Making a strong effort to be noticed in the early 80s, Gyruss is a fine shooter, complete with a classic soundtrack and fun blasting mechanics. Designed by Yoshiki Okamoto who would produce countless classics for Capcom later in his career (including the Street Fighter franchise), his unique design stands the test of time. Sadly, this Xbox Live Arcade edition does not properly represent the game.
This is the third Okamoto game on the Live service, (Time Pilot and Street Fighter II Hyper Fighting being the others), a testament to his talent. The concept is a space shooter, and while that’s nothing special, it handles it slightly differently than other titles of the era. You begin at Pluto, making a mad dash for Earth when you receive a distress call. Alien ships impede your trip, fighting back to ensure their attempt at conquering our home is a success.
Instead of a horizontal or vertical viewpoint, Gyruss takes a challenging point of view behind the player’s ship with enemies moving “into” the screen, and was the first arcade game to offer stereo sound. The closest comparison is Tempest three years prior. However, Gyruss allows for full 360 degree movement around the screen, with firepower moving into the center of the playfield.
Enemies enter from the sides, swirling around and firing until they complete their run and cluster together in the center and make repeated rounds back at the player until they succeed or are destroyed. Bonus stages between planets stop the enemy from firing and allow the player to pick off foes for added points.
On Xbox Live, Digital Eclipse has tweaked the game significantly. While some may not notice, the collision has been altered entirely to falsely increase the difficulty. Foes need to be hit almost dead center for the shots to register. Picking off entire swarms is nearly impossible. Without a dual-shot power up, things seem to mirror the original arcade cabinet feel, though still not perfect.
Updated graphics continue the challenge level increase, adding in some bright explosions that make it hard to see enemy bullets moving towards the player. Mildly sharper sprites and a swirling universe backdrop are not worth the added issues. Online multi-player is either a co-op or versus scoring battle and in line with all prior Konami Live Arcade retro titles that never originally included two-player support.
New fans to the game may appreciate the difficulty if the first release is unfamiliar. Those looking for a nostalgic trip will be treated harshly and quickly grow frustrated with this $5 edition. The changes make this a disappointing effort when emulation demands accuracy.
Gyruss is rated E (Everyone) by the ESRB for Mild Fantasy Violence.