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volume 3 issue 5

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Gun Valkyrie
A beautiful game with an original story line and unique gameplay. Too bad it's so damn hard that few people will ever see it all.
Overall Rating:

Animefringe Reviews:
Gun Valkyrie
By Patrick King

I'm always eager to see what Smilebit has to offer the gaming world, so I had high expectations when I popped Gun Valkyrie into the big black box. I was terribly disappointed when its release date got pushed back (why can't release dates get moved UP more often, like Rogue Leader for the Gamecube?) but I can say it was worth the wait. From the moment the title screen popped up (one of the coolest title screens ever), I knew this was going to be a wild ride.

I didn't know how incredibly hard it was going to be.

Before I gripe about that, however, let's go over its good points. First of all, this game is beautiful. The artists at Smilebit have created a living, breathing world on the Xbox, and every member of that world wants to kick your ass and then eat you. The game is set in an alternate past, where a brilliant scientist, Dr. Hebble Gate, has harnessed the mystical energies of Halley's Comet. Much to my surprise, it seems that the comet is able to bestow ordinary humans with nigh-magical powers. Hebble was one of the first people to become one of "Halley's Chosen," and he used his wisdom and ingenuity to bring about a second Renaissance in the 1800's.

Thanks to his genius, mankind has made technological leaps beyond where we are now. By the latter half of the century, Hebble's technological advances made possible everything from super powerful computers to long-range space flight. However, on the distant planet of Tir na Nog, something goes wrong - terribly wrong. While Dr. Gate was researching something far more metaphysical than interstellar travel, communications between Earth and Tir na Nog were cut, and no one has heard from him since.

This is where you come in. You choose one of two playable characters - either Kelly O'Lenmey or Saburouta Mishima - don your Gun Valkyrie Gearskin, and try to get to the bottom of what is happening to the colonists of Tir na Nog. You quickly learn that the colonists have been changed somehow into horrible monsters - monsters that are all too eager to sate their ravenous hunger by devouring you. Got all that so far?

Personally, I enjoyed the storyline very much for this particular title. Like Panzer Dragoon, it blends fantasy with science fiction with skill and creates a familiar world filled with unbelievable elements. The story and style of the game kept me playing where my frustration at its difficulty would've lead me away.

As can be expected, the graphics for this title are top-notch. Both artistically and technically, this is one of the best looking games out there - for any system. There was minimal lag, and only when I was fighting hundreds of insect-like creatures while firing my guns and moving around quickly. The engine held up very respectably for a game designed originally for the Dreamcast. The model designer must have had some pretty nasty pizza before sleep to dream up some of the foes in this title...especially the final boss. I'll let you experience that for yourselves, however... Overall, the graphics are very attractive. Heck, even the cover art for the game is attractive!

The music and sound effects were perfect. The techno beat reminded me of Metroid, as did many other elements of this game - but that's not a bad thing. The sound effects used for the creatures in the game were spine-tingling, and almost as scary as their design.

And now we get to the point that you've all been dreading...the controls. In GV, you know what you have to do, it's just getting your character to do it that makes life difficult. Realistic movement in 3D space is hard to control, especially when you have the ability to fly. You will either make full use of the Xbox controller in this game or you will die. Frequently.

Jumping is accomplished with the L trigger, and you can boost higher by pressing it again or holding it down. While airborne, you can boost in a particular direction by clicking the left control stick down and pointing it in the direction you want to move. You twist your character's torso by moving the right control stick, which can also be clicked in a direction to perform a quick turn. The R trigger fires, and the remaining buttons are used to switch between one (of three) weapons, to look at the map, and to toggle the clock display.

There are times in this game where you will need to use every button or control stick available at once to avoid a grisly death. You will not beat this game unless you master the controls. You probably can't beat the first boss without learning how to hover, boost, and look down at the same time. However, hard as it sounds, the controls can be conquered. The learning curve is as steep as Tokyo Tower, but it can be surmounted. In order to make this review as fair as possible, in the last ten days, I actually managed to beat the game.

While it brings you down when you can't get past a boss or stage, I felt extremely satisfied when I finally finished the game. I logged about 24 hours of game time by the time I put the final boss in its place, and after that, a challenge mode appears, offering more opportunities to test your finely honed skills. The stress, the pain, and the was all worth it. Once you beat the final boss, your skills can overcome any obstacle.

Thus, I'd suggest if you're up for a challenge, grab this game as soon as possible. You can already find it used, thanks to people who give up easily. It's a ton of fun, and if you manage to get past the control barrier, then you will feel like a true video game warrior. And you will be.

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