I don't fault Sega for thinking Gunblade NY & L.A. Machineguns Arcade Hits Pack was a good fit on the Nintendo Wii. After all, we're talking about light gun games that would work well on a system known for its motion control. I don't question why this $30 compilation exists, but rather why it took so long for Sega to make this happen. Not that it would have been a must-own game four years ago, but at least it wouldn't feel like just another cash-grab for a company that is unsure what to do with the Wii.
Sega is the kind of company that likes to release and re-release their biggest hits, hence why you see so many versions of Virtua Fighter and Sonic the Hedgehog. Although this Wii compilation has the word "hits" right in the title, there's a reason why these two arcade shooters are only now making their way to home consoles. Gunblade NY and L.A. Machineguns are not two of Sega's most popular games. If you've seen them, it's probably when you realized you didn't want to pay $2 for a single turn at an oversized arcade machine. But here they are, wrapped up in one neat little package for a reduced price.
Let's start with Gunblade NY: Special Air Assault Force. Originally released in 1996, this expensive arcade cabinet featured two heavy duty machineguns and all kinds of shrapnel flying at your face. Like the title suggests, you are a helicopter gunner saving New York City from terrorist strikes and other disasters.
Right from the start you have two different difficulties -- easy and hard -- each with their own set of levels and boss battles. The first set of levels has you helping the U.N. building, which seems to be under attack from explosive gunmen. Once you have everything under control, you're off to Manhattan to keep the island safe from Transformer-like creatures and terrorists with jetpacks. There's no story to speak of, just what you see as you fly through the air shooting everything in sight.
The gameplay is nothing more than an on-rails shooter, where all you have to do is move the cursor around the screen and shoot baddies. You have absolutely no control over where the helicopter goes, you just have to be ready to shoot the missiles out of the air and take out the guys on the ground. There's no depth here, you don't even need to take your finger off the trigger. After fighting my way through all eight levels, I looked at the clock and was shocked that it took me less than twenty minutes.
The good news is that L.A. Machineguns: Rage of the Machines is a significantly better game. For one thing, the graphics aren't PlayStation 1 quality and there's a bit more to each level. Just like Gunblade NY, you are asked to play through five on-rails levels where you shoot everything that gets in your way and save the city from certain doom. Oddly enough, even though the game is called "L.A. Machineguns," only one of the five levels takes place in Los Angeles. When you're not in Southern California, you're saving Alcatraz, going underground in Yosemite and shooting up Las Vegas. I wonder if Sega knows that Yosemite and Alcatraz aren't next to Los Angeles.But I digress. What sets L.A. Machineguns apart from Gunblade NY is how it adds small elements that manage to add a little depth. For those going for high scores, this 1999 release has an interesting combo system. What's more, this time around you can't just shoot blindly at the screen. L.A. Machineguns is good at putting innocent civilians in harm's way, so you'll need to be extra careful to avoid them.
None of this changes the fact that you're being asked to hold the trigger down for 30 minutes and just shoot, shoot, shoot. The levels are fun to play through once and this certainly looks better than Gunblade NY, but there's nothing here worth writing home about. Toss in the unlimited continues and you have a couple of games you can beat in less than an hour. And once you've defeated your last flying terrorist, there's almost no reason to get in the chopper again.
Along with the cheesy graphics and repetitive gameplay, you also have to put up with terrible voice acting and sound effects. The one cool thing this game does is pipe some of the spoken dialog through the Wii remote, which at least keeps it separate from the horrible noise going on through my surround sound speakers. It's enough to give me a headache.
These two games would have been perfectly acceptable in a larger Virtua Cop package, but on their own they don't make the cut. The gameplay is little more than holding down a button and I found myself getting bored half way through the first game. I like that I can beat both games in under an hour, but I'm sure I would have a different opinion if I had paid $30 for the package. Sega has a lot of great arcade games worth buying in compilation form ... Gunblade NY & L.A. Machineguns Arcade Hits Pack is not one of them.