Gynoug is a unique blend of art, music, puzzle-solving and exploration. It takes place in an ever expanding world where the sky meets the sea. Gynoug combines these elements into one creative experience that’s sure to keep you entranced for hours on end

You have to like how publishers and current developers are experimenting with finding titles with a history and memories linked to them. When I think about the Mega Drive (or Sega Genesis, if you’re a jerk), I remember having a lot of fun with a lot of well-known games like Sonic 3, Phantasy Star IV, Kid Chameleon, and even older games like Altered Beast. I liked playing alone and with my closest buddy, so it’s no surprise that co-op games, platformers, and one of the most unjustly underappreciated RPG series ever come to mind.

What I don’t imagine is a Christian mythical story about mutants assaulting the planet and a single avenging angel killing several waves of evil with God bullet waves while working his way through steampunk mansions to shoot a boat in the face. That’s really bad, since what I just stated sounds like Aronofsky doing a fat rail and then tossing a stream of consciousness at an arcade machine.

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The lofty stance of a game designer who has just proposed absolute lunacy.

Gynoug’s failure to create a greater sensation upon release is most likely due to its unpronounceable name (Jin-augh, from what I can discern), as well as its ridiculous idea, as I noted before. Gynoug made no effort to put together anything larger than a basic Heaven vs. Hell scenario with absolute lunacy sprinkled in, at a period when games occasionally had famous and deep backstory that was placed into the game manual owing to software restrictions. The Heavens are now meant to be a tumult of angels and fallen angels slugging it out, according to those acquainted with the Book of Revelations (and if you’ve read Clifford the Big Red Dog, you practically are).

“Let’s take this heavenly fighting and bring it everywhere else,” Masaya Games determined, so now I’m an angel called Wor on earth, in the sea, presumably in the primordial slime, and then back to Heaven. We don’t have Satan, but we do have a big fetus named The Destroyer, but that’s beside the point. Gynoug isn’t here to appease you with “narrative,” it’s here to blast the hell out of residents of Hell, and that’s exactly what it does best.

Gynoug is a horizontal bullet hell shooter that may quickly switch from regular waves of lunacy to full-on danmaku, based on the difficulty level and Wor’s current position. As you go, you’ll find general powerups that help you enhance your bullet count and spread, as well as certain score multipliers. You may sometimes pick up an additional life, which are portrayed as little statues of Wor himself and are concealed in very difficult-to-reach locations that generally require risking clipping the terrain and dying as a result.

There are also a variety of Magic Shots, each with a finite number of bullets and no means to completely recharge them. You may, however, pick them up and keep up to three in reserve, and if you pick up three of the same, you’ll have a large amount of ammunition for the shot. So obtain a lot of M scrolls for a lot of Magic Arrow, a lot of L scrolls for lightning, E scrolls for energy ball, and so on. The finest, and my personal favorite, was T for Thunderbolt, in which you are joined by a second small angel that delivers twisted justice from on high and kills whatever is in the center of the screen.

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This damned train isn’t blasting a thousand shots down my neck right now.

What Gynoug aims to bring to the screen may not have a lot of ground-breaking concepts, but what they accomplish is rather stunning. Given that this game is years after the original versions of Gradius and R-Type, it’s fantastic that the makers picked a presentation and concept that’s more comparable to Actraiser. The avatar of God against hordes of monsters is always entertaining, and the creatures here have a wide range of forms and concepts. There are conventional ships and blobs of evil, but there are also oddities like flying coffins, huge skull worms, enraged white blood cells, and clouds that scream rivers of murder anger, which are my particular favorites.

There wasn’t a single level that didn’t reveal a new horror to see, and the sheer quantity of sprites and concepts created for this game blew me away. Sure, the Mega Drive was a significant improvement over the Master System, but even the SNES exhibited some laziness when it came to games that required a large number of foes to be thrown at you. Earth Defense Force is a fantastic game, however the enemies are quite predictable and a little boring. Gynoug, however, is not one of them.

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The cloud is enraged and refuses to die. Awesome.

Gynoug’s original soundtrack has been preserved, and lovers of earlier chiptune-influenced tunes will find much to like here. While there isn’t a lot of instruments in the game, the sound separation is amazing. There’s something about Wor’s solitary approach that makes the echo of his fanfare so wonderful. As you go through weird levels, the soundtrack shifts from triumphal marching music to ominous organ songs and alien moods, so the game is far from quiet or unpleasant.

