Originally released by SCEI last year, Sky Gunner is a 3D flight action game featuring a cartoonish theme and frantic gameplay, akin to those 2D arcade shooters of old. Seeing that the title received favourable response from the Japanese gaming public, Atlus swooped-in, gave it a nice localisation and released it for the NTSC region.
SkyGunner follows the story of 3 ace pilots, Ciel, Copain and Femme, who are hired to protect the "Eternal Engine" an engine capable of perpetual motion without the need for an outside power source. Little do they know, that the criminal genius, Ventre is planning to use the town’s celebration aboard the luxury airship, Merveilleux… as an opportunity to steal the Eternal Engine for his own evil ends…
From the word go, you can play as either Ciel, Femme or Copain. Each of their aircrafts has their own control schemes, difficulty level and special abilities. Ciel is the choice for beginners, as his control scheme is the easiest. It’s highly recommended that you try out the Training Mode, to let you get to grips with all that your machine can offers, because you’ll need to masters all the necessary skills to complete the missions.
When you first play the game and get to fly, you’re bound to notice the camera. You see, in SkyGunner, the camera always points to the general direction of you enemies, regardless of your own bearing. So, if you’re flying away from the enemies, you’ll see the front of your aircraft. This might sound confusing to beginners, but with practice, you’ll be able to adjust to this unique camera system in no time.
The enemies in SkyGunner come in all shapes and sizes, and often in huge numbers. You have squadrons of enemy crafts, huge battleships, gun turrets and the like. You can target them easily using the R2 trigger. What’s interesting is that the targeting system lets you switch targets between squadron of planes to armaments on a huge battleship.
To help deal damage to your enemies, you have your standard machine gun, and an assortment of special missiles, like the fireworks missile and one that penetrates the hull of enemy ships. To put these weapons to better use, you can target multiple enemies and fire off the fireworks missile. That will create a chain reaction and blow up nearby enemy ships and turrets. Performing combos like this will score you big points, and would help you in unlocking the game’s secrets.
The downside of the gameplay is that the game slows down to a crawl when there’s too things happening on the screen. And because the game features frantic air battles with large groups of enemy ships, this slowdown will happen often. But that said, the slowdowns doesn’t detract from the gameplay, and you would still enjoy it.
Another cool factor is the sound. The game features a very nice orchestral score, and also up-tempo music when you encounter those huge bosses. The characters themselves have English and Japanese voiceovers, with English subtitles. I suggest you stick with the Japanese voiceover to fully appreciate the game.
The world in SkyGunner is presented in a cartoonish fashion, which ends up looking like a cute Japanese anime. The gunners themselves are super-deformed characters, with huge heads and eyes. The environment is lavishly detailed, with the use of vibrant colours that goes well with the theme of the game.
The Gunners’ are aircrafts look very unique, so that you can differentiate them from each other. SkyGunner also boasts some very impressive particle effects and nifty explosions, from the various weapons that you can use against the enemies. All in all, if you don’t mind the cartoonish themes you’ll love this one.
The frantic air battles are certainly fun. The game itself is pretty short, but to really complete the game, you have to play the Story Mode with all 3 characters, which is quite a challenge in itself. That said, I can’t help but notice the lack of additional modes in the game. The inclusion of a 2-player co-operation mode or death-match would have helped in providing more replay value to this title.
Overall, SkyGunner is a solid choice for those wanting a light-hearted anime styled and action packed flying shooter. Definitely recommended for fans of arcade shooters and flight sim buffs.
Atlus has also opened up the official website for SkyGunner. If you want to look up the story behind the game, get becakground info on the lovable characters and post your score online, head over there now.
Former owner and editor in chief of Darkstation.com