It’s been a fun time but the Shooting Stars Bravo shmup collection is coming to a close and with what better game than Gunbird 2. Originally it was hidden from the world in the Japanese arcades but was later brought to Dreamcast where I played it, then mobile and finally Nintendo Switch. Spoiler alert, I saved the best for last and with good reason. This is the twelfth shoot em up I have reviewed to round out the Alpha and Bravo collections by NIS America. It feels good to boot this up and feel immediate relief by way of awesome gameplay. Let’s dig in so I can explain.
Alright I’m jumping straight into it, right from the start Gunbird 2 is action-oriented. Constant fire and emerging enemies are exactly what I’m looking for in a shmup. It may be tough to dodge fire but stick with peppering one large enemy at a time to release that green power-up you need to take down these baddies faster. It’s very important to snag these upgrades but don’t take yourself more than halfway up the screen or you will increase your chances of getting shot. I don’t agree with the main area of levels music adding to the action. It more or less sounds better suited for an adventure game or some other genre. Moving on to the final fight of each stage it certainly levels up in quality and adds to the intensity of battle.
Seven different difficulty levels open the playing field to everyone.
I messed around on Very Hard for a bit and had fun but dropped down to normal to work on making better progress. Even dropping to Easy mode was both challenging and satisfying in play. I had a good time in that mode and was able to soak in the sights and sounds well. Of the five available characters, I had to choose Marion because she was my favourite pilot from the original Gunbird.
Art style has the classic Psikyo look which is most easily categorised to the 16-bit consoles to me, but is not pixelated in style. If the style were to be any thinner in design it would be too ‘grainy’ or granulated in look, but it’s not. apparently, that’s what Psikyo was great at because they stuck to this approach and it yielded positive results.
Immediately I took notice of the boss differences in this sequel. The first boss I came across reminded me of the larger-than-screen bosses from Sky Force Reloaded (and Anniversary). These big boys need to be taken apart piece by piece. That means focus on the tail, portions of each wing, then maybe a middle area before the smooth transition to a smaller version of itself. Multiple forms of the same boss is a staple of Psikyo games and it didn’t miss Gunbird 2. It’s very apparent the improvements in this area and lovely to see.
Although the story is not important you can opt to read it between levels if you wish.
Don’t get me wrong, the graphics and artwork are lovely but I couldn’t care less about every character’s motivation to destroy everything in their path. Each stage I feel has some ebb and flow to its design and character. The water level may seem dull in that the water is composed of the same sprites layered atop of one another, but oncoming enemies create waves with their mass and their creative design and colour break the sameness of the background. Each drawback seems to have a positive opposition that creates a nice balance between them.
On the bottom left portion of the screen lies a meter that can be filled somehow, I think by killing enemies. Each time it progresses to a higher level the player can unleash the secondary attack, which I far too often forget about. This additional layer is something to master and inherently boosts replayability. I can surely spend more time playing and conquering this skill to better myself and score. As of now, I have yet to get this secondary attack down but paired with the lovely graphics of Gunbird 2 it boasts of returning runs in the future.
This game rules and I would highly recommend it to others regardless of your likeness of the genre. It has immediate action even on Easy mode and for those that need less excitement, you can bump it down lower in difficulty. My favourite moment was approaching the first big boss that was only partially visible on the screen. I will be returning to Gunbird 2 in the future and I’m glad it’s part of this shmup collection. Big thanks to NIS America.