You have to love when obscure Japanese arcade games finally make their way to the west. Gunbarich is a pinball/Breakout hybrid by shoot 'em up masters Psikyo that can be pretty fun so let's take a closer look.
Before starting a game of Gunbarich, you choose a character to play as; either Grutan (a boy) or Marion (a girl). Although your choice doesn't affect the gameplay much, the kooky (and poorly translated) story will change depending on which aspiring magician you play as. Once you start playing, you'll be delighted by the charming visuals and lovely fun-filled music. You control a little sprite complete with flippers at the bottom of the screen and ricochet balls up the playfield at blocks, enemies, and even wacky bosses. Everything is full of life as both enemies and blocks react to your hits. You'll come across seven themed environments throughout the campaign that all have a distinct and colourful appearance. My favourite is the Christmas one where evil Santas shoot projectiles at you. In the end, it's charming, funny, and a joy to play.
The gameplay simply involves moving around to block the pink ball from entering the bottom of the screen (which takes one life away) and bouncing it back to break all of the blocks in each stage or take down the boss if you're at the final part of a stage. Additionally, you can use the flippers to whack the ball with gusto so it has more of an impact when it hits its target. Doing so either requires good timing or you can do what I did and just mash the button as fast as you can so you have less of a chance of messing up.
Along the journey, you'll come across many power-ups to assist you and each one is unique and enjoyable to utilize. Having multiple balls bouncing around or one powerful ball that destroys everything in its path feels just awesome. In addition to these, you'll encounter plenty of stage gimmicks that help mix up the gameplay such as switches that make indestructible blockades appear and disappear and conveyor belts that give your ball a boost in certain directions. It's fun stuff although some stages can be rather frustrating.
All of that being said, the core gameplay is so simple that it becomes quite tiresome after playing for a handful of minutes. Sure, the cheerful sights and sounds go a long way to keep Gunbarich fun but there's no denying just how one-note the gameplay is.
To remedy this, there could have been a vast assortment of modes but unfortunately, there are none to be found. I can see Gunbarich being enjoyable with either cooperative or competitive multiplayer modes yet you can only play by yourself. Not only that, the only content to enjoy is the seven stage campaign which you could easily complete within one sitting. There are two characters so you could always play it through twice but considering there are no other incentives (besides achieving high scores), the replay value is severely limited. Also, I wish there was some museum-style content available to shine more light on this goofy arcade title.
Gunbarich is a cute and fun little game but most gamers will probably be done with it after an hour tops. On the other hand, being able to play such an obscure arcade gem is a treat so I hope to see more titles like this soon.
- + Simple combination of pinball and Breakout with fun boss fights
- + Delightful visuals and sound
- + Enjoyable power-ups and gimmicks
- - Only one single player mode with no multiplayer whatsoever
- - Basic core gameplay gets tiresome
- - No extras and little replay value