the end before you’re killed, either by an enemy or by crashing into some part of the environment. While the gameplay always remains the same, there are three different types of levels. The first is the standard in which you simply must navigate through until you reach the end. The second type is almost exactly the same as the first, except that you are pitted against some sort of boss at the end. These are never monsters, large ships, or any kind of traditional boss – instead, they act more as tests of your survival skills. All of these boss-type endings place you in one single screen-sized setting full of enemies; some have weak points labelled around the room that you need to shoot at until they explode, while others simply have you survive an onslaught of enemy fire for 20 seconds. The third type of level is a high speed stage that you must navigate through while everything scrolls by much more quickly than in the other areas. While the first half of these levels seem pretty normal except with a higher speed and fewer enemies, those of second turn in to a sort of environmental maze, the landscape becoming much more treacherous as you attempt to guide yourself to the end.
The enemies in Z-ONE are many, but they don’t always pose a serious threat. There are only three different types, all of which are completely stationary. Rather than flying at you to attack, each stays right where it is and aims at you from a set position. Some fire single shots while others shoot more quickly and with more ammunition, but they all die pretty easily and aren’t too dangerous unless they’re flooding the screen. Later on in the game, however, when they appear en masse, things can quickly become difficult and rather bullet hell-ish.
The biggest flaw of Z-ONE is that it doesn’t do anything really interesting or special to make the experience stand out. You can’t upgrade your ship or your weapons, the enemies are as unimpressive as they come, and the whole thing just fails to impress as an original package.
The controls are simple but can take a little bit of playtime to get completely used to them. You move your ship around using the D-Pad and fire using either the A or Y buttons; the tricky part, however, is aiming your pods to fire as intended. Rather than always shooting straight forward, you are given the option to fire in eight different directions around your ship. While your pods always remain centred in front of you, they are capable of turning, and the way that they aim is opposite whatever direction in which you are moving. If you pilot your ship forward, then the pods will shoot backwards, and vice-versa. You can, however, lock them in a single direction if you continue to fire that way. For example, if you move backwards and hold down the fire button while shooting forward, you are then free to move however you’d like while still shooting forward. To top it all off, the pods on the front of your ship also act as a melee attack, dealing damage when they come into contact with an enemy. When things get tight, or if you simply feel so inclined to, you always have the option of simply running into the opposing forces rather than shooting at all. It’s confusing at first, but very quickly becomes second nature.
The best that can be said about Z-ONE is that it really is a good-looking game. The ships' sprites are detailed and the backgrounds look like they have actual depth to them. With such a visually impressive title, it’s too bad that more wasn't done with it. Your ship never changes its appearance, there are only three different types of enemies that likewise never change and the backgrounds of every level are the same image skinned with different colours. It would have been nice to see some variety in the surroundings and enemies, or detailed bosses to battle, but unfortunately these are left out. As with the visuals, almost exactly the same can be said about the audio. While the soundtrack is made up of cool techno beats that fit the tone of the game, it lacks appreciable variety as there are only about three different songs that play during the entire time depending on the level type.
Like other titles in the G.G Series, Z-ONE has no focus on story, instead placing it all on gaining the highest score possible. As you progress further, your score continuously increases simply by gaining more ground and killing enemies. At all times during gameplay, the top screen displays your high score, your current score and your highest level reached, so this title should keep fans of the genre and of high scoring entertained for quite a while. It does, however, get very difficult very quickly, so veterans will probably get more enjoyment out of Z-ONE than novices and more casual players.
For a 200 point side-scrolling shoot-‘em-up, Z-ONE is not bad, but it lacks anything to make it stand out as a must-have title. The framework is there, but this game falls just short of anything special or unique. It will absolutely keep you entertained for a while, but if you’re looking for a flashy, original or very interesting experience that sucks you in, then you might want to set your sights elsewhere.