Gunlord of the Manor
Gunlord is the latest game to be released on the SEGA Dreamcast, by the German independent game publishing house NG-Dev Team. The game was originally designed for the Neo Geo MVS and AES hardware. Although created in tandem, this game should be considered a port. This is NG-Dev Team’s 3rd game, 4th if you include ‘Pink Bullets’ the retool. of their first game ‘Last Hope’. This is their first platformer style game, with all of their former titles being of the Shooter or ‘shmup’ Genre.
First off, I constantly see that people are comparing this game to Contra, and other run-and-gun games alike. This would be a completely wrong assumption, this game is more of a Turrican clone. The Turrican series of games had more of an old style PC feel to them where the focus was not on blasting through levels guns blazing, but rather exploration of the environment collecting treasure and score items. Sure you have a gun, sure you shoot stuff, but run-and-gun does not fit the profile. Actually if you recklessly run and shoot, you will not get far in this game.
I was surprised to find out shortly after popping this game in, that it is actually a pseudo sequel to NG-Dev Teams first game Last Hope! The story tells that Vanessa Gaiden and her ship the Z-42 Warpstar go missing after the completion of her mission fighting off the evil empire, that you Gordian Gaiden (Vanessa’s husband) are off to fight a new threat, known only as the Master. The game starts of with a hand drawn 16 bit cut scene, that shows our hero Gordian violently escaping what can only be described as some sort of intergalactic trial, which is pleasantly surprising, because NG-dev Team usually omits the cut scenes from the Dreamcast Ports of their games. From the title screen you have the option of choosing Original Mode or Arcade Mode, Original Mode has storyline and continues, Arcade mode is for hard core gamers, it has a timer and no continues. The storyline in Original Mode is told by a series of beautifully illustrated images, that have a 70’s adult sci-fi comic feel to them.
Then comes the game, my first impression is that it has the atmosphere and graphics of a top shelf SEGA Genesis/Megadrive game. and the game control backs that feeling up. At the core this feels like 1992 when the 16 bit era was at its peak. But then when you look again, you can see the effects and visuals that only a the Neo Geo or a higher generation console can pull off. One example of this is that enemy animation, many of these grotesque bio-mechanical beings have very smooth animations with many frames built into them. This game having a 16 bit aura to is is in no way a bad thing, many retro enthusiasts like myself love this graphical style and welcome it. Then there is the music, oh my GOD the music! The soundtrack is absolutely incredible, it has an euro electro vibe, but not hardcore, almost like late 90’s trance. The game is simple, you travel the maze like levels (walking, not running) killing the enemies in your path, and collecting the pink diamonds along the way.
You have a main weapon that is auto fire no matter what style of power-up you have, jump of course, a rolling bomb attack reminiscent of Metroid but taken directly from Turrican, and the ‘Snake Laser’ . The Snake Laser is a continuous beam that you can rotate 360 degrees around your character, and penetrates walls unlike your normal weapon, it becomes very helpful for those hard to reach enemies that are looking to fall on your head as soon as you come near enough. Each stage has a HUGE boss at its end, that although very easy at first, will have you crying in the later levels. The game also has Space Ship shmup style stages here and there, which I personally thought was a great twist. This is reminiscent of a rarely known game on the Japanese Super Famicom called Rendering Ranger, which incidentally was created by Manfred Trenz who also created the Turrican series…. I am beginning to see a trend here.
Although it is viable to play this game with the sole goal of getting through the levels as quickly as possible just to kill the final boss, it is not what the developers of this game had in mind. The heart of this game is the exploration of the stages and finding the hidden diamonds and 1up items via hidden rooms, and invisible platforms that appear when you shoot them (yet again another Turrican trait). Proof of this is that at the end of each stage you are presented with a percentage of diamonds and credits collected for that stage, even more so you are presented with a in game generated code that when entered on the NG-Dev Team site that ranks you as far as percentage of the game completed and part of that percentage is based on diamonds collected.
That being said this game is not for everyone, I think many people will pick up this game with the wrong expectations, but hopefully they will give it a chance for what it DOES have to offer. I personally never got into the Turrican series, and only recently picked up a copy of Super Turrican in anticipation of this game. Gunlord is essentally Turrican, but polished. Turrican has very stiff game play, and you feel trapped because you can not fire your gun diagonally. However, this game fixes what was broken in Turrican.
I pre-ordered this game immediately when I heard it was coming out, mainly because I love to support the indie market, and also because the SEGA Dreamcast is one of my all time favorite platforms. I am indeed enjoying this game, but am not sure if I LOVE it yet. if you do decide to buy this title, go with the Limited edition so you will get the fantastic soundtrack! There is also a Collectors edition, that includes both the Regular, and the Collector’s Editions, in a pretty box, but why you would need 2 copies of the same game is beyond me.
If you are interested, you can purchase the game directly from the developer’s website at: http://www.ngdevdirect.com
Thanks for reading, happy gaming
Final Verdict: 5/5
Available on: Dreamcast (reviewed), Neo Geo ; Publisher: NG:Dev:Team ; Developer: NG:Dev:Team ; Players: 1 ; Released: March 26, 2012
This review was based on a retail copy of Gunlord purchased by the reviewer.