It seems every other review for this website is currently Shmup based, Rolling Gunner as you can guess from the name is no exception. With this current reinvigoration with the genre is there enough here to grab your attention or is this a case of fading into a growing crowd? Read on to find out!
Rolling Gunner is a title that was released last year on the Nintendo Switch and other consoles prior to that, the game is a spaceship focused Danmaku title, another thing to note before we really get into this is the pedigree behind the title. The game was directed and developed by the same person behind such titles as Akai Katana, Dodonpachi SaiDaiOuJou & Deathsmiles 2, all notable for being CAVE titles and generally some of the better-received titles in the genre (apart from DS2 which has a stigma to it though we haven’t tried it as of yet!).
Rolling Gunner has a story, it involves a lot of words that make no sense, evil robots, and you taking the call to arms to destroy this evil oppressive force and make stuff go boom!. I’ve never been big into the stories this genre tries to put out, very much a throwback to the 8/16 bit era where the stories were just an excuse for setting or actions and usually left in the instruction manual. I will say the few small cutscenes that appear at the beginning of the game and at the end of stages are beautifully done!.
Visually screenshots do not do Rolling Gunner justice, this is just some top-shelf visuals throughout. As mentioned the cutscenes look brilliant but the game is so fluid and vibrant when you are firing shots, zipping across the screen and dodging neon purple and blue bullets while the yellow medals just fly. There is so much going on that you’ll barely even get the chance to look at the beautifully drawn background, as cliche as the stages are it’s been a while since I’ve seen them looking this good!.
The enemies and your ship all have 3D models whereas the backgrounds are all in 2D, sometimes this can look at little off but Rolling Gunner really manages to nail the mix, causing the game to have a rather clean look about it. This is one of the better looking Danmaku shooters in recent memory on just pure visuals rather than having a strong art style.
The sound for Rolling Gunner is superb, bullets sound brilliant and the explosions are the satisfying kind that really helps you get into a Shmup like this. The soundtrack is mostly pumping techno music as you would expect, not an issue but it doesn’t really break the mold, what is here is really good though if that’s your cup of tea, it does help you stay engaged throughout the game.
So how is the gameplay in Rolling Gunner and is it worth taking note of in the giant sea of Shmups?. The gameplay is excellent and yes, yes it is.
The controls in Rolling Gunner are superb, everything is tight between the two-shot modes, fast and free or slow and intricate. The Rolling Gun is the main hook here, it’s an outside pod with a strong firepower that circles your ship, in free mode, it will constantly move the opposite way to you, in fixed mode it stays where you activate it, brilliant for tackling bosses and dodging the sea of incoming bullets.
There is a medal system here, not only does it tie heavily into the scoring system but also general gameplay. Anytime you destroy an enemy within a certain distance they will drop a medal when you get 1000 of these and activate a bomb, you’ll instead reach a more powerful state, the medals get bigger and score more, get another thousand before your meter runs down and trigger another bomb and you reach an even more powerful state with even bigger medals. Triggering these states also removes any enemy shops and replaces them with medals.
There are 3 different ships with different stats, always worth trying them all out. 6 stages to make your way through & various difficulties to help you further your Rolling Gunner experience.
Novice, Casual, Original, and Expert make up the main bulk of difficulties and even Casual will offer players a challenge for fans of the genre. In Novice and casual when you are hit the game will “auto bomb” as long as you have stock. These are great modes for learning enemy patterns and preparing yourself to earn big scores on the Original and Expert modes. There is also a Replay option where you can save your runs and see where you can change things and training to just run through and really get a grasp on things.
What I found almost instantly amazing with this title is that within the first few waves of enemies you can tell where this game lineage came from. It feels like an HD Dreamcast CAVE title, it looks and sounds like it too, everything just screams vintage Danmaku, it’s a CAVE title in everything but name and anyone from a casual fan to a hardcore Shmup player will feel it click instantly.
As with all games and genres, you get similarities, sometimes games just look or sound generic initially, Rolling Gunner didn’t have the most original sounding name to me and at first glance of screenshots, I thought it would be a middle of the road title. I am so glad I was so wrong about the title, it is easily one of my favourite Shmup titles ever, the levels are amazing, the gameplay satisfying and it just feeds my arcade hunger so well. We are seeing so many Shmups lately of a high quality and Rolling Gunner is setting the bar now for where they should aim!.
It’s worth noting a few things about this title, first, there is an update coming where you can control the gun pod with the right stick, this should change the flow of the game greatly.
Secondly, the game is getting a DLC next year, while nothing has really been mentioned about it yet I can only imagine it’ll add even more Danmaku greatness to the title.
Finally, the game is currently digital-only but Physicality Games who provided this review code for us to sample are producing a physical copy of the game. Click this link https://physicalitygames.com/ to put a $5 refundable deposit on the title, if it doesn’t reach its target by 30th June, you get your money back, if it does? You have secured a preorder for the best Shmup game in years which is going to complete any collection, be it a rare physical collection or a must-have BulletHell History.