The Virtual Console certainly isn’t short of 2D shooters. We’ve seen some excellent (and not so excellent) examples of the genre come and go, but most of the games we’ve experienced so far are retro classics and will have been familiar to fans already. Gley Lancer, on the other hand, might not ring any bells with you unless you happen to be a hardcore import collector.
You see, Gley Lancer (the goofy title is due to the fact that the Japanese have difficulty differentiating between “L” and “R”) is one of the most sought after and expensive Megadrive/Genesis shooters, largely due to the fact that it never made it out of Japan. Produced by the same talented chaps behind Gynoug/Wings of Wor and Cho Aniki, the game does away with the unusual organic designs of those two titles and instead presents a purely futuristic visual style. Graphically Gley Lancer is certainly impressive, with a gorgeous anime introduction sequence that wouldn’t look out of place in a Mega CD title, nicely detailed sprites and some interesting parallax scrolling effects, but some of the later levels do have a tendency to feel a little bland.
This is one of those rare shooters that actually offers a wide range of options to the player before they even take off; before you enter the fray you can decide how your ‘option’ pods behave. You can have them fire in the opposite direction to the one you’re moving in, for example. If you favour a more full-frontal attack you can fix them to fire forwards, or if you want to protect your rear, backwards. It seems a little gimmicky to begin with but as invest more time into the game you realize that the different choices directly affect your strategy and exploring the myriad of possibilities available boosts the amount of playtime Gleylancer offers.
Ironically for a game that is held in such high regard, Gley Lancer actually got quite a cool response when it was first released. UK magazine Mean Machines Sega gave it a scolding review, stating that it was dull and generic. While that is almost certainly too harsh an appraisal, it does hold water to a certain degree; Gley Lancer isn’t the most original blaster you’re likely to experience on Sega’s 16-bit console and there are far better examples out there.
As a Virtual Console release the game faces the same problem – games like Soldier Blade, Gate of Thunder and Lords of Thunder are all superior titles and should be investigated immediately; if you’re already done so then Gley Lancer is a worthy download.