Thursday, 19 July 2012

MegaDrive Shmups #8

Gynoug a.k.a. Wings of Wor (1991)
By: Masaya / NCS Corp Genre: Shooting Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Sega MegaDrive / Genesis First Day Score: 255,400
Also Available For: Nothing
Download For: Wii Virtual Console

As I'm sure many of you already know, a splendid fellow by the name of Bryan runs an equally splendid blog over at The Gay Gamer. One of his features is called 'Second Chance' where he revisits a game from his past which is supposed to be good but which he didn't really 'get', to see if it grabs him at the second time of asking. If I were to 'borrow' this feature for use here at Red Parsley, I think the first candidate would be Gynoug. The main reason for its strong candidacy is my fondness for shmups which arguably started with my MegaDrive. I used to read near enough all of the magazines of the day, always keeping my eyes open for the next great example. One which consistently scored well was... you guessed it - Gynoug! Inevitably, I soon had a copy of my own and yet, as soon as I started playing it I was wondering what the fuss was all about. I'm determined to 'get' it though so Bryan, if I may borrow your idea... Gynoug, here is your Second Chance!

A swarm of small enemies charges Wor...
Unlike most shmups, Gynoug is neither a sci-fi game filled with advanced spacey technology nor a more grounded game featuring lots of US/Japanese military hardware. It's instead a game set in ancient times, or it would be if it took place on Earth, but it's actually set on a planet called Iccus, the 'planet of the flying men'. Hmm, I guess the women can't fly, that's bad news for them, but at least the men can get some peace and quiet now and then by taking to the skies. That is until an attack by the Mutants of Iccus, led by the terrible (and far from inconspicuously-named) Destroyer. As such, it's a game filled with all manner of mythical creatures like angels, demons, and everything in between, and it's as the first of these - an angel named Wor - that you play through the six tough, fairly long, and rather spooky horizontally-scrolling stages that comprise the ancient (looking) world of Iccus.

Lots of grumpy fish populate this underwater section...
Wor may be an angel but he's capable of packing some serious firepower in defence of his world. He starts the game with a decent enough twin forward shot but power-up icons appear frequently right from the start courtesy of the many square enemy vessels/creatures which each produce an apparently random item upon destruction. These can include a feather (speed up), blue orbs (increase shot range), red orbs (increase shot power), lettered scrolls (magic shots - more on those later), and three types of weapon - blue is a forward-firing shot which includes a very limited degree of rear and side protection, red is a forward spread shot, and yellow divides your fire between the front and rear. Each weapon has five levels of power and range which are gradually increased by collecting the relevant orbs. Losing a life costs Wor one power level of each and lives can be lost in quick succession without a lot of practise too.

Hideous red demons swarm Wor as it rains swords...
The visual style of the game suits its mythical setting well - lots of craggy mountains, rocky outcrops, important-looking cities, ancient underwater ruins, and cloudy skies fill the various backgrounds and foregrounds - but they also leave the game rather dark and gloomy for much of its duration. Aside from the power-up icons and explosions, bright colours are few and far between with the exception of the fifth stage which, it seems, is set inside a giant life-form of some sort and features bright pink backgrounds! If the dominant blacks, greys, and browns don't bother you though, you should find this a pretty atmospheric game. More impressive than the scenery are the many different sprites. Wor himself is quite small, which is good as it makes him a smaller target, and many of the enemies are small as well, but there are an increasing number of larger ones as the game progresses, too.

Not much room to manoeuvre in this boss fight...
Regardless of size, they're a mixed bunch of demonic minions and evil creatures for sure, including some animals (especially in the underwater section of the second stage) as well as ancient knights and warriors, but some are even scary skeletal beings, malevolent spirits, and monstrosities that look as though they've come straight from hell! I presume they're all supposed to be evil creatures, whether alive or dead, but some of them look more like aircraft of some sort. Whatever they are, there's a lot of them! They mostly pour onto the screen from the right as you would expect, including occasional but dense swarms, but a good few also appear from behind Wor as well so it's advisable to either use a weapon with a rear-shot or be careful! The aforementioned magic shots certainly help matters though and there are eight kinds to look out for.

