Gleylancer, also written as Gley Lancer, is a shoot ’em up originally designed and published by Masaya for the Sega Mega Drive. The title originally released in 1992 and was met with mixed reviews, with some reviewers criticizing the brutal difficult while others praised it for its storytelling and challenge. The title is even an example of engrish, where the L and R are indistinguishable in the Japanese language, as they are the same sound, so the real title in English should be “Grey Lancer”, but that is not so important today. Ratalaika Games has resurrected the title and have published it on the Nintendo Switch, so you want to know how this game is in 2021.
Well, I have put some time into this one, and since I have become the default shoot ’em up review on Nintendo Link, let me take you down memory lane with Gleylancer.
Gleylancer‘s story is told though manga-like panels, and it is thankfully spread a little throughout the game instead of just dumping all of the information at the beginning and end, like a lot of games that that time.
The story follows Lucia, a 16-year-old star fighter pilot in the Earth Federation, whom you control. A war breaks out between humans and an unknown alien race in the year 2025. Lucia’s father, Ken, a high-ranking admiral in the Federation Navy, is captured after his ship is warped out of the combat zone by the aliens. Lucia, heart-broken after hearing her father’s disappearance, decides to hijack the prototype fighter CSH-01-XA, AKA “Gley Lancer”, to go find her father.
It is a fine story, and it definitely comes from a time where Japanese storytellers loved to use young protagonists to save the world or universe. This is no different, and the narrative inserts throughout the game do a good job building the characters and telling its story. However, I will say that the intro dialog does go on for a lot longer than desired, but that does not necessarily take away from the story being told.
As far as the game plays, though, this is where things get a bit rough. Gleylancer is not really a bad shoot ’em up, but its difficulty is quite unforgiving, and even though it has three difficulty modes, Easy is still insanely hard. That is because of a couple reasons: 1) the Gley Lancer blows up very easily and 2) you do not continue directly from where you died, as you restart from the beginning of a stage or somewhere in the middle.
This means that if you are toward the end of a boss battle and die, you have to start the battle all over again instead of respawning like a normal shoot ’em up. Since Gleylancer has lives as well, running out of them in a stage will result in a game over, where you are then presented an opportunity to continue. Continuing brings you back to the beginning of the stage, and this sick cycle can repeat a lot throughout the 11 stages.
That’s not to say that the game does not have its unique properties, though. For starters, the game has four different speeds that keep you on your toes as things speed up and slow down at certain points. Also, and probably the most prominent part of Gleylancer, the Gunners. These are powerups you pick up in the game that add an extra “gun” to your ship. You can have up to two Gunners at a time, and they come in many flavors, like Twin Shot, Laser, 5-Way, and Bound Shot.
The Gunners also have seven formations to help mix up gameplay. Normally, they will shoot in the direction the ship is moving, which I found to be a bit strange. Most of the options revolve around the movement of the ship, but I found Search to be the most viable option as it automatically assigns the Gunners to shoot at the nearest enemies, making them significantly more useful, as I could focus on flying and avoiding collision, especially during some complex boss battles.
Aesthetically, Gleylancer is a pleasant-looking shooter with various stage settings and a nice mix of enemy typings and bosses. I did find some of the stage layouts to be a bit confusing and did accidentally run into hazards on a couple occasions. There are also some sections that are in very tight corridors that make maneuvering and shooting to be an absolute pain. Some of the stage designing is a bit baffling, but I think most are fair.
The soundtrack starts off so amazing, as the intro is a strong, bumping tune with great chiptune bass lines that really get the blood going, and it honestly just keeps going from there. Each stage brings its own flair thanks to the killer music, and this has to be one of the most enjoyable soundtracks in a shoot ’em up that I have ever played.
Overall, this is still a solid shoot ’em up from the end of the Mega Drive’s era. Gleylancer is an incredibly difficult shooter, but it brings enough to the table to make this a solid package. The options menu provides a lot of customization like how you want the game to look and sound, and save states allow for you to protect your perfect runs from accidental deaths.
It may not be the most memorable shoot ’em up out there, but Gleylancer is still worth your time, especially if you are a fan of the genre. The fact that Ratalaika Games has brought this one back and are only selling it for $5.99 is amazing. For the price, this is a steal, and it is definitely a game to add to your collection, despite its blemishes.
Good little story
The Gunners are fun to use
Death stops gameplay
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My name is Jason Capp. I am a husband, father, son, and brother, and I am a gamer, a writer, and a wannabe pro wrestler. It is hard to erase the smile on this simple man.