Gunbird 2 was an arcade shooter, published in Japan by Psikyo. Capcom acquired the Dreamcast rights, and brought it out in Japan. While most thought that Capcom would leave the 2D shooter in Japan, it's not available in the US. Aside from the significance of having a new publisher, Gunbird 2 also sees the addition of Darkstalkers mainstay Morrigan to the roster of flyers found in the game.
There isn't any creative way to describe the action found in Gunbird 2, being that it is a superpowered addition to the sizeable canon of 16-bit shooters that once defined the video game landscape. It's now the year 2000, and while games like Radiant Silvergun and Einhander have made concessions to the dawn of 3D, Gunbird 2 stubbornly adheres to its old-school principals and little else.
Viewed in a top-down perspective (although an arcade option lets you put your television on its side, while the game runs vertically, to allow for true full-screen shooting action), you select one of six characters to put through the paces, at a variety of difficulty settings, in a "seen and done it before" set of predetermined levels. Your opponents send wave after wave of Galaga-esque kamikaze pilots hurtling your way and scattering shots, which depending on the difficulty setting, range from doable to screen-filling chaos. While many enemies come from the top of the screen, there are also many turret-style batteries that fire from below. However, there is no concession made of depth, and the same shots you fire at airborne enemies will dispatch those found below just the same.
The storyline is conveyed differently for each character through between-level cutscenes that are no more than 2D, hand-drawn still shots featuring text. There are a good number of levels to conquer, but whether you'll want to endure them is another matter. Despite the character-specific special moves, which are little more than a screen-clearing bomb with different visual effects, each character plays exactly the same. Shoot enemies and grab the power-ups, which result in a wider spray of gunshot and little else. The action is as repetitive as it can get, and while there's little slowdown, the level of invention here is at an all-time low. The characters, despite the inclusion of Morrigan, aren't nearly as sexy as those found in the first Gunbird (as drawn by the Groove-On-Fight artist). In typical fashion, two players may engage in screen-filling pyrotechnics, and the action rarely slows. The game can get very stressful under such circumstances, though, as it is often impossible to tell where the shots are coming from - especially at harder levels of difficulty.
Graphically, the game is a rich display of lush 2D graphics that exploit the Dreamcast's considerable color palette. There isn't any of the typical dithering you'd likely see in a 16- or 32-bit game of this nature, and the animation level of some of the bosses is also impressive enough to simulate the impression of being in 3D. Beyond that, Gunbird 2 doesn't even attempt to initiate the levels of mild invention found in Capcom's other shooter, the flawed-but-interesting Giga Wing. The sound effects are what you'd expect from a game like this, and the music is typical Capcom fare.
Rewarding you somewhat is a sizeable library of character drawings and designs that are unlocked the more you play the game. How many shooter fans will have the patience to reap the rewards on offer remains to be seen.
If you have money to burn, and you can pick up games like this on a whim, then Gunbird 2 isn't bad enough that we recommend you not buy it, but if you have to choose your selections carefully, this is barely worth a rental. If a good 16-bit shooter is what you're looking for, you could do a lot better elsewhere.