Sega‘s 2007 port of their much-loved 2004 arcade light-gun shooter Ghost Squad somehow ended up being one of the finest games ever released on the Nintendo Wii. The arcade original was an utterly perfect fit for the Wii, but the way in which Sega tinkered with the fundamentals of the game’s structure – by adding worldwide leaderboard support and a seemingly unending bevy of hilarious unlockables – resulted in an incomparably addictive retro remix that pandered effortlessly to the demands of current-gen players.
Gunblade NY – easily as revered although not as widely known as Ghost Squad – is definitely showing its age graphically, but this doesn’t detract from either its charm or the sturdy entertainment that it offers. Its heavily antiquated vision of the future is now deeply amusing; set in 2005, it’s all giant robots, jetpacks and bazooka-wielding enemies clad in what looks like purple lycra. It’s also surprisingly easy, primarily because it was built with the two bulky, weighty plastic machine guns that sat atop the original arcade cabinet in mind. Genre fans are encouraged to jump straight into Hard mode.
Aside from three new difficulty tiers that are available in a sub-menu (in addition to the easy and hard routes that were present in the original arcade game) Gunblade NY also features a brand new score attack mode. You’re given sixty seconds in each of the game’s primary areas, and your score for each hit appears onscreen as a giant, garishly coloured number. It’s every bit as fast-paced as the main game, but because you don’t have to put too much emphasis on the avoidance of getting hit, you are free to just spray bullets around like a happy madman.
LA Machineguns is undoubtedly a smoother and prettier beast than its forbear, but it is also every bit as goofy. Despite its title, one level is set in (or rather, above) Alcatraz Island, which as any pedant will tell you, is actually off the coast of San Francisco rather than Los Angeles. Robots and jetpacks are in busy attendance once again, though the formula is mixed up this time by a fairly stringent time limit, which means that utilising the explosive background material is often essential if you don’t want to end up getting timed out.
Gunblade NY’s three new difficulty settings are also present here, and high score junkies are going to be thrilled to note that an essential ingredient of any classic shoot ’em up has been worked in here too – a chain combo system. This means that LA Machineguns has the busier online leaderboard of the two, and despite the fact that it is undoubtedly a more forgiving game than Gunblade NY (initially, at least) innocent civilians can now get caught in your crossfire, making for an ever-so-slightly more tactical experience.
Completing each level earns you a form of XP which in turn earns you a streak of promotions, all of which unlock a selection of beefier weaponry in each game. Ammunition and continues are both infinite, and although this is instantly accessible to anyone who touches it, shoot ’em up aficionados are going to get as stuck into this as they probably did with Ghost Squad. This package isn’t quite in that one’s league (there isn’t a cheat to enable enemy panda suits, for one thing) but it does come disarmingly close. Highly recommended.
Watch the Gunblade NY & LA Machineguns review here…