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Zero Gunner 2

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Released: 2001

Genre: Shoot-’em-up

Format reviewed: Dreamcast

Publisher: Psikyo

Developer: Psikyo

Submitted by: Mat Corne

It is fairly common knowledge that the mighty Dreamcast was host to a number of fantastic shmups, most of which were only released in Japan. However when people talk about the best shooters on the system they usually talk about Ikaruga, Border Down and Mars Matrix. As great as those games are, to my mind there is one game that tops all of these, and that game is Zero Gunner 2.

At first glance ZG2 resembles Psikyo’s venerable Strikers 1945 series, as one or two players pilot heavily-armed military aircraft (helicopters in this case) across a number of scrolling levels depicting warzones, oceans and cityscapes. Just like Strikers, each level culminates with a battle against a giant boss that starts off as some kind of vehicle but transforms into a giant robot that spits bullet hell across the screen.

Zero Gunner 2 differs in a couple of very significant ways though. First, all the graphics are rendered 3D objects rather than sprites, giving the levels added depth and realism (or as much realism as you can have in a game where tanks turn into giant robots!) while retaining the classic 2D shooter gameplay. The most important feature however is that you can rotate your ‘copter to fire in all directions, so while the playfield scrolls continually, you can position yourself in the most suitable position and direction to unleash as much damage as possible. This adds a great tactical element to the game as you try to work out the best position to be in to cope with the enemies you face.

Add to the above the ability to collect tokens from destroyed enemies that charge up your weapons, the choice of several helicopters to fly, great cut scenes introducing each end-of-level guardian and several game modes that allow you to play the levels in a different order, and you have a game packed with replay value. Zero Gunner 2 takes a classic retro idea and quite literally puts a different spin on it, making it a familiar yet original addition to the shoot em up legacy.