Subtlety is not a word that often comes to mind while playing shooters, especially not this one. Mostly just the f-word, as people who fancy themselves polite put it, and many other words that can be defined as the exact opposite of subtle. The gameplay changes are almost imperceptible at first, especially when dying every five seconds, but in time it becomes clear that Giga Wing 2is a far more refined game than its predecessor. Still far from perfect and no major changes were made, but credit is due to Takumi for cleaning up nearly every aspect of the game.
The only areas to receive major overhauls are the graphics and music. The rock/techno soundtrack of the original is completely gone, replaced by an orchestral score. The original's score had a way of working into the player's head because it so perfectly complimented the intensity of the gameplay. That effect is somewhat lost when the tempo of the music fails to match that of the action onscreen. The tradeoff is that the appeal of orchestra is almost universal. Few can deny that the graphics are not only drastically different, but better. Most everything is now fully rendered in 3D, bringing a welcome impression of depth to the carnage. The battle truly feels like it is taking place high up in the sky rather than about 20 feet off the ground. In retrospect, it is amazing how few other vertical shooters give the impression of soaring with the clouds, as that certainly feels right where such a game would belong. The combination of distance, neutral coloring and less rigidly defined setting make the backdrops feel like just that-backdrops. The concentration is squarely on the action, which this game has a lot of.
Overall, Giga Wing 2 is pretty much the same as Giga Wing; which is to say that it is a manic shooter with occasionally more bullets than background, screen clearing bombs and the Reflect Force. For the uninitiated, that last item is a temporary, rechargeable shield that both makes the player invulnerable and reflects projectiles back at enemies. It is those little changes take the series to the next level; none of which are welcomer than the fact that it is now actually possible to avoid death without constantly resorting to bombs and the Reflect Force. The asinine "let's just see how many bullets we can fit onto the screen" approach to level design has been replaced with a more patterned, reasonable setup. Still manic, and unfortunate lapses back into overkill are prevalent, but more often than not it is possible to weave through projectiles unharmed. It is just still really, really hard to do. The Reflect Force system, aside from being needed slightly less often, has also been expanded. It may now be used in two ways; the straight up reflection of the original (Reflect Barrier) and a new lock-on system (Reflect Laser). Fun to toy around with, but doesn't really make a huge difference.
Not among the shooting elite yet (although some really like this franchise), but Giga Wing 2 is at least a big improvement over its predecessor. Reigning in the all-out massacre style of play while still retaining one of the most intense shooter experiences around was all Takumi really needed to do, and they didn't stop there.
Author's note: This game also features a four player mode which I was unfortunately unable to test out by the time of this publication. Sure sounds interesting, as not too many shooters feature that many players at once. Something else to consider.