Developer: Shinyuden, Masaya Games, SEGA
Publisher: Ratalaika Games
Platforms: PlayStation 4|5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, Nintendo Switch
The 90s were a golden age in video games. Many games released during that era made modern games possible, from Front Mission to Final Fantasy VII. It was the dawning of the 16-bit era of games. Better graphics and performance meant more incredible gaming experiences. The spaceship shooter Gleylancer was one of them. Now back from the past, Gleylancer is back to provide the immersive shooting action from the golden days of 16-bit titles.
In the distant future, mankind wages a terrifying war against a mysterious alien race. The unknown aliens are skilled in the use of teleportation and steal the prized Earth Federation Flagship. Aboard it is famed Navy Admiral Ken, father of aspiring military pilot Lucia Cabrock. Shocked at her father's sudden disappearance, Lucia defies orders and takes it upon herself to pilot the experimental craft, the Gleylancer. Lucia takes off into the unknown in a desperate rescue mission that will place her directly in danger of an unknown enemy.
Shoot 'Em Up!
Gleylancer is a horizontal-scrolling spaceship shooter with arcade gameplay. Players pilot their ship, the Gleylancer, in a horizontal fashion. The goal is to shoot as many enemies as possible, rack up the high score, and survive. Each game's several missions end in a boss fight, with each boss becoming more challenging than the next. Unique to the game are automated drones. The Gleylancer is an advanced craft that can collect powerups that power automated drones that follow the ship.
At the beginning of the game, players can set and configure their drones. One configuration sets the drones to automatic targeting, which limits their range but keeps their pattern automatic. Another configuration keeps the drones player-controlled and locked in a specific direction. Following this, players set off on six missions across interstellar space. One button is needed to shoot a continuous stream of fire toward the enemy. Players may adjust their crafts' speed to go slower or faster in combat.
Work Hard, Fly Right
Gleylancer is the kind of game where perfection is required. No health bars. No regenerating HP. No matter how big the score is or how powerful the ship, one wrong move into a single enemy bullet is enough to completely destroy your craft. This mechanic is one of the more infuriating aspects of the genre. However, this was true of how such games were made back then. Spaceship shooters were designed around arcade experiences and sheer challenge. The purpose was to pad out replayability and encourage players to either grab more quarters or get better at the game.
This old-fashioned approach to video games and game difficulty makes Gleylancer quite hard. Enemies fill the screen and often move fast. This increases the likelihood of a quick, sudden ending. Fortunately, this upscaled port of Gleylancer does come with modern solutions. Gleylancer has a series of save-state slots that can be accessed anytime.
What is Old Is New Again
The joy of playing Gleylancer in modern times is to appreciate a game's history and timeless experience from the annals of gaming history. Gleylancer was produced by Toshiro Tsuchida, who would go on to create the studio that gave birth to the Front Mission Arc The Lad franchises. The pule-pounding 16-bit soundtrack was made by Noriyuki Iwadare, who would work on the Langrisser JRPG series. Even the game itself never made its way outside of Japan, making Gleylancer a new game in a sense. Gleylancer is a remarkable trip down memory lane that is action-packed and challenging.
Seeing the classic presentation and hearing the authentic reverb of a Sega Genesis soundtrack feels both wholesome and exciting. Blasting away enemies and even seeing pixelated anime-inspired cutscenes felt profound. Gleylancer is a game that gets straight to the point but just puts enough effort into its story to make one feel like an intergalactic hero on a tremendous quest.
Nothing is Stronger than Family
Gleylancer will be best enjoyed by retro-game enthusiasts and those curious about a more old-fashioned gaming experience. It's hard. It's challenging. It's short. One shot will ruin one's day if they are not careful. However, that was how older games were, and it's an important reminder of where they came from.
Gleylancer is an amazing retro throwback experience with its challenge and gameplay, and remarkable in its presentation. It's a delightful time to a moment in games that no longer exists but is still rooted in our modern gaming experiences. If one is up for the days of 16-bit blast processing, a good challenge, and a strong presentation, Gleylancer is worth the adventure.
Gleylancer was reviewed on the PlayStation 5 thanks to a review key from PR Hound and Ratalaika Games.