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Video Game / GunValkyrie

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Life is much too long
If we are only meant to search for meaning
in this world before we die
life is much too long.
— Opening cutscene

GunValkyrie is a 3rd person Action-Adventure and Platform Game developed by Sega's late Smilebit Corporation, released on the 5th of June, 2002 for the original Xbox Console.

In the game, players take the role of two elite space agents as they battle against giant insects on a desolate planet while searching for the scientist responsible for them. Unlike many others of the genre, despite the unique and utterly inexplicable mashup of gameplay mechanics, GunValkyrie is remembered mostly for its unorthodox (if not polarizing) control scheme, steep learning curve, and a play style that encouraged players to stay airborne at all times and fire down on enemies, as opposed to walking and shooting on foot. Unfortunately, most players didn't realize this unless they watched the game's demos or figured it out themselves.

Designed initially for the Sega Dreamcast, GV was to employ a groundbreaking controller/light-gun combination control scheme, but Sega's fall from the hardware market resulted in the game being shifted to the Xbox. While the game benefited from very attractive graphics, the light-gun idea was abandoned and a new control scheme was implemented, where moving efficiently relied on clicking the control sticks in different directions, and the triggers were used to jump and fire weapons. The face buttons were only used to switch between weapons and the A button wasn't even used. The control scheme was widely criticized, but also earned praise from some who mastered it and enjoyed the challenge.

Narratively, GV relied on cutscenes and text briefings to relay the core mission aspects. Within the game itself, a number of devices were used to create an atmosphere of mystery and fear, along with dangerous enemies.

As for the story, the game takes place in a Steampunk setting, where it was discovered that certain individuals exposed to Halley's Core, derived from Halley's Comet, gained superhuman abilities. These people would be known as "Halley's Chosen". Among those was Dr. Hebble Gate, who was exposed to the comet while in his mother's womb in 1835, and was born with a superhuman mind. In 1870 he learned to harness the powers of Halley's Core and gave birth to revolutionary advancements in technology that locked the world in an era of advanced Steampunk technology and British imperialism forever. Hailed as a genius with power and influence over every industry, even political and military affairs, he also founded the GV organization, comprised of other Halley's Chosen to combat against those who might misuse its technology.

Then in 1906, a bunch of colonists disappear on the planet of Tir Na Nog, and simultaneously a bunch of gigantic, super-powered space bugs show up. The good Doctor had already been missing for four years, which resulted in widespread shock and panic throughout the world. Seeing a connection between the two incidents, two members of an elite force within GV, "Team Dolphin" are sent to investigate: Kelly O'Lenmey, born in Ballymun, Ireland, who once aided the Irish Republic in their fight for independence until their methods proved too much for her and left for GV, and Saburouta Mishima, born in Kyushu, Japan, a space Samurai of the Meiji Restoration who was unjustly sentenced to capital punishment and saved by GV. Leading them is Gate's only daughter, Meridian Poe, who is desperate to stop her father after he surgically removed her head and ran off with her body. Together they seek to track down Dr. Hebble and find out the truth behind what's going on.

Compare the then-recent Starship Troopers, which many players and critics compared the game to since it also involved shooting giant insects on a desolate planet. Also compare and contrast Nintendo's Metroid, which also features an armed and armored female protagonist shooting alien creatures in space, although with a stronger emphasis on ground exploration.

This Game Provides Examples of:

