Review By: Jared
should feel like this. If you've been playing games for any
length of time, you know exactly the feeling I'm talking about.
The feeling that you're playing something unique, inventive, and
just downright fun. SkyGunner, despite some technical
problems, is just plain fun. That's what really matters, right?
follows the adventures of three gunners - Femme, Ciel,
and Copain - as they attempt to put an end to the evil Ventre's
attempts to steal the Eternal Engine (which can basically run
forever). There are a couple primary differences between this
game and most shooters. First, the camera functions in a
different manner. Instead of following the player, the camera
instead pans so that it almost always shows the player and
whatever current target is locked in. So even if the player is
going in an entirely different direction, the camera will still
face the current target. It sounds like it would be extremely
confusing, but in fact it works quite well. One main reason is
because, instead of crashing into objects in the environment,
the player will merely automatically steer around it. Therefore,
there's no danger in crashing into oncoming objects that the
player was unable to see. It does take some getting used to, but
once the player becomes accustomed to it it works wonderfully.
One of the better camera systems found in any game, not just the
which gunner the player chooses determines the skill level.
While each gunner plays out the same storyline, each has a
vastly different perspective on the action with different tasks
to carry out. Femme is considered the easy level, since her
plane has a quick turn function that really helps out a new
player adjusting to the unique camera system and controls. Ciel
has air brakes and a heavy fire attack, and finally Copain can
perform the Vortex (a series of barrel rolls that provide
temporary invincibility). While each gunner has basically the
same attacks (machine gun and three secondary weapons), there
are also a couple additional secondary weapons to be discovered.
SkyGunner is a marvel. Featuring a mixture of anime
clichés and an early 20th century technology look
(for example, characters communicate via telephones), this game
looks like no other game before it. In fact, the closest
game it reminds me of is Skies of Arcadia, and it really
looks nothing like that. Characters are cute, deformed, and have
other anime features like big eyes that match their spiky hair
and finger-less hands. Huge ships and robots fill up the screen,
each with several independent (and destructible) moving parts.
Smaller ships are animated well also, although it's hard to tell
it unless you get really close. The city below is incredibly
detailed, even including some cars and other objects moving
about the city as you dogfight up above. Textures sometimes look
like they were pulled from a Dreamcast game, but that's
understandable given the sheer amount of objects that the game
engine needs to keep up with.
leads to SkyGunner's only real problem, as the framerate is
incredibly erratic. Whenever a large number of things appear
on-screen, the framerate can dip into almost-single digit
numbers. Most of the time it's merely annoying, but every once
in a while it does negatively impact gameplay. It's hard to aim
at something when you can barely move…if you've ever played a
PC game with requirements that were a bit too steep for your
machine, you know what I'm talking about. Atlus did include a
"uniform processing" option that locks the game in at
a steady 30fps, but the result is a HUGE loss in graphic
quality. On my TV scan lines were clearly visible across the
screen, resulting in a huge number of jaggies and a general
degradation of graphic quality. The game also runs slower than
it normally does when the framerate is steady. Finally it also
has to be unlocked, meaning that by the time it's available it
looks incredibly ugly after the graphic splendor the player is
used to. I'm glad Atlus went the extra mile and included it (it
wasn't in the Japanese version), but I definitely prefer the
default variable processing mode.
The sound is
great. The soundtrack has an epic feel to it, delivering more
subdued tunes during normal action and intensifying whenever a
boss or other major event is encountered. It suits the action
perfectly, and really helps to draw the player into the action.
The sound effects are good as well, with nice clanks when
bullets hit metal and individual effects for each special
weapon. Bosses and huge ships get louder as you approach
different parts of the ship. Atlus even included both the
Japanese and English voice acting, and both sound perfectly
acceptable. I'll take the language I can understand thank you
very much, even if it sounds a bit forced when compared to the
original Japanese dialogue.
soundtrack has an epic feel to it, and Atlus was kind enough
to include the Japanese voice acting.
unique camera perspective allows the action to continually
flow at a fast and furious pace.
artwork and in-game graphics are unique and gorgeous. If
you're a fan of this style (and I am), this is graphic
uniform processing mode smoothes out the framerate, but the
trade off is pretty ugly. Kudos to Atlus for giving us the
- Pick your
poison - framerate that can at times dip down to a
near-unplayable state, or the loss of so much graphic
- The look
certainly isn't for everyone.
storyline is very short, although the option to play through
it with multiple characters (each with his/her own
objectives) gives it more replay value than expected.
framerate issues and relative brevity of the storyline, SkyGunner
comes highly recommended to anyone who doesn't hate
the graphic style. The characters are lovable, the
gameplay is stellar, and you've probably never played anything
like it before.