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M2 is one of my favorite game developers. They’re mostly known for excellent ports of arcade and classic games, including Gauntlet IV on the Genesis and the 3D Classics games for the Nintendo 3DS. They’ve ported several shoot em up games over the years and I’m a huge fan of the shmup genre. I’m not very good, but I’m a fan. One of my most sought after Sega Saturn games is Battle Garegga and the only thing stopping me from getting it is the price. It’s one of the most expensive Saturn games out there. Well now I don’t have to drop hundreds of dollars because M2 has ported Battle Garegga to Xbox One for a reasonable price. This is actually Battle Garegga Rev.2016, a newer version of the game with all kinds of fancy new features released for Xbox One in September, 2017 and PlayStation 4 in October of that same year. The original game was developed by Raizing and released as an arcade game in 1996 and for the Sega Saturn in 1998.
There is some kind of story but I had to look it up because there’s not really anything in the game that would indicate any type of plot. Apparently an organization known as the Federation approaches two brothers to help produce military vehicles or weapons or something. The two brothers comply and shortly after creating what was requested, the Federation invaded the land causing destruction. That’s all I really know. I highly doubt anybody plays this for the plot. I certainly didn’t.
There’s four modes to play through – Arcade, Super Easy, Premium, and Custom. I would recommend jumping into Arcade first since that’s the mode that lets you unlock things. You’ll fly your aircraft through seven stages shooting down enemy craft, tanks, turrets, and other baddies, while also trying to dodge the onslaught of enemy attacks. There’s an end boss at the end of each stage and the last few stages have you fighting some of the earlier bosses again, albeit with more challenging attack patterns. When you die, you lose a life, lose all of your lives and you’ll have the option to spend a credit in the Arcade mode to keep going. You should know that using a credit makes you ineligible for rankings if you’re into that kind of thing. Lose all of your credits and you’ll need to restart. The more you play through the Arcade mode, the more credits you earn. Credits act like continues and you’ll eventually unlock the ability to disable credits all together, allowing you to continue as much as you’d like. The only real difference I noticed about the Premium mode is that when you get hit, you don’t immediately blow up. Instead, you automatically unleash your special weapon. When you’re out of special weapons and get hit, then you blow up. Also, extra life items, or Extended items as they may be called, will drop somewhat frequently. The Custom mode is pretty cool because it allows you to customize the game by tweaking different options including DIP switch difficulty, enemy HP, enemy bullet density, enemy bullet speed, missed medal penalty, and things like that. You can even choose to enable Stage Edit which means you can choose the order of the stages, however, you can only change the order of three for some reason.
Battle Garegga includes eight aircraft to choose from, four of which need to be unlocked by changing a setting in the menu. I don’t know why these craft need to be hidden but they are, and they’re quite different from the standard four. The standard craft include various types of planes, but the unlockable craft include more crazy, over-the-top ships, even a dragon. How you select your craft is also important. For example, pressing specific buttons to select your craft determines that craft’s performance, while also changing its color. By performance I mean maybe the craft will move faster, it might have a slightly smaller hit judgement, or even a combination of both. Each plane has it’s own special weapon which needs to be restocked by collecting the blue bullet items. Big bullets grant you one special weapon and the little ones build up to a special weapon after collecting so many. Other than that, each ship is equipped with rapid firing machine guns that can can be upgraded by collecting shot items. You can also collect medals that increase your score and as long as you don’t miss any, the multiplier increases every time you collect one. Finally there’s the option item which grants you a little aircraft that hangs around your ship and fires along with you and you can collect up to four total. These can be super helpful since they can increase your damage output. You can arrange the options in different formations at the press of a button. They can shoot in a wide range, directly in front of you, even circle around your ship. However, there are secret formations that are significantly more helpful. In order to enable one of the secret formations, you need to miss a specific amount of other item drops and then collect an option. These formations include super wide, a homing attack, search, and shadow where the options trail your ship. There’s even a secret chain formation only available in two player, where the options kind of link between ships.
Like many arcade games, Battle Garegga is tough, specifically during the last two stages. Playing with a buddy can alleviate the difficulty a bit but there’s no doubt you’ll have to memorize enemy and boss attack patterns to survive. I wouldn’t say the game is a true bullet hell shooter but the end game will throw a ton of projectiles at you, forcing you to really pay attention if you want to survive. Battle Garegga has one very unique feature and that’s dynamic difficulty. The better you do, the harder the game gets. More bullets, crazier bullet patterns, more enemies, and stuff like that. I think this is actually really cool and gives the game a ton of replay value. From what I understand, one of features of the original game was realistic colored bullets. I don’t really like that, especially in a game this hectic. I played one or two sessions with realistic colored bullets and I found it very easy to lose track of my ship. This still becomes a problem even with bright colored bullets late in the game but it’s not as bad. Luckily, the bullet colors can be changed to one of several colors of your choosing. There’s actually a ton of customization options and bullet colors is only one of them. You can change the screen size type, wallpaper display, enable or disable scanlines, even choose from several different background music sets. If you don’t mess with any of the settings before playing you may notice the sides of the screen are filled with all kinds of stuff. Normally, in games like this, I don’t like any distractions and each of these elements can be disabled. However, they all prove useful. You may not notice them since you really shouldn’t take your eyes off the action, and they may even be distracting, but they’re helpful nonetheless. These are called M2 Gadgets and provide all kinds of information about your current session including weapon stock, boss HP, total score, ship stock, option formations, music info, and even a ranking graph which displays the variable ranking difficulty. All of the new features and customization options allow the game to still attract veterans and even appeal to newcomers.
On the visual side, Battle Garegga is a 2D shoot em up from 1996 and the visuals reflect that. But thanks to it’s pixel art style, the visuals still hold up. As I mentioned earlier, there’s going to be a lot of action on-screen and losing track of your ship can happen often, which may lead to your death. But for the most part, your ship and the enemy craft stand out from the backgrounds. The backgrounds, themselves, contain a good amount of detail. I enjoy looking at what looks like a destroyed village during the boss battle of the second stage and lightning will rip through the skies during the fifth stage. As for the audio, the sound effects could be louder. Even with the volume turned up, the sound effects just sound muted. The music, on the other hand, is actually quite great. I particularly enjoy the Degeneracy track heard during the fourth stage and the Saturn Arranged version of this song includes a jazzy sounding segment which sounds really nice. When speaking about the technical aspects, the game ran fine for the most part. The frame rate dips often when there’s a lot of projectiles on screen but that can also be helpful for dodging. Other than that, it runs fine.
I had a lot of fun with Battle Garegga and I’m kind of glad I didn’t drop hundreds of dollars on the Saturn version. As a collector, I still want it but due to my experience with other M2 titles, I have a feeling this is the superior home console version. While I may suck at the genre, I like the idea of sitting in my house while hurdling through space or across a foreign planet blasting away baddies and dodging a crazy onslaught of projectiles. I usually get myself blown up but this genre has an addictive quality to it and Battle Garegga is no exception. This game offers fast-paced and satisfying gameplay thanks to challenging stages and tough bosses. The dynamic difficulty, multiple game modes, and customizable aspects make this accessible to newcomers and veterans alike. Basically, the game can be tweaked to your skill level.
Battle Garegga is a great shmup, plain and simple. It’s fun, addictive, and offers plenty of replay value. I think this version includes even more reasons to keep coming back and you can definitely chalk it up as another fantastic M2 port. Teaming up with a buddy is fun and will alleviate some of the challenge but it’s still a game that requires memorization and practice. Remember, this was originally an arcade game and that does shine through. It’s relentless, unforgiving, and rewarding all at the same time.