  • Action-Adventure: The aerial combat within the game is fast-paced and very hectic, requiring good reflexes. Some stages also require players to explore each stage thoroughly to destroy all the enemies, often times with a time limit.
  • A God Am I: Everyone considers Dr. Hebble to be a living god, and him succumbing to this mindset is what causes everything in the game.
  • All There in the Manual: The backstories for each of the main characters.
  • Alternate History: It's 1906 where the British Empire rules the world with Steampunk and space technology that far surpasses our own.
  • Ambiguous Situation: The link between Ivaldi, the Final Boss, and Dr. Hebble Gate. Not to mention the mutant winged babies that appear in its intro. Did Hebble turn himself into it? Is it an evolved form of the babies, and if so, wouldn't there be another?
  • Big Creepy-Crawlies: Most of your enemies are giant insects that are tough, aggressive, and can even attack in swarms.
  • "Blind Idiot" Translation: One of the promo wallpapers depicts Kelly's and Saburouta's gearskins, with the phrase, "Life is to shor..."
  • Body Horror: Your navigator and Gate's daughter, Meridian Poe. She's a talking head attached to a life support system after Dr. Hebble ran off with her body. Then there's what he turned the colonists into and whatever the final boss is.
  • BFG: Saburouta's main weapon, which is a cannon.
  • Chainmail Bikini: Kelly's full-body, skin-tight gearsuit ultimately transforms into this, becoming skimpier with each evolution, with "Kelly-2" being a cheeky leotard with thigh-high boots and garters, to "Kelly-3" being essentially a bra and panties, complete with heels.
  • Death from Above: The game's intended play style. Unlike most cases, you're the one bringing death from high above.
  • Double Jump: Possibly the Mecca of Double Jumps, GV allows (re: demands) the player to double jump in 5 directions. Dashing in any of the six directions can be turned -via double-dash- into flight in that direction. Although in the case of dashing down it activates a hover feature.
  • Earn Your Fun: The game requires dedication from players to learn the mechanics and master the controls. But many of those that did found the game to be a solid, rewarding and challenging experience.
  • Enfant Terrible: The final boss.
  • Gainax Ending: After Ivaldi is destroyed, Hebble's trail goes cold and the game simply ends without a proper conclusion to the conflict. While the game's briefings indicate that a body was found that may or may not have been Dr. Hebble, his fate is left ambiguous. On the bright side, Kelly notes that many colonists were turned back to normal.
  • Gameplay Grading: After each stage, you're graded on how fast you completed the stage, the damage taken, style points for staying airborne, and the overall grade. The better grade, the more GV-Points you get, which can be used for upgrades.
  • Gatling Good: Kelly acquires one of these at the end of the first mission, which doubles as a BFG.
  • Grappling-Hook Pistol: The game has certain objects that can be locked on and grappled to.
  • Guide Dang It!: You'll probably need to see a demo or video of the game in action to realize how to properly utilize the controls and understand how it's meant to be played.
  • Light Gun Game: Partially averted. Although the Lightgun mechanic was removed when GV transitioned to the Xbox, the original idea is probably responsible for the infamous control scheme, and the entire 3rd Person platforming-shooting-flying combat.
  • Losing Your Head: Inverted with Poe. She's nothing but a head since Hebble took off with her body.
  • Mad Scientist: Dr. Hebble Gate. Aside from turning the colonists of Tir Na Nog into insects and running off with his daughter's body, one stage has the player look for a device playing recorded rants from him (which is hidden in a boss, of course), showing he's clearly lost his mind. Then you look at his greatest creation, the final boss, Body Horror incarnate.
  • Male Gaze: Kelly, again. Her butt-shot pose on the cover is suggestive alone; her second shot in the game is that of her butt, all suited up before arriving for her mission; along with the gearsuit transformation scenes, where her suit evolves into its two stronger forms, and the camera shows off all the new "perks". Promotional art also accentuates Kelly's assets.
  • Mighty Glacier: Saburouta. He's much slower but packs a more powerful punch.
  • Mission Control: Lieutenant Meridian Poe serves at this. She explains the controls, mechanics and suit upgrades, but otherwise doesn't pop up often during gameplay.
  • Out-of-Clothes Experience: Kelly has one just as she encounters the final boss. The most you see of her is her exposed back.
  • Out of Focus: Despite Saburouta Mishima being an equally powerful character (complete with a rocket launcher and katana of all things!), it's evident the game mainly focuses on Kelly. Kelly appears in every cutscene, while he appears briefly in the first one and has only one line in the whole game. She's the only one who can partake in boss battles (at least until the game is beaten), not to mention that Saburouta has significantly less upgrades and only has one offensive weapon the entire game.
  • Platform Game: Whilst many of the mechanics of older-style platform games are not present, GV makes fervent, superlative, religious, downright marital use of mid-air direction changing. But there are bottomless pits and some of the levels are very linear. Some aren't. Some are uniquely awesome.
  • Platform Hell: Somewhat. The platforms themselves aren't so hellish. The real kidney-kick is that you aren't supposed to land on 9/10ths of them. You're supposed to string together unbroken air-maneuver combos to infinitely regenerate your fuel and fly through pretty much the entirety of most levels. But played straight with one level in particular which is a climb to the top of the stage, and you don't have the ability to fly up there yet.
  • Rise to the Challenge: Stage 13, Yggdrasil 2. Players have to reach the top of the level while avoiding falling into the rising void. Should players fall in, they'll have to face off against a previous boss before being returned to the stage.
  • RPG Elements: The game can be beaten without collecting all the Halley Cores, but it's a lot easier if you do because they increase your (invisible) stats. Also, high scores earn you GV-Points, which you can spend on part upgrades for your suit. Most of them are worthless though.
  • Samurai: Saburouta's a space samurai. He uses a cannon as his primary weapon, but he'll whip out his sword for his special attack.
  • Shoot 'Em Up: There is no point in GV where the solution/response is not a combination of frenetic dashing and shooting.
  • Steampunk: The technology used in the game, such as the weapons and gearskins are clearly influenced by this.
  • Story to Gameplay Ratio: If you skip the opening cutscenes and the text briefings, there's barely story to be had within the game itself.
  • Third-Person Seductress: Kelly O'Lenmey. All of her three gearsuits are form-fitting and particularly emphasize her butt. The game isn't shy of showing off how good she looks in it either, in the few cutscenes there are in the game, especially during the gearsuit transformation scenes. Some of the loading screens has her wearing barely anything. Also see Out-of-Clothes Experience above.
  • Timed Mission: Some stages have a time limit attached to them. Fortunately, they're mostly forgiving.
  • Transformation Sequence: Kelly, when she evolves into Kelly-2 and Kelly-3. Could also be considered Technology Porn.
  • Was Once a Man: Those giant insects you're killing were once the planet's colonists.