It’s a fantastic complement to the overall atmosphere of your voyage while you’re in the game, but the sound effects are all rather basic, so you can easily enjoy it without it. Muted gunshot thuds, the scraping “crash” sound that pervaded every shmup in the 1990s, and some distorted explosions designed to reflect the chaos on screen. In other words, it’s a video game soundtrack that exists to serve a goal rather than to be the focus of attention.

Gynoug is a sidescroller that doesn’t have a lot of unique ideas for level layouts, but it makes an effort to make everything memorable. Some stages may pan up and down to indicate climb or descent, forcing you to remain focused on the game and avoid any blind corners that may emerge. It was thrilling, though a little irritating, to reach the point when the scroll speed is suddenly three times faster and it’s as much about avoiding as it is about firing. At least twice, the game began waving and shimmering as if it were entering a flashback, and this was…well, to be honest, disconcerting, and it happened in the first level.

This isn’t too horrible at the moment since the opponent waves are still quite simple, but when it occurs again much later, it’s when you start to be assaulted from behind, which is a major disappointment. I’m surprised I hadn’t heard more about this game until Ratalaika spearheaded a modern-day re-release: the difficulty can be brutal.

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Follow the bouncing bullets all the way to Hell’s mouth.

To be honest, Gynoug’s architecture, along with the limits of the technology at the time, makes this a considerably more challenging experience than it seems, but it’s still feasible. Even on the hardest difficulty setting, the controls vs. bullet hitboxes are the most challenging component. Masaya Games done a fantastic job of limiting the actual collision area to visible pixels, which is a gripe I have with certain older shmups where you get killed but don’t know why.

Because of the Mega Drive’s innate motions, Wor may get jittery even while making little adjustments to his location, resulting in you dashing face-first into missiles, flames, and everything else when you’d much rather be alive. It’s a fantastic game of trial and error, and completing it in the original release manner may take a very long time. I’m not very good at video games (in fact, I’m not very good at games in general), so I appreciate the additions that Nautlander has made to the experience.

While Gynoug’s latest version lacks a plethora of filters and aspect ratios (just one fine-tuned CRT filter), the background cheats and time management allow for a far more enjoyable ride. If you just want to go ahead, do what I did after a while and switch on infinite magic and invincibility, then sit back and enjoy the ride. Basically, you can force yourself inside The Destroyer’s mouth and pull the trigger from there. You may toggle on weapon continuation (don’t have your weapon reset on death) or limitless lives for the cheater who still thinks themselves a player (keep dying and keep trying).

In addition, regardless of the complexity or amount of customization you use, the rewind option is a useful tool. Even the toughest player will come into a cheapshot moment when you squint and wish you could back up a few seconds to avoid the bullet and continue your winning run. Manipulate time in your advantage, go ahead and do it. Who’s going to put a stop to you, the video game cops? They don’t have any authority in this area! This is a misdemeanor at best, and we have the top lawyer in the state on our side. You’re impenetrable, child!

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You’ve made it when the murderous pirate ship hands you the fire bird!

Gynoug is a fun and exhilarating ride through an underappreciated classic that will keep you on your toes if you want it to, but will let you off the hook if you’d rather IDDQD your way to the top. The visuals are great, the premise is unique, and there is a good amount of variation in terms of weaponry, stages, and adversaries in this game. While I don’t believe anything here will unseat a current favorite, it is nonetheless entertaining, which is more than I can say for others. It’s not Ikaruga, but at $7, it’s a decent game that’s well worth your time.

Gynoug has a tremendous amount of detail for such an ancient game, despite being muddy.

Shoot the evil guys. More evil guys to shoot. Make sure you don’t be shot by the evil guys.

The music is completely functional, and you can simply skip it in favor of your favorite Coheed and Cambria record.

A nice day may be had with a well-presented traditional shmup with a few cheat changes.

Final Score: 7.0

Gynoug is currently available on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox One S/X, and Nintendo Switch.

On the Nintendo Switch, a review was conducted.

The publisher sent a copy of Gynoug.

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