Wednesday, June 16, 2010

PS1 Look - Gaia Seed

From the outset I've had one mission for this blog and that is "Play Anything". I enjoy games and I also enjoy talking about them. Unfortunately the biggest problem I face with this ideal is that there's just not enough time for all of it. At times sacrifices are made and most of the time I simply won't talk about the game or I didn't play enough to form a decent opinion. There are also those games that I really enjoy but I've already written about them so they get shuffled away until one day when I have the time I can jump back into them (though chances of that day ever coming are nil). Which is why I'm thankful for games like Gaia Seed because I can get through them quickly and they offer so little depth and/or entertainment value that I have no reason to ever play them again.

For the non-connoisseurs of the rare and expensive Gaia Seed is a Japanese Playstation 1 game that goes for quite a bit of money. I'm not sure how this came about yet surprisingly despite being released by a publisher nobody has even heard of this game saw fit to make an appearance on the Playstation Network. That means this $150-300 game can now be had for about $6 to $8. Needless to say this is a very good thing since more often not collector's value isn't impacted by the availability of cheap re-releases and more importantly it means we can judge the game without saying things to justify how much was spent on it.

Gaia Seed is influenced by a handful of notable 2D shooters like Metal Black and Darius Gaiden. The storyline is a bit difficult to understand since while it is spoken in English the speaker has a heavy Japanese accent. In short Earth has seen much better days and a project has been put together to save it. How this translates to destroying aliens and their motherships is something I probably should have paid more attention to.

Over the course of seven stages the player will deal with all manner of alien formations, larger foes, and a variety of extraneous enemies that crawl along the floor as well as perform other actions that aren't that easy to explain. There are bosses of course and aside from the rare mid-boss they stick to their place at the end of each stage.

Taking these guys out is a simple affair due to the very basic weapon system. The player can pick up weapons that either allow for a spread that covers a wide area or a narrow laser with extra power. There are sub-weapons available that fire off to the sides or straight ahead for minimal damage. They're nice to have but otherwise fairly useless. There is also a special attack that is tied to whatever the main weapon is. It does good damage and nullifies enemy bullets but is limited by a bar on the bottom of the screen which can take a long time to refill.

This standard assortment of weaponry is overshadowed by one of the more unique additions I've seen from the genre. The ship actually has a shield. This isn't one of those "one-hit-and-its-gone" types either. There is a shield meter at the bottom of the screen that drains whenever the player takes damage and refills slowly when they're not getting hit. The only other game I can think of that uses this system and came before Gaia Seed is Target Earth. The difference here though is that while the shield-recharge was essential to even surviving that game, with Gaia Seed it makes everything just a bit too easy.

While there are no extra lives to get in Gaia Seed the shield renders a good majority of the situations completely ineffective. At times the shield is almost balanced out by the enemy firing away with tons of attacks but these only crop up towards the end of the game. Aside from the handful of serious situations (which are all tied to a couple bosses) much of Gaia Seed's time is spent dozing off while the pitiful enemies explode.

There are difficulty settings but the only difference between Normal and Hard is less continues. Since the player has turned to the Hard setting it can be assumed that they mastered Normal and got bored with it. There's no incentive to playing the harder setting and the only replay value comes from seeing all of the endings. The scoring system is very mundane as it involves destroying enemy formations for bonus points as well as some other bonuses tied to performing simple actions.

Another aspect that doesn't work is the weapon balance. The spreadshot is the most effective weapon for the entirety of the game and even seems to be a better fit for taking out bosses quickly than the laser. It's already a better weapon for destroying regular enemies since it requires less maneuvering from the player so it really seems like the laser has no advantages at all.

To top it all off this game is just completely uninspired. For a developer that was inspired by some brilliant games with stunning art direction it's a real shame that this game is so dull and ugly. There are a few interesting moments but none of them have any effect on the game's design and much of the unique attributes of a level involve something as bland as falling rocks. I'd say this was the kind of shooter that would have fit in during the 16-bit generation but that would be unfair as I'd feel it necessary to compare it to excellent titles like ThunderForce IV. Shoot even Axelay has more going for it than Gaia Seed. There is absolutely nothing special or creative about this game and while now it might not be a huge waste of money it's still a huge waste of time.

Game Rating - 1 out of 5

The word that best describes this game is in-offensive. It carries with it basic competency and anything that might have actually pushed the limits of the game is glossed over due to the inclusion of the shield. Its dime-a-dozen game design might appeal to someone not interested in the more complicated 2D shooters but if that's what they're after they could just play something like Twin Cobra.

My Rating - 1 out of 5

Gaia Seed has a decent soundtrack I'll give it that much. Otherwise all it provides is a novelty experience that one can only get from playing a game that costs so much to procure a copy. It's sub-standard in every aspect, has no replay value, and even the first couple play-throughs nearly left me too bored to continue.

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