For a shmup, Rolling Gunner has strong emphasis on story. With cutscenes spliced between stages and a long opening video, the population of Rolling Gunner was being powered by a newer, energy efficient mineral that eventually became self-aware and needs to be destroyed. With the goal of blasting everything with your ship while avoiding hundreds of on-screen bullets, the narrative has deeper lore than many action games of the current gen.
Even if the story wasn’t there, Rolling Gunner still stands out thanks to the “rolling gunner” system. In addition to shooting forward with your ship, an orb reacts to the player’s input and moves in the opposite direction. This opens the door to combat pincer attacks and vessels that attack from all angles. It takes a couple stages to fully grasp but winds up being the flavorful flare this shooter needs. The player can also switch between two types of rapid fire attacks, one being a more concentration form of fire power with the other covering a wider spread. Taking the combat and gunner system one-step further, the player can also lock the orb to shoot in one direction. Once the 2-stage learning curve is completed, players will feel like pros once they learn to use both types of fire on the fly. Collecting the remains of defeated enemies stores bomb power too. These bomb attacks also negate the incoming fire which is a huge help considering the screen can literally be filled with hundreds of cotton candy colored bullets.
All the expected features for a shmup are here including leaderboard support and replay saving. There are also three different ships to select, all playing slightly differently. Perhaps the most helpful feature is the visual hitbox on your ship. Depicted as a single colored dot, the player needs to keep track of this speck instead of focusing on the ship as a whole. With so many enemies and incoming fire, the screen can fill with bullets quickly where the only means to survive is pinpoint precision. However, even though some areas are more difficult than others, gameplay is tough but fair and surprisingly lenient. There are unlimited continues but perishing will of course affect the overall score. The biggest issue with this Nintendo Switch eShop shooter is the lack of in-game saving. Playing through the six stages might take between 20-30 minutes so it is a bummer not being able to save and return later. Granted, the user can take advantage of the Switch’s sleep mode but isn’t the same. And not that it is a knock against it, it is just rather strange than the confirm button is mapped to “Y” instead of the “A” or “B” buttons. Finally, it is worth pointing out that slow down does occur when the screen is filled with large amounts sprites. However, I can’t help but think this is by design to give the player a higher chance to survive.
Rolling Gunner isn’t exactly the next R-Type of Gradius but it is still a high quality and entertaining shooter. Fans of bullet-hells will surely appreciate the detail that went into this $19.99 download, crazy techno music and all. This is also a solid title for non-shumps fans to try thanks to the well-paced, challenging but forgiving gameplay
Not As Hard As: Ikaruga
Also Try: the Gradius Collection (PSP)
Wait For It: the next Cave shmup