Gaia Seed-Project Seed Trap
Gaia Seed is a 2D horizontal shooter by a little known company called Techno Soleil. First off, I'd like to get the bad points out of the way before digging deeper into this game. That is, if you can call them that. I myself don't have any problem with this whatsoever, but some people might, so here goes.
Gaia Seed: Project Seed Trap is probably not what you'd call a "real" 32 bit shooter. It's graphics wouldn't have stood out among Mega Drive or PC Engine games. If you're expecting Dodonpachi or Battle Garrega affairs, then slowly walk away now. ^__-
It's not that the game is ugly far from it, it's just that the graphics are early to mid 90s.
Now for the game itself. It's really a pity that this game is so hard to come by, as otherwise a lot more of us would have been fortunate enough to have experienced this hidden beauty.
You have access to 2 main weapons, the needle shot and laser which can both be powered up multiple times. Your secondary weapons are the Cypher Wave and Energy Blaster, which can't be powered up. You also have a shield which can take multiple hits and slowly regenerates when not taking damage, so there aren't any 1 shot deaths. And lastly there is the intense fire gauge which is power up by shooting enemies and serves as a desperation attack. The kind of attack depends upon which main weapon is equipped.
The game starts off in space, where you exit a space colony and start encountering enemies. There is space derby flying all over the place with very nice rotation effects. When you start thinking that the background looks pretty nice with several layers of parallax, all of a sudden you zoom in through the electronic web of the colony and enter a worm hole which transports you to a part of space where an intergalactic battle is about to unfold.
That's one of the beauties of this game, the moment you think: "well this is nice." The game take another turn and surprises you with these clever little thing that you will probably only start appreciating after multiple plays.
The encounter with the first boss is a classic. It's some kind of space dragon/snake which hides it's true form in an artificially constructed derby field. Once defeated you can see in the background the second fleet appearing and start attacking the defending force. Before you know it you are zooming in between the 2 parties and start helping disabling enemy warships.
You will find there are more of these moment waiting for you on your quest. Like being plunged into an ocean, which in and of itself is very simple in design and effects, Like the water effect is nothing more than a subtle wave effect like seen so many times on the Mega Drive. But then again it's the simplicity of this which makes it so beautiful and memorable. It takes you back to those classic days, without giving the game the feeling of being old.
In another instant, you pass through a serene landscape where everything seems peaceful. But when destroying a couple of enemies a square block blows up, then another, and another, revealing there is something very wrong with this picture...
Also later on you fly through these layers of boring grey clouds, when suddenly you notice what appears to be a cyclone and distant thunder. There's a storm brewing, lightning strikes. The clouds start shifting colors, and what was first a drab and uninspired setting has suddenly changed into a beautiful dance of lights and shadows.
I am normally not fond of revealing these kinds of details, as I feel there is more joy in experiencing these for yourself without knowing what's too come. But that's the difficult part. Hardly anyone knows how wonderful this game is, and would probably ignore it in search of flashier games which aren't made with the same love that went into this game. So I guess it pays off in the end.
What I also have to add is that the music is absolutely wonderful. Going from soft techno to ambient sounds to threatening music which spells doom. This is a great example of how music can enhance a shooter, instead of just adding some instantly forgettable tunes to get the blood pumping. It's all part of the experience.
The more I play this game the more I notice subtle things that make me love it even more. Like those homing lasers that look as they were taken right out of Layer Section/Galactic Attack. Or how the dust and micro derby seems to dance in the wind at the start of level 5, before the storm comes up.
This is without a doubt a classic in it's own right, and the only thing I regret, is that it has taken me so long to be able to experience this piece of art.
If you are interested in shooters in any way, and aren't afraid to go for games that were made in the early 1990s, this might be one to track down. Ones you come across it, don't let it slip through your fingers, as you don't know when you'll come across it again. I'm certainly glad I jumped at the opportunity and will be playing Gaia Seed for years to come.
Andy De Wilde