If you made an arcade space shooter in the 1980s, you needed to stand out with the numerous clones. In 1988, developer Konami teamed up with publisher Ultra Games and released Gyruss for the Nintendo Entertainment System in North America. Gyruss was ported from arcades after a successful run. The game featured a unique perspective as ships flew toward the player in a cylinder as the player circled the screen. Gyruss was very popular in the 80s, but would the port hold up over 30 years later?
There isn’t much of a story presented in Gyruss both on-screen and in the manual. You pilot a ship that is outside the solar system traveling toward the Sun. Your goal is to reach the Sun and take out “savage Genghis Khan” according to the manual. Besides him, you’ll take down plenty of other starships and weird objects as you make your way through the solar system. I don’t care for this as I need a general plot for my video games, I wish there was some type of story or little blurb about the evil forces you are facing. In the end, after defeating Genghis Khan, your ship flies around the Sun and the text “The Universe is at Peace Now” comes onto the screen.
I’ve played many shooters while starting my retro video game blog, some were great, others were very boring or lacked exciting gameplay. Gyruss separates itself right away by the way your ship controls. The game is presented in a tube-like cylinder meaning enemies will fly in from the sides of the screen and start to get smaller as they reach the center of the screen. They will hang out there for a bit before flying up again appearing larger as they get closer. This was pretty impressive and cool to see in the shooter as I hadn’t seen it before. The programmers did a good job with the background too as the stars flashed different colors like blue or purple as they flew by your ship making it look like you battled in “hyperspace” from Star Wars.
The goal in Gyruss is to get your ship to the center of the solar system which would be the Sun! You begin by the planet Pluto (remember when it was a planet?) and start working your way to the center. You will have three stages before making the “jump” to the next planet with a bonus stage acting as a fourth stage. Stages take about a minute to complete with some of the tougher ones that have bosses taking longer. Each time you travel to a new planet you are presented with a map on the screen as your ship flies to the next. It’s cool and I’m glad they included it to make the game seem like you are going somewhere and not just flying through space.
Enemies will be different colors but there are only a few types of them. You’ll get weird rocks that shoot bullets at you and a few other space ships but in general, the enemies don’t change too much. Bosses are largely the same throughout the game. After two waves of enemies, you’ll face a circular enemy that stays in the center of the tube. The first few versions of this boss will have about four mounted guns that open up and release enemies or bullets. It will take numerous hits to kill them and you’ll work your way around the screen avoiding objects. After all mounted guns have been destroyed the level will end. The later stages will feature bosses with around eight mounted guns that launch sophisticated enemies making you watch their patterns before attacking. I didn’t have too much difficulty defeating any boss but there were two that stuck out to me. The first boss that was a challenge was a golden armored brain. Once you took down the armor, it was a purple brain that grew arms and waved them around. It was tough to navigate the screen while it chased you around.
To get to the final boss you had to avoid flaming balls of fire for about two minutes. Once you avoided all of the balls you were met with a brain in a giant glass tube. (What is it with shooters always featuring body parts? Do all evil aliens have a giant brain controlling them?) Anyway, you shoot up his mounted guns that blow strange steel bubbles and once you pick off all the guns, he turns into an eyeball that shoots lasers. It sounds very trippy but it’s predictable for a space shooter to feature all these strange enemies. This was tough to beat but after enough hits to the eye, he exploded and I beat the game. There was no true ending besides the small text that appeared that said “Peace was restored” but after that, you are warped to Pluto again and start over. I hate that! Astro Warrior for the Sega Master System did that too.
Gyruss is generous with extra lives as it felt like I was earning them once a level. You also have a large laser blast that deals massive damage to bosses. I saved it for fighting bosses and near the end of the game, I relied on it to take down multiple bosses. It was nice that they added a “superweapon” if you will but other than that your weapons didn’t change. You upgraded your single shot to a double-shot and that was it.
I never played this game until this review.
Gyruss is a unique shooter which is saying something in a decade that is famous for them. The cylinder tube perspective was fun to play but the lack of enemy diversity and simple challenge made the game easier than expected. Gyruss is a solid game overall but I wish there was a plot other than a few words of text.
Gyruss scores a 7 out of 10.
Do you remember when Gyruss first came out? What did you think of the tube perspective? What was your favorite planet to travel to or favorite boss? Were you able to beat the game or did it get the best of you? Let me know your memories and thoughts, I’d love to read the comments.
If you’d like to own a copy of Gyruss, you can purchase a used copy of it for the NES for over $12 on eBay.