Ghost in the Shell is a third-person shooter that deserves to be a longer game. The game utilizes mechanics that are as addicting as the art style of the popular anime series.
If you are unaware of the anime series and manga Ghost in the Shell, you owe it to yourself to spend a few hours to watch the 1995 film. The game features cut-scenes animated by Masamune Shirow, the author and illustrator of the original magna series. The cut-scenes in the game are movie quality in terms of animation, but the video quality is lacking, a typical issue with compressed video on the Playstation. Even if you are unfamiliar with the original series, you will not be lost in the story as it is simple and fits the game well.
The game may resemble another series you may be familiar with, Jumping Flash. This is because Ghost in the Shell and Jumping Flash were both developed by Exact, a Japanese development studio which was later consolidated into Sony Computer Entertainment Inc. in 2000. You can find similar menus and displays in both games. Jumping Flash and Ghost in the Shell both utilize very new and fun gameplay mechanics. While jumping Flash lets you jump incredibly high in the game, and builds on the vertical aspect of levels, Ghost in the Shell allows you to walk up walls like a spider, expanding levels to all surfaces. More on this later.
When you first pop in the game, you are presented with a 2 minute FMV of a Fuchikoma, an insect like robotic tank from the series, tearing up the interior of a dining hall while attempting to destroy another tank-like robot. The fast-paced animation really gets you amped for the game.
After the video, you will see the main menu with 5 options, Mission Start, Training Start, Options, Memory Card, and Ranking Score. Here is a brief description of each:
Mission Start: Starts the 12 level main campaign.
Training Start: Starts a timed 6 level training course.
Options: Settings for Key config, Sound, Screen, Movie Playback, Mission config, and Movie replays.
Memory Card: Load and Save options.
Ranking Score: High Scores for the main mission and training missions.
The meat of the game lies within the 12 level main campaign. Each level brings new challenges and difficulty depending on the scenario. Some of the levels let you explore a predefined and somewhat small level with no time limit. These levels have you destroying certain targets or traversing the level to an end boss battle. There are also timed levels where you need to destroy certain targets or enemies within a given time or face immediate death. These are probably the most frustrating and difficult levels. The last type of level you will encounter is a ‘chase’ or almost rail shooter type, where the Fuchikoma moves along a path through the level while you try to shoot down enemies on the way. While you move, you are able to slow down and speed up with the directional buttons. You can also use the L and R buttons to move left and right along the path.
This game uses some amazing mechanics that make it stand out as a truly unique and innovative game to this day. When you’re first dropped into the game, you will notice that the Fuchikoma sticks to walls when you jump on them. This mechanic is further expanded on with the ability to strafe left and right with either L1, L2, R1, or R2 buttons. Holding the L and R buttons together will allow you to slide along the level quickly with a smaller turning radius. When you are sliding like this you cannot climb walls when you approach them. To climb up a wall you must release both buttons to walk normally. The Fuchikoma will then stick to the wall like a spider. Once on a wall you can strafe and shoot like you were on the ground. When you want to return to the ground, simply jump and the Fuchikoma will release from the wall and let gravity take hold.
You do not take fall damage in this game, although you can fall out of bounds and die immediately. The game also allows you to control your jump mid-flight. When airborne you can move left and right with the L and R buttons as well as holding both down to move faster in any direction.
You are equipped with three types of projectiles to destroy enemies. The first is a standard machine gun that fires when you press the Square button. The machine gun has a slight auto-aim, so as long as the enemy is in the general direction of the Fuchikoma, you will hit it.
Holing in the Square button ramps up a meter on the bottom of the screen that will lock on to enemies within range. When the meter is filling, you will hear a mechanic sound ramp up, notifying you your lock-on missiles are charged. Up to six missiles will fire with the charge when you release Square. If you wait too long to fire, the meter will quickly deplete, and you will have to charge it again to fire the missiles. It is also important to note that if you are hit by an enemy while this meter is charging, it will cancel it.
The last weapon to use is the bomb. By pressing the Circle button, you can fire a powerful bomb that automatically blows up a short distance in front of the Fuchikoma. You are given 1 bomb at the beginning of each stage and can find more throughout the levels. You can hold a maximum of 3 bombs and you reset to 1 at the beginning of each level.
The Fuchikoma’s health meter is located in the bottom-right corner of the screen around a radar that shows nearby enemies and power ups. The only power-ups in the game are bombs and health packs. The radar will also show you important objectives for the mission. At certain times in the game, the radar will disappear and show a 3-D arrow that shows you the direction you should be going to procede with the mission.
The mechanics of the Fuchikoma make this game incredibly fun to play. Once you get the hang of using the L and R buttons to strafe and use that in conjunction with the fast slide by holding both down, you can traverse the levels quickly without getting hit. You will find yourself dodging missiles and strafing circles around enemies to destroy them.
I noticed that after completing all 12 missions, which had some difficult areas, I was able to control the Fuchikoma much more efficiently. The simple controls are difficult to master, which creates addictive gameplay.
There are issues with short-draw distances, which is common for this time in gaming. These did hinder gameplay somewhat as there were some open areas where it was surprising to see a tank pop up in front of you and immediately open fire.
Some of the levels also feel cramped, with little space to move. These require some precise movement. If you use the strafe to climb the walls, you can easily get disoriented and turned around while taking fire. This will leave you in a panic to gather your bearing and get to safety which can be difficult to do. All of this can be avoided with careful movement.
All in all, I cannot complain with this title. As a matter of fact, it is one of my favorite Playstation titles. The gameplay forces you to move fast and strategically and switches up the gameplay from speed in the timed missions to survival in the ‘chases’ and also lets you have your own fun in the open levels.
If you can get a hold of this game for a decent price, it is definitely worth adding to your collection. Not only is it fun to play, but it is an interesting piece of software from Exact, who were brilliant enough to create such a balanced game.
If you have any experience with this game, or have anything to add to my review, please leave a comment in the section below.