“ Manufacturer: Hudson / Genre: Shooter / Release Date: 2007 „
One of the joys of owning one of the current consoles is the ability to download classic games from old machines, allowing gamers to relive fond memories from their youth. Gate of Thunder is one of those games. Downloadable for the Wii from Nintendo's Virtual Console service, it's an old PC Engine title from the early 90s.
It's a classic horizontally scrolling shoot 'em up. You move from left to right on the screen, whilst hordes of hostile aliens fly on from everywhere and try to shoot you. It's a case of kill or be killed.
Now, this might sound a little strange, but I'd never actually played the game before I downloaded it. However, I was in the market for a shoot-'em-up and general consensus seemed to be that this was one of the finest.
Price-wise, Gate of Thunder is toward the premium end, costing 800 Nintendo Points (around £7-8). It's also pretty demanding on the Wii's (pitiful) storage capacity, taking up over 200 blocks, so you might need to delete a few older games before you can download this.
But download it you should, because it's an absolute gem, oozing quality and addictiveness from every pixel. Forget yer jumped up newcomers like Halo and Far Cry. This is what gaming is about: pure, unadulterated blasting action!
Presentation is stunning. Of course, it looks rather old-fashioned now, but if you make allowances for the fact it is around 20 years old, you can appreciate how good it was for its time.
Graphically, the game is very pleasing. There's a great intro sequence which sets the mood before it's off into action. Everything beautifully detailed and defined. There's plenty of variety in the graphics, which gives you a real feeling of progression as you move through the levels, although they aren't terribly imaginative and rely heavily on the graphical influences of other shooters, particularly R-Type.
Considering how much there is on-screen at times, the graphics are very fluid and clear. Just occasionally, there can be so much happening on screen that you lose sight of where you are and accidentally crash into the background or fly straight into an enemy missile, but that's your fault for not paying attention! When the action really heats up, there's also a tiny bit of flickering from some of the sprites. Whether this is down to bugs in the original game or the emulation of the Wii, I don't know. Either way, it's not enough to spoil your enjoyment or detract from the overall high quality of the graphics.
Sound-wise the game is brilliant and appropriately noisy (Mrs SWSt, who just doesn't understand these things commented "That's a very noisy game" the first time I loaded it up!). Things explode in a satisfyingly meaty way, bullets and bombs sound like they mean business and the whole frenetic action is accompanied by a rocking sound track that has to be one of the best pieces of in-game music I've ever heard. If the frantic action doesn't get your adrenalin flowing, the soundtrack certainly will.
Game play is very simple and will surprise absolutely no-one who has ever played a horizontally scrolling shoot-'em-up before. It also means it's pretty easy for anyone to pick up and play, without the need to learn a complex set of controls. There are essentially 5 controls you need to know: up, down, left, right and fire. It's certainly not like some modern games where you need to be an octopus to be able to handle all the different button combinations.
The beauty of Gate of Thunder is the absolutely addictive game play. It is pretty hard and the first few times you play it, you'll lose your three lives pretty quickly and barely make any progress. However, it's one of those games that rewards perseverance. Aliens always appear in the same order and same place each time you play a level, so you can learn the patterns and avoid them. The more you play, the longer you will find yourself surviving and you make just that little bit more progress each time. Each time you lose your life, you hit the fire button to restart, determined that you won't make the same mistake again
The levels are brilliantly constructed and a real challenge. The fact that aliens can appear from anywhere keeps you on your toes and means there are no safe spaces where you can lurk in safety. This is a game you really need your wits about you when playing.
As you are flying, a second ship regularly appears to drop additional weapons for you to use. These are essential to your survival, turning your ship from a rather feeble thing into a weapon of mass destruction. It can be slightly frustrating in that if you die, you lose all the extra weapons you've collected, but it also adds an extra element to the game. Do you play things cautiously to try and hang on to your power-ups or take a slight risk to try and collect the next one that's just been dropped?
Despite being very hard, Gate of Thunder never feels unfair. When you die, it's because you didn't react in time, or you failed to spot an enemy, or flew into an obstacle; it's rarely because the game has subjected you to a sneaky attack. The only minor frustration is when enemies approach from behind. If you're lurking at the very left hand edge of the screen, they can hit you and you die before you even see them... but then this is just the game's way of making sure you don't hang back and try and cheat!
Gate of Thunder is an out and out shooter. There's no real point, other than to survive and rack up as many points as possible. This makes it incredibly addictive as you try to beat your own high score or get just that little bit further than you did on your last go. Gate of Thunder rewards practice, making it hugely addictive
Of course, that does mean that sooner or later you are likely to finish it. Yet, it is pretty difficult, so when you do, it will give you a real sense of satisfaction and you'll easily have had your money's worth. Even then, it has some replay value in trying to beat your own high score.
Downsides? Well, if you don't like shooters, you'll hate the simplistic, slightly repetitive game play. But then why would you have downloaded it in the first place if you hate this particular genre? Some people may also find it incredibly difficult and get frustrated by the number of times you die in your first few goes. If you haven't got much patience, the chances are you'll get fed up of Gate of Thunder and give up on it. That's a shame, because whilst the difficulty level is set high, you do get a real feeling of achievement when you start to make progress.
In terms of enhancements, it would have been nice to see a two player mode of some sort and the ability to upload your scores online. But this is just a straightforward port of the original game, rather than a remake, so you don't get any extra features that tend to come as standard in modern games, but these are only minor gripes.
Frankly, if you like good old-fashioned arcade blasters, this is one of the best of its kind. Get it downloaded now before someone at Nintendo realises what an absolute steal this is for 800 points and bumps the price up!
© Copyright SWSt 2009