Initial release date: March 26, 2012
Composer: Rafael Dyll
Platforms: Dreamcast, Neo Geo, Nintendo Switch, PS4
Genres: Shoot 'em up, Platform game
Time to step into the DeLorean and go back to 199X when beat em ups, fighters, and shmups rule the arcades and home consoles and we didn’t need to tell people to “git gud” because people willingly did so and enjoyed games that had challenge, well admittedly , games back then were incredibly short so they used methods such as making them notoriously hard even unfairly hard but no matter what we kept going and the games never held our hands the way games do these days. In 2019 developer NGDEV and EastAsiaSoft came together to release a game on Nintendo Switch and PS4 that brings back that 90’s nostagalia but modernizes it for the current audience with GUNLORD X! Taking many inspirations from the legendary Turrican series, can GunLord X stand on its own and respect the SHMUP genre or will it fall flat? Let’s find out!
The story of Gunlord X is a sequel to the Neo-Geo classic Last Hope in which the evil empore was eradicated by Vanessa Gaiden, wife of this game’s protagonist, and while she was able to escape she wasn’t able to celebrate her victory and went missing in action and in the place of the old empire a new evil rises under the iron reign of a new planet lord named “The Master” that’s able to enslave humans and create beings of steel by absorbing the souls of humans. Our protagonist, Gordian Gaiden, is in search of his wife and is capruted until he breaks free and dons the suit of the Gunlord and is out to destroy the evil Master and find his wife Vanessa.
Gameplay wise if you’ve ever played the Turrican series, Metal Slug, and even Contra then you’ve effectively played the majority of what this game has to offer as you’ll go from your usual run-n-gun style to platforming to exploration to traditional shmup and more! The game is unrelenting in its approach to bringing you none stop action with hordes of enemies coming at you from all directions. You can shoot in 8 directions while running however you can only shoot in a stationary position when you use the right analog stick which fires a green beam that goes about half the length of the screen and can be moved in any of the 8 directions but it drains your special meter.
You can fire off a screen clearing shockwave that uses blue spheres and also use a rolling ball technique that is similar in aesthetics to Samus’ morph ball but it rolls automatically either left or right with the ability to jump in this form. You collect various powerups from spread shots, flame rounds, missiles, laser shots, and reflective shots as well as 1ups, health ups, and invincibility shields at floating power up stations that can be either shot, stood on, or head bumped and used as platforms to get to various ledges. When it comes to getting around Gordian is surprisingly as agile as the main character of Turrican and is responsive to all inputs from shooting, jumping, rolling, and latching onto special walls and ceilings to traverse various areas that you wont be able to leap to.
When it comes to the enemies and the bosses you’ll find a lot to love here as there’s tons of variety in the grunt enemies and even the bosses and the game always presents them in a way that you can observe their patterns and get a feeling for how to proceed. With basic enemies you can see what they will be doing as they dart to and from you to attack and control spacing although ultimately they are not of any real challenge to you. The bosses are where the game get interesting as this is where the game shines with bosses that can take up nearly the entire screen and have about 2-3 sometimes 4 patterns to memorize however no enemy is too hard to overcome in your first or second attempts.
The graphical style of the game is quite vibrant and colorful and lends itself well to the world in which you’re in. Gordian looks and animates amazingly as well as the enemies however to be honest the game looks in many ways point for point like Turrican and can be seen as a spiritual successor to that franchise. If this game came out in the 90’s it would look right at home on the 16-bit consoles of the era however I can easily see this being a Sega Saturn release especially given how amazing the soundtrack is and I feel like only the Saturn and to a lesser extent the Playstation would be able to handle this games OST.
The soundtrack to this game is AMAZING! Every level theme is such an eargasmic experience as it hits on that 90’s era synth with melodic over and undertones that are upbeat and even melancholy that will stick with you long after you finish playing the game.
So what are the downsides? Well if you are an old-school gamer you will find a lot to love here however if you are new to the genre then the various options at your finger tips along with the fact the game will sometimes switch genres from run-n-gun to shmup and back will sometimes make it hard for you to adjust to but stick to it. IF anything I would’ve loved to have been able to play this coop but given the narrative it makes sense. Sometimes enemies will appear out of no where when you leap to ledges and other times you will leap to your death because the camera didn’t pan below you enough to let you know that you can land there which through trial and error you will find that if you stand still and hold up or down will allow the camera to pan up or down to see more of your surrounds but even then sometimes it’s a pain to just stop and do so when you are in the flow of running, gunning, and platforming.
All in all, with solid controls, amazing level, enemy, and boss designs, and a sensational soundtrack; Gunlord X is a game that if you enjoy retro style games or are a fan of the shmup genre and the Turrican franchise then this is a game YOU NEED in your collection be it on PS4 or Nintendo Switch you can’t go wrong either way.