Psikyo has a fantastic library of action-packed shoot 'em ups and here's one of their first. Fill your pockets with quarters and set your time machine to 1994; we're heading to the arcade!
When it comes to enjoyable vertical shmups, Psikyo is a developer that you can trust to provide worthwhile experiences. However, you may be wondering if Gunbird holds up as well as their other titles seeing as it's one of their first games. When you first boot it up, you'll be surprised just how simple it is. Whereas Strikers 1945 (another one of their classic shoot 'em ups that's also available for Switch) features a very unique power-up system that takes the form of satellites, Gunbird has a much more simplistic formula. All you do is fly around, dodge bullets, shoot enemies, and unleash charged attacks or a bomb every now and then. Even the power-ups just intensify your stream of projectiles. Even though there are fewer bells and whistles which makes the gameplay more basic than hardcore genre fans would want it to be, there's a certain charm to its simplicity.
One thing that makes Gunbird more fun than your average shmup is its selection of characters. You can choose to play as a famous adventurer (Ash), a witch girl (Marion), a robot soldier (Valnus), an oriental fighter (Yuan-Nang), or a stubborn old carpenter (Tetsu). Each character has their own unique stream of projectiles, charged attack, and bomb move so experimenting with them is a great deal of fun. Also, playing as your favourite characters cooperatively with a friend makes the action all the more enjoyable.
Gunbird's campaign is incredibly short with only a handful of stages and once you beat it, you start right back at the beginning again. Although this is common for classic arcade games, it's disappointing that playing it on your brand new Switch is only thoroughly fun for about half an hour. On the other hand, the stages look great and the boss fights are as imaginative as you'd expect from a Psikyo game complete with transforming mechanical monstrosities and a variety of kooky characters.
Although Psikyo have crafted plenty of super-fun shoot 'em ups, Gunbird is a little too basic to remain fun for long periods of time. The simplistic formula of powering up your character and dodging projectiles is enjoyable but with virtually no additional mechanics, it really starts to show its age. Heck, even the original Gradius had a nifty power-up meter.
Finally, the fact that it's just the arcade mode with minimal options and a lack of extras is disappointing. I would have loved to see some gallery content, climb the leaderboards, or play additional modes. You could always play through the campaign on different difficulty settings but that sort of replay value definitely won't appeal to everyone.
Gunbird is a classic arcade shoot 'em up that's full of fun times but that fun doesn't last long at all. Here's hoping Zerodiv release the superior sequel sometime soon.
- + Classic arcade shoot 'em up action that you can play with a friend
- + Fun selection of characters
- + Cool boss fights and distinct stages
- - Only consists of a brief arcade mode with a handful of short stages
- - Basic gameplay with little variation
- - No extras or replay incentives