Console: NES Company: Ultra Soft Release Date: February 1989 Genre: Shoot 'em up Number of Players: 1 Save Feature? No
In terms of nostalgia, Gyruss strikes a special chord with me. I have wonderful memories of playing this underrated gem during the summers of the early 90s. The game itself is great as well with unique graphics, innovative controls, and outstanding music! It's just too bad that it never really received the credit that it deserved.
Overview: Although Gyruss certainly qualifies as a shoot 'em up, it's not your typical shooter. Gyruss is not just another Gradius/Salamander clone like so many other shoot 'em ups; it is truly one-of-a-kind. As I will discuss shortly, the graphics and controls among other things are what really separate Gyruss from a conglomeration of unoriginal shoot 'em ups.
Unbeknownst to many, Gyruss was not originally released in 1989. True, the NES version came out during this time but the game itself actually had its beginnings in 1983. It was during this golden age of shoot 'em ups (it seemed like all of the old arcade games were shoot 'em ups) that Gyruss made its debut. Perhaps it was the fierce competition or the great video game crash of 1984; whatever the reason, Gyruss never seemed to really catch on as a true classic. The game certainly has its fans (me being one of them!) but it's not usually mentioned in the same sentence as Gradius or Space Invaders.
Anyway, the game itself is, like any good shooter, easy to learn and difficult to master. The concept is as simple as they come: Destroy all of the enemy ships, blast the bases to kingdom come, and eliminate all of the planet guardians. The trick, however, is to somehow accomplish all of this without getting blown to bits yourself! This gets quite tricky in the later levels where enemy fire, projectiles such as crystals and fiery suns, and enemies that take several shots to kill appear. While strategy is important, timing is definitely king in Gyruss. If your reflexes are lacking, don't even bother picking this game up.
One of the neat things about Gyruss that seems to lacking in today's games is that there is an emphasis on scoring a lot of points. There are a lot of bonuses that you can receive by destroying a line of enemies before they are able to fly to the center of the screen and I always loved the Chance stages. In addition to receiving lots of points, you can earn the valuable double shot, additional plasma blasts (extremely powerful shots), and even 1ups! By cleaning up in the Chance stages (one per planet), you could really buff up as well!
Graphics: The graphics in Gyruss are very polished and have a clean feel about them which shouldn't come as a surprise considering that Konami made this game (Keep in mind that Ultra Soft was just a subsidiary of Konami due to some of Nintendo's stupid rules.) While there are enough colors and explosions to make up for the constant black background, it never feels overdone. Actually, a little more firepower wouldn't have been a bad thing!
Also, I thought that some of the bosses looked pretty cool. I did get a bit tired of the "pod" boss (this sucker makes an appearance a whopping five times!) but I thought that the Jupiter, Mercury, and Sun bosses were cool. I always liked that tentacle boss at Jupiter for some reason; it was pretty funny as long as you didn't let the arms smash you! The final boss didn't disappoint either.
The animation was actually quite good which was a rarity in the majority of early shoot 'em ups. While there can be some image breakup and nasty slowdown when the screen is too crowded, I didn't find it to be too offensive. Enemy movements, projectiles flying at you from all directions, and even the movements of your spaceship were done nicely. For some reason, I always thought that the spacecraft that you fly in Gyruss was too cool! I would spend hours just trying to draw the thing! Funny, huh? Anyway, with the release of games like Gyruss, the days of spaceships looking more like grey pixels in a sea of black and white than...well...spaceships, seemed long gone.
Music: Wow!! I fire up a shooter from the eighties and what do I get? A wonderful rendition of Bach's Toccata Fugue in D Minor; that's what! This track from another era is simply amazing and created the perfect atmosphere. The neat thing is that the rest of the music in Gyruss is top-notch as well! The track that plays during Stage 2 is great if you ask me. While it is still upbeat, it complements the adrenaline-pumping Bach composition nicely by being a bit more on the relaxing side. Although these two tracks could hold their own just fine, you can't forget the Chance Stage music as well. This music is just so nice and full of hope; it gives you a much needed breather between planets as well. Who would expect music in a shoot 'em up to be emotional? Only Konami can make shoot 'em ups like this.
