Gaiabreaker Review (Wii U eShop)

Let me start off by saying that I don’t usually do shoot ’em ups. Not because I hate the genre or anything, it’s just that I had a horrible experience with Ikaruga as a kid and am still suffering from bullet hell PTSD. But hey, now I’m a man, legally eligible to vote and suppress my nightmares with a hard drink, so it’s about time to put the past behind me and move on with my life. I think I’ll first start by–wait, what’s this? Gaiabreaker for the Wii U? And it’s a shoot ’em up, you say? What could possibly go wrong?

Well, apparently a lot of things…

Not looking to reinvent the wheel, Gaiabreaker is a scrolling sci-fi shooter with no frills, just bullets. You pilot a spiffy crimson ship through six themed levels, fending off presumably alien menaces in an effort to save the planet from almost certain destruction, and more bullets. Annnd that’s about it in terms of story/plot/theme, whatever you want to call it, but nobody really cares about that, right? It’s a shoot ’em up! It’s all about how it plays and the thrill of annihilating scum while weaving in and out of enemy fire like rush hour traffic. Unfortunately, Gaiabreaker doesn’t quite get this right either despite showing some small glimmers of promise.

Gaiabreaker Portrait

You’re holding it all wrong!

One of the chief issues with the eShop title is that your ship is incredibly limited in its capabilities. Fixed left-to-right maneuvering makes dodging fire incredibly difficult once enemies starting flooding the screen, not to mention this feels super archaic when most modern shmups allow free roaming movement. And while most shooters also boast a number of slick weapons and upgrades to boot, Gaiabreaker only features two attacks: generic rapid fire and a homing attack. Homing is actually pretty intriguing as it allows you to target multiple enemy ships and fire upon releasing the B button, cutting through smaller opponents like a knife through butter. Used on bigger game like bosses, however, you can deliberately attack specific parts, exploiting the enemy’s weakness in the process. Well, ideally that’s how it should work, but it turns out that your run-of-the-mill rapid fire works just as well if not better, banishing your sad little homing attack to the realm of ineffective game mechanics with untapped potential.

I should also mention the “uniqueness” of Gaiabreaker‘s control schemes. Playing in standard landscape mode provides the most optimal button configuration and maximum hand comfort. A for stunted rapid fire, X for endless rapid fire, B for homing and the left analog for horizontal movement–all pretty standard and functional stuff. Then there’s portrait mode. Yikes. While this should be the more appealing option as it ditches the ugly borders of its counterpart, the button layout is total rubbish.You still control your ship using the left stick and your attacks are now mapped to the D-pad. This actually wouldn’t be so bad if each direction corresponded to each respective attack, but that isn’t the case since the D-pad acts only as the limited rapid fire and homing options. This means the game expects you somehow awkwardly clutch the top of the GamePad to if you want use X’s endless rapid fire, and you most definitely will or else risk wearing out your thumb by repeatedly mashing A. Why the devs didn’t remap all the ship’s attacks to the D-pad is completely beyond me. Portrait mode could be the ideal way to play since you’re getting the most out of the vertical GamePad screen, but that button scheme basically ruins any sort of practicality that might otherwise exist.

I’d like to say Gaiabreaker gets better from here on out, but it just continues to stumble down the tall proverbial staircase. The game’s steep $15 price tag only translates into about 30 minutes worth of actual content. Sure, you’ll probably die a lot as you zip through the six skimpy levels, which obviously prolongs your stay, but cheap deaths are most certainly not the right way to pad out a game’s length. The worst part about these deaths is the fact that many of them will have nothing to do with your aptitude, but instead be a result of juggling frequent frame rate drops. While enemy attack patterns do become a little harsh at times, the biggest challenge is dodging your opposition’s fire in the face of constant lag. Talk about gross.

On a somewhat more positive note, Gaiabreaker does have some neat Miiverse integration where you can view other people’s posts as you blast through enemy fighters and even post your high scores after beating a level, but don’t go expecting anything more creative than that. The graphics and sound here are also fairly pleasant if not pedestrian; there just isn’t much to say outside of that though. The game features some pretty decent looking enemy and environment designs and the music is generally upbeat, but–trust me–both are completely forgettable albeit a tad uninspired.

Gaiabreaker Miiverse

That’s six more posts than I saw…

I think the best thing I can say about Gaiabreaker is that I actually conquered it, and this time there were no tears or bleeding. I managed to complete the title in less than an hour, though I can’t help but feel this was a hallow victory. I went into the shoot ’em up expecting to once again subject myself to a ridiculous bullet hell like Ikaruga before it, but this time I just got a bullet purgatory of blandness and yawns.

There aren’t a whole lot of Wii U shmups out there, so you may find yourself tempted to jump on this title out of desperation or necessity. If that’s the case, try to hold out until it goes on sale because there’s no way to justify Gaiabreaker at that $15 price. At around $5, I could definitely see some people enjoying it because there’s some almost solid gameplay here and even some interesting ideas afloat, but Gaiabreaker just never quite puts them together in a meaningful or satisfying way.

(Sources: 1, 2, 3)

Gaiabreaker Review (Wii U eShop)
Gameplay5
Graphics4.5
Music5.4
Replay Value5.5
Super Non-Sensical Title10
Pros
  • Vertical GamePad mode
  • Homing attack mechanic
  • Miiverse integration
Cons
  • Wonky control schemes
  • Frame-rate drops everywhere
  • Dat price tag
5Overall Score
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About The Author

Former Co-Editor

Trace Wysaske lives somewhere in Washington, and when he isn't compulsively hunting Green Stars or felling the Lagiacrus, he's writing about everything from forlorn Japanese teachers to well-mannered crows. He still needs to play Ghost Trick.