Each magic is represented by a different-lettered scroll of which Wor can hold up to three at once. He can use them whenever he wants, although only one at a time, and each offers a different type of offensive or defensive upgrade including more powerful shots, smart bombs, shields, or circling drones, and can only be used a limited number of times. Most of them prove to be very useful but I kept forgetting to use them, spending ages battling through tough sections before realising I could've been firing balls of death or something similar all over the place instead. Oops! Gynoug isn't a particularly tough game though, even with my foolish oversight in mind which is strange because I was sure one of the reasons I didn't like it all those years ago was because it was too hard! Oh well, I certainly didn't find it too tough this time and it can obviously seem even easier with some practise.

Gah! This 'inside creature' stage hurts my eyes!
Wor moves a little too quickly for my liking once you've collected a few feathers so it might be an idea to limit how many you collect but not a huge amount of movement is required anyway once you've powered-up your main shot, especially if you plump for the red one as I did which almost verges on too effective! Each stage is also home to a middle and end boss which are definitely the highlight of the game, visually - most of the end bosses are huge and all are suitably evil/grotesque looking things, but few of them pose much of a challenge and can generally be defeated quite easily, even without magic shots aplenty. That's not to say Gynoug is a walkover but it is easier than I was expecting, at least until you lose a life from where it can be quite tough to continue. Overall though, not only is it a bit easier than I recall but it's also somewhat better as well.

This limbless Hollow Man creature won't last long...
Maybe I just didn't play it for long enough before but I've been quite impressed with it this time around. It has a very distinctive graphical style as you can probably see for yourself! There's been a few attempts to inject some variety too - the first stage has earthquakes that shake stuff around, the second is mostly set underwater, the fourth has a fast tunnel section, and the fifth will melt your eyes, and it's all accompanied by some decent music as well. I did find on occasion that the game didn't have my concentration fully engaged though; I even felt the odd few pangs of boredom when I was fully powered-up and destroying all the enemies as soon as they appeared on the screen, but such occurrences are quite rare overall with the majority of the game-time spent enthusiastically shooting the crap out of all the spooky creatures while simultaneously wondering what on Earth (or indeed, Iccus) they are! Not the MegaDrive's best horizontal-scroller but it's a lot better than my brief encounter all those years ago led me to believe...

RKS Score: 7/10


  1. Nice article! FYI, I've been running a series of gifs from Wings of Wor lately on my Technically it's not a Cho Aniki game, but it's a similar style, and it's made by the same people.

  2. Ha! I love it, Simon. Thanks for the shout-out :) I've always wanted to try this myself. I think it's because of the train with the human head on it -- I saw that image in many gaming mags as a kid, and it never failed to intrigue me. Anyway, sounds like it's not an amazing shooter but also not a bad one? Maybe I'll try it out via emulation soon...

  3. Hi again, Mr. Warp, nice gifs! The game certainly has a unique graphical style, huh?! :)

    You're welcome, Bryan, thanks for providing the idea for me to finally delve into this game in more detail! It sounds and looks like a top MD blaster but I couldn't help but feel a little underwhelmed. Just a little though, it's still good and surely among the MD's five best horizontal scrollers so it can't be too bad! :)

  4. Technically it's good, but I didn't enjoy its visual style. I was actually looking for a Thunder Force review & was surprised not to see one! :( Whilst I remember, my favourite TF game is TF V on the Saturn. Wonderful in all respects, from spot-on visuals, stunning use of colours as well as inspired music that also features remixes of TF3 tracks! I haven't played TF IV yet though....

  5. Hey buddy - I've covered various versions of Thunder Force 1, 2, and 3 here so if you were looking for a review of one of those, you didn't look hard enough! I haven't gotten around to 4 yet but soon! :)

    Regarding Gynoug, I thought of you while playing it actually - I knew you wouldn't like the visual style. It is rather on the dark side as I mentioned. Ooof!