Remember a while back I wrote a load of fangirling over God Hand? I’m gonna do it again, but with a bit more of an obscure title. So put on your best hipster glasses and click the link below if you’re remotely interested.
A lot of you probably remember Tachikoma from the GITS: Stand Alone Complex series. They were the cute, lovable killing machines armed with machine guns, grenade launchers and the ability to walk up walls. In this game you get to pilot their big brother, the Fuchikoma, from the original Ghost in the Shell manga.
The Fuchikoma has not had a lot of love in it’s lifetime. It was quite well recieved in the manga, but for whatever reason Mamoru Oshii decided they didn’t fit the movie version. I can kinda see why; The film took a very serious tone, and the Fuchikoma were the bright, bubbly comic relief of the manga.
ANYWAY. They are here in full-force in the PS1 game. With animated sequences by the same people who did the movie. Including the voice actors. Did I mention that these animated scenes are fucking beautiful? Because they are:
I saw this video when I was about 7, loading the game up after finding it in a Bargain Bin. I hadn’t seen any of Ghost in the Shell, the closest I’d ever come were kid’s cartoons with robots in. And I’m pretty sure I’d never heard techno that good. Suffice to say, my little mind was blown.
And then the gameplay! It is a delight, even to this day. After the awesome intro sequences emulating the GPS (before that was a thing) of the movie, with the characters discussing the context and approach they were taking (along with general banter), you were dropped into your mech. You could play third person (default) or first person (fun, harder, not for the nausea-prone), and switch between these at any time. I mention nausea, because a large part of being successful in Ghost in the Shell is climbing up walls and ceilings in the middle of high-speed firefights. This was amazing when I was 7, and still is to this day. Why do more games not feature this? Aside from a few Matrix spin-offs, why aren’t there more gravity-defying wallrunning gunfights in my videogames? I AM PERSONALLY GOING TO CHANGE THIS.
Just you see if I don’t.
Anyway! GITS! YES. This mechanic completely changed things up from what would have otherwise died as a standard action game. Helicopter pissing you off? Hide on the ceiling of a building entrance and spam it with missiles. Guy with a flamethrower chasing after you? Well, first off, he’s just a fucking dude, you’re a tank. Kill him. But if you really want, you can hide on the ceiling! Drone shooting you from above? Whizz up a wall and deliver it sweet machine-gun death up close.
The levels were awesome, with great variety in level type (standard kill the dudes/get to the end intersperced with highway/motorboat chases, a bomb disposal mission) and level design. Tight, dungeon-like sewers, sprawling urban areas (that the PS1 admittedly had trouble doing any great justice), industrial parks, underground factories, inside a nuclear reactor.. which leads well into the fucking wonderful boss fights. You remember that high-speed mecha-vs-mecha fight in the intro? You get to do that. Repeatedly. With different mecha of increasing power. In different terrain that radically changes your options. The nuclear reactor? It’s bristling with automated defences, and about to meltdown. There’s a quadroped mecha with lasers clinging to every wall of the sewers at once. There’s the (SPOILER) falling-off-the-side-of-a-skyscraper final bossfight. Before it was a cliche (in games, anyway).
There is no weapon unlocking, skill-trees, or such bullshit. These things are fine in other games, but honestly, I feel that the simplicity works in GITS’ favour. It throws you a massive mindfuck (initially) in the whole any-surface-is-your-friend mechanic, and so letting you play with that and it’s intuitive weapon systems (kinda like Mars Matrix: Tapping attack fires. Holding attack makes your Fuchikoma lock on to whatever targets it can see, charging up up to 8 missiles, before sending them off at their targets. There are also grenades, which are kinda like the standard scrolling shmup “fuck everything in range” bomb attack.
And the training mission! Surprisingly long, it comprised of multiple rooms of training dummies, some which could fire back, ranging from “mostly one way up shooting gallery” to “ohshit I have to zoom around the sides of a skyscraper shooting these moving things” and culminating in a boss battle with the black fuchikoma from the intro movie.
ANYWAY. Find this game by whatever means, and play it! You will not regret it.