Gley Lancer heads up Ratalaika's shmup smorgasbord
Even more classic console shooters hitting Switch
Ratalaika are carving out a bit of a niche for themselves in retro gaming these days. Between the likes of indie titles such as the Foxyland duology, they're also responsible for the recent and rather good Turrican Flashback, which seems to have heralded a bit of a shuffle into the whole "putting out old games in a wrapper" school of re-releases. Not that I mind. Because it means we've got three rather good shmups on the Switch now that otherwise may not have been released. Shall we take a look at them? Nah, leave it. Let's just not bother, eh? Pfft, of course we're 'avin a look at 'em! What are you like, you daft sod?
First up, released t'other week, is Gley Lancer - a 1992 Mega Drive shooter that I'd always believed to be a bit banal, but people have been very excited about it. Tangent: Is it meant to be "Grey" Lancer? Is it a bit offensive of me to assume that? I would have though they'd have changed it to Grey Lancer, if it was meant to be Grey Lancer. Anyway, the game, yes, it's pretty good. It's solid shooting and by solid I mean rock bastard nails hard to the point that I found it difficult to get past even the first few waves. Yes, I'm crap at shmups but this one seemed aggressive in a rather pronounced way.
Plenty of options are available, in your choice of ship speed and the formation of your options. Sorry, I don't know if they're actually called "options", I'm thinking of Gradius. Again. I'd say the most interesting thing about Gley Lancer is the story; it presents a surprisingly in-depth anime-style storyline with beautiful cutscenes, here translated for the first time in an official release. You're also able to utilise a more contemporary control scheme wherein you aim your options with the right analogue stick rather than D-pad positioning as in the original.
At the price this is an accomplished and enjoyable shooter, though somewhat derivative in its level design - speed sections straight out of Gradius, a mothership stage out of R-Type... it's good stuff but it is familiar.
As well as Gley Lancer, Ratalaika have put out a couple of Cottons, following the recent Cotton Reboot and upcoming new game Cotton Rock N' Roll. Here, though, we've got the traditional Super Famicom classic Cotton 100% and Sega Mega Drive, erm, other game, Panorama Cotton. Now, that's sounding quite harsh on Panorama, but to be honest I didn't massively rate my time with it.
Unlike the others in the series, Panorama Cotton is an into-the-screen sort of Space Harrier-y thing, with all the difficulty and confusion that comes with that. It's better than Space Harrier (sorry, Space Harrier fans), but it's still an incredibly taxing time. It's remarkable visually, with how much it throws around via the 16-bit, but it's in service of a game with a very low framerate that sadly doesn't feel particularly good. The added save states make the proceedings less arduous than they would be on hardware but I found this one very difficult to revisit.
Cotton 100% on the other hand is a delight. A bit of a triumph. Now, there are plenty of good horizontal shmups on SNES (Parodius! R-Type 3!! Area 88!!!) but this stands among them proudly. Much closer to the likes of Cotton Reboot and the lag-tastic (but being patched) Saturn Tribute titles, this game absolutely sings with brilliant pastel-ish graphics and surprisingly excellent music. It's paced perfectly too; challenging but never feeling unfair or unfun. It's actually one of the easier shmups I've played, but that isn't saying too much! There's plenty of variety to be found, too, and everything's just so colourful and cute that it's impossible to dislike.
So, Cotton's a mixed bag, but it's awesome to have so much of the series on Switch. More retro games, please! We here at Retronauts enjoy them somewhat.