I don’t like shoot-em-ups all that much. They’re fun and all, but they’re usually just too hard for scrubs like me. But there are a few that really stand out in my mind, and Gyruss for the NES is one of my all-time favorites.
Gyruss is like the bastard love child of Galaga and Tempest, set to the music of Bach. Weird.
Like Galaga, it’s a flying-through-space shooter with enemies that approach in set patterns, sometimes shooting pixel projectiles at you, and then settling into a holding pattern until they break formation and attack again. And like Tempest, your ship can fly in a complete circle, around a central point, shooting down to the middle of the screen.
However unlike either of those games, Gyruss has some interesting and varied bosses and mini-bosses defending planetary each sector you visit.
In Gyruss, you actually progress from the outer solar system, near Pluto (back before it was unplaneted), back to Earth to destroy the alien monsters threatening the homeworld. As the manual says, “Ultimate victory will occur only after you free the solar system’s life-generating sun.” Epic!
Gyruss was originally an arcade game, ported to the NES by Ultra, a shell company of good ol’ Konami. Ultra was also responsible for the NES gems Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Metal Gear and Skate or Die.
(Check out my Honest Review of Konami’s Adventures of Bayou Billy, too)
But the NES port wasn’t actually released until 1989, six years after the game’s initial arcade release. Gyruss is such a good game that people were still excited to get the home port, even after it had finished making rounds in arcades. It was also released for…oh, man. Let’s see… Atari 2600 and 5200, ColecoVision, Commodore 64, and some others.
The Atari 2600 version is…um…It’s fine, I guess. The cover looks pretty good at least.
Gyruss was actually the second game of designer Yoshiki Okamoto. [show his pic?] You know this guy? You probably should.
After Okamoto left Konami over a financial dispute, he went on to work at Capcom on some of their best-known series, including Final Fight, Street Fighter II and Resident Evil. Basically, the guy is a video-game genius who’s still active in the industry.
Anyway, there’s a good reason Gyruss has long-term appeal: It’s fun! The circular control pattern is more forgiving than traditional horizontal or vertical shooters. Don’t get me wrong, there’s still plenty of challenge later in the game. But the difficulty ramp is fair enough and even for mediocre shoot-em-uppers like me, there is plenty of playability here.
The bosses are cool and the action is frantic. It’s got a good beat and I can waltz to it! Ghetto approved!–GG
(For more rad retro games, check out my Top 5 NES Games for Under $10.)