Ul­ti­mate Guide: Gy­noug

One of the Mega Drive’s ear­li­est – and most bizarre – 2D shoot­ers may not have spawned any se­quels, but it has as­sured a place in gam­ing his­tory for its strange me­nagerie of mon­sters. Retro Gamer de­scends into hell

Retro Gamer - - CONTENTS - Words by Damien Mc­fer­ran

It’s fair to say that Gy­noug – known as Wings Of Wor in North Amer­ica – came as some­thing of a shock to Mega Drive own­ers back in 1991. While there had been the odd de­vi­a­tion from the per­ceived norm, most 2D shoot­ers since the days of Taito’s Space In­vaders had placed the player in a heav­ily-armed space­ship and tasked them with bring­ing down hordes of blood­thirsty aliens (of­ten rid­ing in their own in­ter­stel­lar craft) in or­der to re­store peace to the uni­verse. Gy­noug – which was de­vel­oped by Masaya, a team which would be­come fa­mous for ti­tles such as Cy­ber­na­tor (known as As­sault Suits Valken in Ja­pan) and the popular Shu­bib­in­man/ Shock­man series – took a very dif­fer­ent ap­proach: you as­sumed the role of an an­gelic hero named Wor from the land of Ic­cus. When the tran­quil­lity of this dream­like world is shat­tered by the malev­o­lent be­ing known only as ‘The De­stroyer’ and his band of grotesque demons be­gin to run riot, Wor has no op­tion but to take to the skies and at­tempt to put a stop to the en­croach­ing evil.

Set across five sur­pris­ingly long lev­els, Gy­noug re­tains many of the genre tropes you’d ex­pect from a scrolling shooter. En­e­mies at­tack in waves, with some fir­ing pro­jec­tiles in your di­rec­tion, and bosses are present in two flavours: mid-level and end-of-level. How­ever, Gy­noug’s power-up sys­tem is pretty unique when com­pared to other games from the same pe­riod, by col­lect­ing coloured orbs you can dras­ti­cally boost your chances of deal­ing with the seem­ingly endless flood of beastly foes. Blue orbs in­crease the rate of your shots while red ones make them more pow­er­ful. The cur­rent sta­tus of your shot speed and power is de­noted by two me­ters at the top of the screen – shots max out at level five in both speed and strength, but sev­eral orbs are re­quired to level up. Dy­ing de­creases these me­ters by one level each, so all is not to­tally lost if you meet you doom.

You can also al­ter the pat­tern of your shots by col­lect­ing coloured gems, which comes in handy when you’re deal­ing with en­e­mies that at­tack from both the front and the rear. These pick-ups come in three forms: a red gem gives you a pow­er­ful for­ward-fac­ing shot, while a blue gem cre­ates a pat­tern which fires straight ahead. Mean­while, the yel­low gem fires both for­wards and back­wards, al­though the rear shot is quite weak. Then there are the spe­cial at­tacks, which come in the

form of col­lectable scrolls.

These con­sist of En­ergy Balls (pro­jec­tiles that ab­sorb en­emy bul­lets), Light­ning Bolts (ver­ti­cal light­ning at­tacks), Magic Ar­rows (hom­ing mis­siles), Ground At­tacks (land-hug­ging shots), Thun­der­bolts (the clos­est thing Gy­noug has to a tra­di­tional, screen-clear­ing smart bomb), Wild­fire (dam­age boost), El­e­men­tal (Gra­dius-style ‘op­tion’ an­gels) and Aura Shields (no prizes for guess­ing what these do). There are also Feath­ers which boost your move­ment speed, all of which means you’ve got quite a lot to take in on your very first play – and we haven’t even men­tioned the ghoul­ish en­e­mies yet.

