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In Memory
Sean Pettibone


Gunblade NY/ LA Machineguns (Wii)

Sega has released a pair of their classic light-gun shooter titles for the Wii and this collection is appealing, yet limited in depth. Both games came out in arcades during the mid to late 90’s and feature straight-up shooting action with limited options and controls. You are in control of a police helicopter flying through various locations, trying to destroy swarms of alien invaders over-running various cities. There’s very little strategy in these games, you just need to aim and shoot. Is this enough to sustain gamers for long play sessions or is there just not enough content? Look inside and discover the answer.

Despite the fact that Gunblade NY and LA Machineguns were released more than a decade ago, Sega has decided that both of these minor arcade classics are deserving of Wii conversions. It makes sense on one level, since the console’s well-known penchant for simple, accessible titles should give these relatively straightforward arcade shooting games an instant audience. Anyone who enjoyed playing House of the Dead with their Wii Zapper will probably be a candidate for these games, but this seemingly easy recommendation comes with a few caveats that players should know before jumping in. The gameplay in both titles is straightforward with your mission divided into several levels. You have nearly unlimited ammo as you try and wipe them out and you have to do this quickly to avoid getting damaged by their missiles and counter-attacks Gunblade NY has two distinct levels of difficulty that are divided into two three-level games while LA Machineguns allows you to go through all its stages in one go. Sega has added a few extra features to extend the replay value, such as a time attack mode, but for the most part these are bare-bones conversions. The single-player experience is enjoyable, and offers the simple pick-up and play mechanics you’d expect from an arcade title. Adding to the fun, you can have a friend join you in the battles, which makes for a more robust co-operative gaming exercise.

Their structure is very similar so it’s no surprise that Gunblade NY and LA Machineguns feature almost identical gameplay. They’re both on-rails shooters, which guide you through the levels. You do not have to move the camera around to see enemies and you don’t even need to worry about reloading your guns, which are replenished automatically. This gives the effect of being inside a helicopter and swooping down on the action. Once you’re ready to go, you’ll see the city streets filled with enemies that you need to destroy. At first, they might be difficult to spot, but as you progress you’ll be able to anticipate their locations much easier. To help you along, each enemy you need to shoot is targeted with a big red indicator, which makes them easier to spot. Most enemies need only a few shots to kill, but there are some tough ones that require you to focus your firepower on them. Players also have to look out for the occasional bystander and avoid them, or they’ll lose significant points. This adds some strategy to the games, but they’re basically aim-and-shoot titles. Most players should be able to wipe out most of the enemies without much effort, though some of the end-level boss encounters do require a bit of persistence. There’s a timer that adds a little bit of tension to the action, but most players should be done with the levels without much effort. The game’s difficulty settings can be adjusted and the game does offer somewhat more challenging play when you go a bit higher. However, this is undercut by the unlimited continues that are offered, which reduces the challenge greatly.

From an aesthetic standpoint, the results are mixed. Despite offering a nearly flawless conversion of the classic arcade game, the game still looks a bit dated and neither game stretches the hardware much from a visual standpoint.  Gunblade NY features relatively simplistic polygonal visuals that recall the original Virtual Cop, which might be jarring for gamers more accustomed to today’s games. LA Machineguns offers slightly more in the way of detail, but is still somewhat dated by these days. Those who grew up on the Saturn probably won’t mind these throwback looks, and their simplicity will probably most appeal to retro gamers looking for an unvarnished experience. Players used to more elaborate visuals in today’s games may find this to be a problem, gamers who might not have seen these games will probably find the simplicity makes the game easier to understand. Their sound effects and music fits the mold of 1997 era gaming, with bright, probably too much so, music that accompanies the action while a female announcer does her job effectively, though without much emotion. Your overall experience may vary somewhat and probably depends to a large degree as to what your expectations are.

As stated earlier, Sega hasn’t put too much effort into these conversions as far as extras go. There are no elaborate trailers or behind-the-scenes videos to unlock. You will find a few cool things, such as online rankings. Here, you can upload your high scores and compete with other players online. There are also some unlockable enhancements, such as unlimited auto fire that become available when you beat the game all the way through. However, these features aren’t really enough to extend the titles’ replay value significantly. There is some added challenge at the higher difficulty levels, but the games’ linear approach is very firm. You won’t find any branching levels or alternate paths to see, so once you’ve played through either game, they’ve already shown you everything they have to offer. Of course, a lot of this is due to the design of the arcade games themselves, which were created to offer quick bursts of action and suck down quarters. The minor enhancements and added gameplay modes add some extra challenge, but these are still shooters at heart, and the lack of challenge and unlimited continues means you can see the games in one short session. There are a only a few levels in each game and aside from one or two hidden boss battles at the end, you can basically go through both titles in about an hour if you don’t stop. This leads to the drawbacks inherent in these types of games. While they’re arcade-perfect conversions, the games’ lack of replay value and depth means they deliver an exciting burst of action, but it doesn’t last as long as you’d like.  - Michael Palisano  

Grade: C+

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