Sega Genesis sure had a ton of excellent shoot 'em ups and Gley Lancer is one of them so let's fly back to 1992 and check it out.
Gley Lancer is one of those classic shmups that not many folks in the west heard of as it only released in Japan back in the day. I was introduced to it via its Virtual Console release on Wii over a decade ago and it impressed me with its very unique weapon system. As a side-note; don't you miss the Virtual Console? There were so many awesome obscure titles and hidden treasures to be found there but I digress. Gley Lancer is not only a fun shmup, it also has a story with brief anime-inspired cutscenes between some stages and thankfully, they're fully translated in this port. It's simple stuff as our hero pilot Lucia searches for her father who was captured by aliens. v1d30chumz 54-211-101-93
Back to the gameplay; Gley Lancer is quite simple at its core as you fly around while shooting and avoiding projectiles. What sets it apart are its satellite weapons which you can have up to 2 of. These can be placed in different formations by the tap of a button and they change depending on the most recent weapon you've acquired. Some formations allow you to tap or hold another button to make your satellite weapons behave differently such as locking them in position or altering whether they target multiple or only 1 enemy. This may sound complex but it's handled very intuitively as you'll mostly just hold the shoot button while your favourite formation is selected then use the other button to strategically aim. For the record, I prefer the Multi-R formation which works well in nearly every situation.
In addition to the formations, you'll also come across a variety of weapons with some clearly being better than others. For example, the Bound Shot fires bouncing projectiles that can wipe out hard-to-reach foes while the 5-Way shot has a decent spread but fires way too slowly. Other interesting weapons are the Saber which is nice for clearing out swarms of small foes and the Spread Bomb which is powerful and works great against bosses. Speaking of which, the variety of bosses is superb as you'll end up fighting a wide range of hulking foes with clever attack patterns that require some strategy to take down so prepare yourself for some epic fights.
When it comes to presentation, Gley Lancer features an excellent soundtrack that gets you pumped for arcade shooting action as well as a selection of memorable stages that'll have you flying in ice caverns, weaving through asteroid fields, and dealing with tricky enemy formations. Plus, this port features some welcome options and modernizations such as the abilities to rewind, save at any time, and freely aim your satellites with the right stick which makes it play like a twin-stick shooter. On top of that, you can customize the controls and tinker with a few display options. All of this is fantastic but I wish there were online leaderboards and museum-style content, too.
Although the core gameplay of Gley Lancer is satisfying, it still doesn't do much aside from its secondary satellite weapon system. It could use more elements such as unique scoring mechanics, some sort of screen-clearing bomb move, or the ability to upgrade weapons. Besides its simplicity, projectiles are often hard to spot, especially in stages with intricate backgrounds which will make you bite the dust thus forcing you to respawn at a previously-reached checkpoint. To make matters a bit more annoying, there are a few irritating segments throughout such as how you have to navigate through a tight corridor before the passageway going left gets cut off, avoid blocks that fly in and obstruct your path, and deal with far too many turrets that relentlessly home in on your position.
Gley Lancer is one of those obscure shoot 'em ups that has aged impressively well despite its occasional annoying moment. Plus, the fact that it's been modernized in clever ways and you can even play it as a twin-stick shooter is just radical, dude.
- + Intuitive shmup gameplay with a very cool satellite weaponry system
- + Great music and memorable stages
- + Welcome options and modernizations
- - Gameplay doesn't do much noteworthy outside of the secondary weapons
- - Projectiles are often hard to spot
- - A few rather annoying segments