I wasn’t a Sega kid, so most of my gaming blindspots sit in that region. So when it comes to Sega games that never left Japan? No idea, yo. So until this new release came across my desk, I had never heard of Advanced Busterhawk Gley Lancer. But research tells me it’s one of the most sought after Japan-only Mega Drive games, which means a notoriously high price tag.

Gley Lancer Review

Now, curious parties, non-collectors, retro and shmup fans, everyone can give Gley Lancer a whirl for a reasonable price. And while the usual retro game re-release suspects aren’t involved with this release, Gley Lancer may be one of the best examples of official emulation, like, ever made.

Before I even started the game, as I do with retro games in general, I took a look at the options. At first it was the usual stuff. You can choose between a scaled up 4:3 resolution or a “pixel perfect” mode, and add borders around the screen. There’s a rewind button too! But then I saw the CRT shader menu and my brain exploded.

If you’ve seen my writing around, you know I’m a huge proponent of accuracy in retro gameplay in Current Year. It isn't easy, but playing retro games on a CRT screen is one of the ideal ways to play old games. But if you can’t find a CRT for a decent price or can’t justify one taking up space in your crib, shaders are a decent backup option. But those usually only show up as on/off switches in official releases. For more complexity you usually have to turn to unofficial methods, such as RetroArch.

Related: Interview: CRT Pixels' Jordan Starkweather Tells Us Why Retro Games Need Retro Screens

But Gley Lancer changes the game. Popping into this game’s CRT menu gives you the following list of adjustable options:

  • Mask Type
  • Mask Intensity
  • Scanline Intensity
  • Sharpness
  • Curvature
  • Trini-curve
  • Corner Round
  • CRT Gamma

Holy shit, am I right? You can blow Gley Lancer up on your 4K TV with your PS5 or Xbox and have a massive, fuzzy and glowing CRT screen in the middle of your OLED setup or whatever. It’s absolutely wild to see this level of historical reproduction and density of options. If you had a specific kind of CRT way back when, you could probably tweak this thing until it matches the way you remember playing classic games.

There’s also a videogame in here aside from the visual options. At first, Gley Lancer seems like another sidescrolling shmup of its era. But Gley Lancer has a lot going on for it in terms of production values. There are sections of anime OVA-style cutscenes (which look amazing under the shaders), lots of visual trickery and some truly bizarre boss encounters.

You can also pick between a straight conversion of the Mega Drive/Genesis original, unmodified and untranslated, or a more modernized version with English text and gameplay modifications. The modifications include updates to the controls that make playing Gley Lancer more accessible. There’s an even further option that basically sits as an easy mode for people who like classic games but don’t have the manual skill for them. There’s something for everyone, but the modified controls make for a more intuitive game. That’s because the main gimmick of Gley Lancer is a couple of drones your ship gets with upgrades, with different positioning and firing patterns you can choose from. The modern version lets you toggle all the options mid-game. 

Gley Lancer’s original developer, Masaya, was acquired by a company called Extreme many years ago. Masaya’s most known series were Langrisser, and the infamous Cho Aniki. Gley Lancer was one game in that history, and I never would have expected to see such a niche game get this kind of treatment, and without the likes of M2 or Hamster behind it. Whatever circumstances brought this on are truly remarkable, and I hope this approach to official emulation spreads beyond this single release.


 

Pros:

  • Absurdly dope CRT shader controls
  • Well-tuned alternate/”modern” game mode

Cons:

  • It’s weird the translation wasn’t applied to the original version

Score: 9/10

A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review