Gleylancer – Review
Follow Genre: Arcade game, shoot-em-up
Developer: Masaya, NCS
Publisher: Ratalaika Games
Platform: Switch, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, PC
Tested on: Switch

Gleylancer – Review

Site Score
Good: A plethora of QoL additions to an already great game
Bad: Lacklustre soundscape
User Score
(1 votes)
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VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 10.0/10 (1 vote cast)

Fans of retro shmups certainly are being catered to these days. Whether it’s the outlandish candy-fuelled adventures of Cotton or the more conventional but solid epic space opera Darius, there is a plethora of retro releases available. Given the sheer amount of games that are available, you might be inclined to simply pass on any “new” releases in the genre, but in this case, you might be doing yourself a disservice: With their Gleylancer port, publisher Ratalaika Games is bringing something special to the table. Not only was the game previously exclusive to Japan, but this ambitious release adds a ton of extra content, including a full English translation. Of course, the question remains whether Gleylancer itself is a game still worth picking up in 2021, despite all the new bells and whistles. So how does it hold up?


Gleylancer immediately stands out from other shmups from the same era by putting an impressive emphasis on its narrative. The opening cutscene alone takes nearly four minutes, and provides ample backstory. It tells the story of Lucia, the teenage daughter of the captain of a federation of starships. When her father is kidnapped by enemy operatives, Lucia sets out to rescue him. She takes control of a prototype space fighter, which is where the game begins. We should point out that the game’s all-new English translation is exclusive to Modern Mode. Playing the game in Classic Mode defaults to Japanese, which is probably because Classic Mode is running straight from a ROM of the original.


We were impressed with the sheer amount of variety of environments that the game has throughout its 11 stages, ranging from star-filled outer space vistas to more snowy locations. The pixel art looks crisp and saturated and the character designs seen in the cutscenes look like they were ripped straight out of an anime. One minor thing that irked us was that the font in the story scenes didn’t match the pixelated look of the images and ended up looking too modern and out of place. That said, there is an impressive array of options available to tune the game’s visuals to match your personal preferences. These go beyond the simple CRT filter that is often included in retro releases. Instead, you can tweak the gamma settings, choose from multiple shadow masks and adjust the curvature of the screen. You can see any adjustments you make take effect in real-time as well. Setting up your preferred screen settings may take a while to get everything just right, but it’s a fun activity in its own right.


While Gleylancer’s soundscape isn’t impressive by modern standards, it has aged fairly well. This is a game that predates voice acting but a robotic ‘voice’ has been implemented to warn you of incoming threats, which is impressive given the technology of the time. The music sounds like what you’d expect from a three-decade-old 16-bit title and isn’t particularly memorable. The port’s audio quality is great, with everything sounding crisp, but overall, there isn’t anything that really stands out here audio-wise.


Let’s start by addressing the elephant in the room: despite its age, Gleylancer still plays brilliantly, even in its pure, unadjusted form. This classic shmup may be nearly 30 years old (and we actually would’ve expected publisher Ratalaika Games to hold onto their port of the game for a few more months so they could’ve released it as an anniversary title) but playing it feels surprisingly fresh. While the game’s core 16-bit shmup experience sticks close to the genre’s tried and true traditions, including fantastic boss fights, there are a couple of tweaks to the formula that shake things up just enough to make Gleylancer feel different. The main difference is how subships work: instead of simply being there to provide additional firepower, you can adjust their attack pattern and loadout, to provide a variety of strategic options. It’s a fun subsystem, and well worth experimenting with to find something that fits your playstyle.

Apart from finally giving retro game enthusiasts the chance to play rare and expensive titles that they couldn’t get their grubby mitts on without taking out a second mortgage, publishers of these ports usually take the opportunity to make a few adjustments to bring the games up to the standards of the modern audience. Gleylancer certainly isn’t different in this regard, though, given the sheer rarity of the original game, we would’ve happily accepted a simple official release of just the ROM. Ratalaika Games went above and beyond, however. Yes, you can play the game in its original, unaltered form, but the all-new Modern Mode, which boasts a full English translation, is the way to go. In fact, Modern Mode is the default mode and you’ll need to manually select Classic Mode if you’re a purist.

Why you’d want to do this is beyond us, however, because the QoL additions to Modern Mode are fantastic. You’re able to swap subships at will and can even control them with the right stick, neither of which you can do in Classic Mode. The big standout feature in Modern Mode is the Rewind feature, which allows you to… well, you guessed it. You’re able to simply roll back your entire playthrough -though not from save states, for which you have six quicksave slots at your disposal. Being able to rewind the game makes the game a lot less frustrating, although it does remove a lot of how challenging the game really is -although you can disable the Rewind feature if you want. Having this feature makes Gleylancer a fantastic entry-level shump for anyone that is looking to dip their toes into the genre, and if you feel like Modern Mode is too easy, then Classic Mode is a couple of button presses away.

If you want to push your own level of control over the game beyond what Modern Mode has to offer, then there’s also a separate Cheater’s Mode. This isn’t a new addition to the game, as the implemented cheats were already present in the original release. The difference is that here, you won’t need to put in a complicated series of button presses to activate them. While playing in Cheater’s Mode, you can outright skip levels or become invincible. It’s a fun but overall unnecessary addition though, and we would’ve preferred had the cheats been present in the game through the original button inputs, as an Easter Egg.

It’s probably the only real disappointment with Gleylancer: it hands everything to you on a silver platter without making you work for it. There are seemingly no secrets to discover or no unlockables. We really would’ve loved it had this port gone one step further and added some form of reward or incentive to keep playing it beyond simply improving your high score. A gallery with unlockable concept art and manuals would already be a great incentive to keep playing. Overall, it’s only a minor gripe with what is otherwise an excellent port of a fantastic game.


The retro shmup market is slowly becoming oversaturated, so we’re hoping that Gleylancer doesn’t fail to find its audience because this is a must-play for fans of the genre and newcomers alike. The sheer amount of tweaks to the experience you have at your disposal makes this a standout port, and the core game still holds up after nearly 30 years as well. Add to this that the game is available at a ridiculously low price point, and you’ve got a release that doesn’t just come highly recommended; it’s an essential addition to your library.

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Rating: 10.0/10 (1 vote cast)
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Gleylancer - Review, 10.0 out of 10 based on 1 rating

1 Comment

  1. | Cotton Fantasy – Review
    May 22, 2022, 00:01

    […] gameplay rather than on story, and when they do include a story, it’s usually a sci-fi tale à la Gleylancer or G-Darius. Of course, the cutesy fairy tale setting doesn’t really lend itself to an epic […]

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
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