Just about every game out there does at least one thing to try to distinguish itself. When implemented well, unique mechanics will improve the gaming experience. And at other times the gamer is just left feeling they were suckered in with a gimmick. This is the story of two Dreamcast shooters, Ikaruga and Giga Wing, each with a unique gameplay device. One of those devices defines its game; the other is nothing more than a gimmick.
In Ikaruga, the ship has two sides (light and dark), which the player can flip between at the touch of a button. Enemies fire two types of bullets. Dark bullets, which the dark side of the ship can absorb, and light bullets the light side can absorb. These bullets come in droves, sometimes filling the screen. However, there is a sensible pattern to it all, so it is like playing a shooter and a puzzle game at the same time. The "Bullet Eater" system is not just a gimmick; it is a well-implemented, interesting and fun idea that makes Ikaruga what it is.
Giga Wing has some of the same elements. Chiefly, the insane amount of bullets and a way to be impervious to the instant death they ought to bring. Thanks to the Reflect Force on your ship, hitting the A button will render you temporarily invulnerable and bounce bullets back at enemies. This takes some time to recharge, and for some annoying reason there is also a delay between when the button is pressed and when the shield actually activates that results in some cheap deaths. Also helpful, bombs clear the screen of all enemies and projectiles. Cool? Definitely. Cheap? Oh yeah. Like cheat codes, it can be a fun power trip for a while, but not for too long.
When you think about it, invulnerability just is not a very clever gameplay mechanic. Even less clever is the way the Reflect Force is implemented into the game itself. The first few levels are okay, giving you a chance to toy with the Reflect Force, but it is rarely necessary for survival. Then, out of nowhere, the final actual level and the final boss (who is a level unto himself), are literally one continuous stream of bullets with no possible means of dodging. The "strategy" is as follows: become invincible with the Reflect Force, use a bomb while that is recharging, repeat until out of bombs, die to get more bombs, repeat all. It doesn't matter where you are on the screen, how skilled you are or even how many times you die since there are infinite continues. Some have found it entertaining to try to get by with as few continues as possible or get one of the game's trademark ridiculously high scores (no joke, they can run into the billions or higher easy), but most just pick up a better game.
In the end, the Reflect Force just seems like something the developer tacked on to give this average shooter the illusion of being unique. That is not to say that Giga Wing is a bad shooter. The early levels are fun, although by no means spectacular. The scoring system is so over the top it's kind of funny. There are also four ships, each with its own pilot-who in turn has his/her own story arc, set of power ups and attack style (one has homing missiles, another a full frontal attack, etc.), providing replay value. There are also some drawbacks visually, like the fact that GW looks like an SNES game. Quite a few post-16-bit games have gotten away with looking "old-school," but they also had something GW does not-artistic touch. The low-res graphics could have been forgivable, but the lack of creativity that went into the levels and enemies are not. I can see where some people might enjoy this game, and some do. I found it mediocre.