De­signed by Satoshi Nakai, the same artist who brought the equally dis­turb­ing denizens of Cho Aniki to life on the PC En­gine, Gy­noug’s cast of mon­sters is quite un­like any­thing you’ve seen in a shooter. A night­mar­ish melt­ing pot of steam­punk, me­dieval art and HR Gigeresque body hor­ror, Gy­noug’s bosses are some of the most dis­tinc­tive pixel-based cre­ations ever to grace a videogame. Things start off rel­a­tively tamely, with stage one’s rock-like ‘Dra­goon’ mid-boss and its bizarre man/ train hy­brid ‘Lo­co­mo­tive Breath’, and even stage two’s end guardian ‘Masse­both’ – a gi­ant with a sunken ship on his head – keeps things rel­a­tively calm, but by the time you hit the fourth level things get freaky. End boss Or­r­pus is a fu­sion of flesh and metal and has a look on his face that is so tor­tured you’ll feel sorry for in­flict­ing more pain on him.

As un­nerv­ing as it is to face off against a limb­less float­ing corpse, level five’s main guardian re­ally takes the crown when it comes to Gy­noug’s most twisted cre­ation. Per­fidy is a grotesquely de­formed hu­manoid with blood run­ning from his pale lips and what can only be de­scribed as a huge phal­lus form­ing the ma­jor­ity of his body. When asked by videogame jour­nal­ist and erst­while Retro Gamer staff writer John Szczepa­niak about this sug­ges­tive de­sign – which, lest we for­get, made it into a videogame sold to young­sters – Nakai sim­ply replied, “I drew that in se­cret, and slapped it in.” How this got past Sega’s gaze is any­one’s guess. Per­haps its playtesters sim­ply couldn’t get that far in what is quite a tricky game to mas­ter. Pe­nis-shaped mon­sters aside, that Nakai was ca­pa­ble of achiev­ing this kind of de­tailed vis­ual style dur­ing the Mega Drive’s for­ma­tive years stands as a tes­ta­ment to his in­cred­i­ble tal­ent.

He’s since gone free­lance and has con­trib­uted il­lus­tra­tion work to games like Res­i­dent Evil: Code Veron­ica, World Of War­craft and Culd­cept.

We’ve fo­cused on Gy­noug’s strik­ing vi­su­als quite heav­ily here, but the game has many other pos­i­tive at­tributes that make it worth a play, even in 2018. The mu­sic – com­posed by Noriyuki Iwadare, who also cre­ated the stir­ring sound­tracks for Gley­lancer and Lan­grisser/war­song – is per­haps a lit­tle ba­sic for such an early Mega Drive re­lease, but lends the game a suit­ably epic feel. Pre­sen­ta­tion isn’t the only area in which Gy­noug ex­cels: the game­play is chal­leng­ing and this counted for a lot back in 1991, when many Mega Drive shoot­ers were in­sult­ingly easy to com­plete.

Sega picked the game up for pub­li­ca­tion in Europe in 1992, where it re­tained not only the un­usual name but also the iconic cover art­work, de­pict­ing the hero Wor hold­ing a fist aloft in de­fi­ance of The De­stroyer’s evil forces. How­ever, in North Amer­ica it was third-party pub­lisher Dreamworks, and not Sega, who had taken the plunge a year ear­lier. As we’ve es­tab­lished, it was re­named Wings Of Wor, but it also came with be­spoke art­work by the leg­endary fan­tasy artist Boris Vallejo. While the art is ar­guably less fit­ting for the tone of the game, this fact alone makes the US re­lease note­wor­thy: Peru­vian pain­ter Boris Vallejo has won nu­mer­ous awards over the years and his dis­tinc­tive style has graced ev­ery­thing from col­lectable trad­ing cards to Hol­ly­wood movie posters. What does Wings Of Wor have in com­mon with Na­tional Lam­poon’s Va­ca­tion? Boris Vallejo did cov­ers for both.

While Masaya would go on to cre­ate the dis­turbingly bril­liant Cho Aniki series – which fea­tured vaguely erotic un­der­tones and had a sim­i­lar vis­ual style – Gy­noug re­mains to this very day a glo­ri­ously strange one-off. No se­quel was ever forth­com­ing and the game has never been con­sid­ered for a HD re­mas­ter. Per­haps its cast of night­mar­ish, de­formed foes is sim­ply too un­nerv­ing to con­sider un­leash­ing them on the gam­ing pub­lic a sec­ond time.

» [Mega Drive] The sprites of Gy­noug might be small, but they’re per­fectly formed and full of de­tail.

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