As you can see, what makes the music in Gyruss so great is not just the overall quality or nostalgic appeal but the atmosphere that it creates. This game just has a really neat feel that is sorely lacking in most shooters. I don't know; it's hard to explain. Anyway, it definitely makes the game more fun to play.
The sound effects were also quite impressive for their time. I always thought that the sound of your spacecraft firing a plasma shot was the coolest thing ever! Some of the boss explosions sound really cool as well. Even something as silly as receiving bonus points sounded great!
Play Control: The controls in Gyruss are unlike anything that you've ever seen in a shoot 'em up. It's not a typical side-scroller like Life Force yet it isn't as rigid as an oldie like Galaga. In Gyruss, you are actually able to fly in a complete circle around the screen with the center area being the target! It may sound strange but it's so easy to learn. Just roll that control pad and before long, you'll be flying in circles and blasting enemies with ease. Shoot with the B button, use your plasma bombs with the A button, and move by rolling the control pad; that's it! There are even two options you can choose from in regards to the controls. It all depends on your preference.
Challenge: You can tell that this game is from the eighties because it is tough! While the game mercifully included a secret 30-man code, just try and beat this sucker with only three lives! There are enough tricky enemies, seemingly unavoidable projectiles, and tough-as-nails bosses to make anyone sweat bullets.
This game thrives on terrific gameplay and the challenge level just makes Gyruss that much more enjoyable. There's that sense of accomplishment that, quite frankly, is lacking in the vast majority of newer games. Few games are as adrenaline-pumping as this one; it's that good! Gyruss isn't even in the same galaxy as Battletoads in terms of difficulty but if you want a good test, this game won't disappoint.
Storyline: If Gyruss has a chink in its armor, it would have to be the game's story. Like most games in its genre, the focus is more on gameplay instead of story. While this is certainly a good thing, it's doesn't help in the ratings unfortunately.
Simply put, the game takes place sometime during the 26th century. The main plot involves aliens taking over not only the Earth but the solar system in its entirety. Enemy stations reside over all nine planets with each planet being ruled by a guardian. The leader of these battalions; the master of the universe himself, maintains control from the Sun itself.
You come in as the last real hope for our good ole' solar system. The journey begins at Neptune and, if you are somehow able to blast away the enemy stations and guardians into oblivion without being wasted yourself, will conclude with a final confrontation at the Sun.
Hmmm...maybe the plot isn't as bad as I first thought. It sounds better after writing about it! Although it lacks any real originality, I just love the fact that you have to fight at all of the planets. I was a huge astronomy buff back then (still am!) so the surroundings definitely appealed to me. I also applaud Konami for getting it right with Neptune! Many people couldn't understand why Neptune was the first planet that you visit since Pluto is the ninth planet. The reason for this is that, between 1979 and 1999 A.D., Pluto was actually closer to the Sun than Neptune due to its erratic orbit. So contrary to popular opinion, the programmers actually got it right!
Funfactor: Gyruss is a classic example of what video games were meant to be. The emphasis was on challenge and gameplay and, as a result, the game never grows old. The graphics and controls were also innovative enough to separate Gyruss from your typical shoot 'em up. For adrenaline-pumping action and just a good time with friends, you can't go wrong with this choice. Even though some incredible shoot 'em ups were released for the NES, Gyruss is probably #2 in my opinion. Only Life Force is better.
Negatives: Like I said before, the story wasn't anything to write home about. It wasn't horrible or anything but it could have been better. At least it's better than Sqoon's!
While I appreciated the game's graphics, I would have liked to have seen a little more variety. I suppose that nothing could really be done in that area though do to the nature of the game.
Ratings: Graphics: 4.2 Music: 4.8 Play Control: 4.5 Challenge: 4.5 Storyline: 3.5 Funfactor: 4.5 Overall Score: 26.0 out of 30.0 Overall Rating: Silver Stud!
Back to NES NostalgiaLast Updated: May 21, 2006