Ratalaika is a publisher who specializes in indie games. What most people don’t know is that their games fuel a very peculiar and niche community: trophy collectors. Ratalaika is able to bend Sony’s “rule” or should I say “recommendation” -supposing there’s such a thing- of trophy sets being comprised mostly of bronze trophies, some silver trophies, a couple of gold ones, and a platinum trophy for big games. In fact, Ratalaika games trophy sets are mostly gold trophies and a platinum one. Their games are also some of the shortest and fastest to platinum, with some games taking a matter of minutes to do so. With a collection of games of all kinds of genres, from visual novels to puzzles, it’s certainly a nice surprise to see Ratalaika releasing an old gem such as Gynoug. Known in the USA as Wings of Wor, Gynoug is the second Sega Mega Drive classic released on modern systems by Ratalaika. The first game was Gleylancer; another shoot ’em up -or SHMUP for short-. Gynoug is the fruit of a partnership between Ratalaika and Japanese developer Masaya. Masaya is known by SHMUP and retro games afficionados for producing some of the finest shoot ’em ups of that era. One can only hope more Masaya games are ported to modern systems or even games from other old developers as well.
You are part of a race of winged muscular men -and I hope some women too- whose planet has been decimated by a virus that has transformed and mutated into a breed of some of the most bizarre monstrosities. They’re called the “Mutants of Iccus” and are led by the terrible Destroyer. Where every other warrior has failed, you must succeed in banishing this hell horde back to whatever dark abyss they have spawned from. As was mostly the norm when it comes to old SHMUPS such as Gynoug, there’s no in-game story to speak of. You just press start and get shooting.
Gynoug is a side-scroller shooter like so many from its time. The game released in 1991 for the Sega Mega Drive console -or Genesis for those in the USA-. I was surprised at how Gynoug’s gameplay still holds up so well; the controls are tight, the game’s performance is impeccable and there’s a lot to shoot at. You control the aforementioned winged guy and must dispatch all kinds of bizarre mutated creatures. They’d fit well in a horror movie, especially the bosses. At first, the player has a three-way shot that can be upgraded by getting blue and red orbs left by particular enemies. There are also other items that will provide special types of weapons that can be accumulated up to three and can be used in conjunction with your normal shot. The pacing of the game is fast and fun and is only brought somewhat down by the repetitiveness of enemy patterns. Gynoug is a very challenging game. One hit and you’re dead. With a limited number of lives and continues, you’d think this would be Ratalaika’s departure from the market of easy platinumed games. Fortunately, there are save states and even a rewind feature for those who want another 30-minute platinum trophy.
For a Mega Drive game launched in 1991, Gynoug’s visuals are very decent and hold up quite well. The pixels are well defined and good to look at. The overall atmosphere is that of a trip through an organic hell. Stages are varied in themes and graphics and only add to the overall enjoyment. A special mention must be made for the bosses: they are some of the most deliciously decadent and bizarre you can encounter in a game like this. There’s also a variety of customizable graphics filters which are a must when it comes to retro games.
The overall sound of the game uses typical Mega Drive samples that some love or hate, with fast-paced and at times more moody tunes. The soundtrack was composed by Noriyuki Iwadare, famous for the Lunar and Grandia series. The music in the game fits the overall mood well and is a pleasure to listen to while you shoot your way through the hordes of demented creatures.
Gynoug is one of the most enjoyable old SHMUPS you can encounter on the market today on any system. Its simplicity, in contrast with more technical SHMUPS, such as Cave or Treasure titles is a plus in my book. Gynoug is perfect when you just want to fire away and conquer stage after stage while appreciating its nightmarish landscapes.
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