Ratalaika Games strikes shmup gold again with their upcoming port of the challenging 1991 Sega Genesis classic, Gynoug. Anybody with an Xbox, PlayStation, or Switch can enjoy it soon when it releases this Friday, November 12th, at just $6.99 USD.
Developed by Masaya, whom you may remember from last week’s review of their superb 1992 Japan-only Mega Drive release Gleylancer, it’s clear that they know how to make good horizontal shooters. Unlike the aforementioned Gleylancer, though, Gynoug did see a Stateside release as Wings of Wor. That doesn’t make this port any less special, of course.
There’s really no story to talk about. You’re a guy with wings who flies around and shoots monsters, mini-bosses, and screen-filling stage bosses while collecting power-ups and magic spells. Then you beat the game. So yeah, no story. This is an arcade shmup, so who cares, right? Hopefully not you!
The game features six thematically different stages, from Castlevania-like castles (complete with appropriately gothic music) to soaring high above the clouds.
One of the later stages even appears like you’re flying inside of something that’s… alive? It’s full of biological monstrosities, weaving in and out of nerve endings in the foreground and cancerous-looking tumors along the walls, and the backdrop constantly moves in a wave-like pattern. It’s neat and gross in equal measure. This particular stage does drag on for a while and felt twice as long as any of the others, but I still enjoyed it.
There are various things to collect amidst the projectiles and stage hazards, namely colored orbs and feathers that increase your rate of fire, damage output, and movement speed. Each has its own respective meter at the top of the screen (see below) and dying reduces each rank by 1.
One-hit kill rules apply here, so expect to die quite a bit. Unlike Gleylancer, though, dying doesn’t send you back anywhere and mercifully spawns you right where you left off.
Helping Gynoug stand out a bit more from its peers is its magic system. If you look to the upper-right side of the screen you’ll see three rectangles arranged in a table. As you grab sheets of paper with specific letters on them, you’ll automatically equip the last three up there. Some of them change your basic shooting pattern, like spread shots, bullets that fire behind your character, and a wide blast of (what I think are) bubbles. Many also have powerful push-to-use spells, with the number of casts being represented by the number to the left.
There are 8 spells in all, ranging from offensive attacks like homing blasts and lightning bolts to the more defensive abilities like surrounding yourself with angel companions or being invulnerable for brief periods of time.
Once you run out of casts, you’ll automatically equip the next spell on your table, but you can also dump the one you’re currently using with the press of a button. This is handy when you arrive at any one of Gynoug’s challenging boss battles and have one of the weaker magic options equipped.
If you’re looking at the screenshots I took on my Xbox, clearly, Gynoug is still nice to look at. Most of the stages are highly detailed, like the mechanical base and ship graveyard, but the stars of the show are the monster designs. Each stage has its own unique monsters, a mini-boss, and a gigantic stage boss.
The castle stage, for example, is riddled with living sculptures, floating coffins, gargoyles, and ghostly suits of armor. My absolute favorite boss in the game is a hulking torso that looks like Resident Evil’s Tyrant, who attacks by literally shooting red blood cells from its gaping wounds. It’s rad.
This makes each stage truly feel like you’re advancing toward something more sinister, rather than rapid-firing down the same 3 or 4 fodder enemies. The soundtrack is also pretty damn good and is, again, thematically unique within each stage. The “living” stage I mentioned earlier has this awesome prog rock-sounding track that perfectly fits its motion-sickness-inducing backdrop.
Now you know that Gynoug is still very fun to play, as are many arcade shmups from its era. So what’s new in this specific port?
For starters, you can choose between widescreen, fullscreen, and “pixel perfect” displays, pick from a small handful of wallpapers, and kind of go crazy with a laundry list of scanline toggles. There’s also a rewind feature, which seems commonplace in modern ports of retro games — thank you, by the way.
If you’re afraid of enduring the typical shmup difficulty, there’s a “cheats” menu that lets you turn on some helpful things like retaining weapons upon death, infinite lives, infinite magic, and the all-powerful god mode.
None of these will disable achievements, which is nice if you care about that sort of thing (I do). However, on the achievement front, I still haven’t been able to get the last one I need to unl
Speaking of save states, Gynoug has six separate slots, which is 5 more than Konami’s half-assed Castlevania Anniversary Collection (*shakes fist*). In today’s busy world it’s nice to be able to save in the middle of a good run and come back later to try and finish it off. It’s also nice to have multiple save slots when you’re not the only person using your household’s console.
Overall, I was a fan of Wings of Wor back on the Sega Genesis in 1991 and I’m thrilled to see a modern port under the Gynoug name at such a reasonable price. It’s short enough to be highly replayable, the 16-bit graphics are timeless, the challenge ahead is accessible thanks to its cheat toggles, and the soundtrack kicks ass.
Between this and Gleylancer, here’s hoping Ratalaika Games has plans to bring even more retro shmup good to our preferred platforms!
A digital Xbox code was provided by the game’s publisher Ratalaika Games for the purpose of this review. It was played entirely on the Xbox Series X. Gynoug will also be available digitally on PlayStation platforms and the Nintendo Switch for $6.99 USD this Friday, November 12th.