Being one of the Playstation’s rarest import shooters Gaia Seed has always been tantalisingly out of reach of most people such as me. As of writing the cheapest copy on eBay is currently $159. Thanks to the advent of digital distribution it can thankfully be picked up for cheap on PSN. Monkeypaw games even brought the game to the US and EU so there’s no need to mess about setting up a Japanese account and paying a premium for Japanese PSN cards. I was looking forward to playing this game. It’s always good to play an old-school hori shooter in a similar mould to R-type or Gradius since I’m not a fan of the bullet hell genre. Unfortunately the steep price of the physical release doesn’t reflect the quality of the game.
Gaia Seed isn’t very complex. There are only two weapons to choose from, a spread weapon and a more powerful laser weapon. The two varieties of sub-weapon similarly lack excitement, both are slow moving projectiles and depending on what item you pick up you can trade power for spread. What is different about this game is the shield gauge. Gaia Seed is very lenient in comparison to other games in the genre. You can take multiple hits, only losing a life if your shield gauge is depleted. Your shield gauge will regenerate over time meaning it’s possible to come back from near death experiences. Unfortunately this makes the game very easy to complete. I’m no expert at shooter games but I managed to beat it on my first go with no continues. There’s also a super weapon that once used recharges over time in a similar manner to the shield bar.
Graphically the game seems a bit cheap. Games like Symphony of the Night, Gradius Gaiden, etc., have shown that the Playstation is no slouch in the 2D department. Gaia Seed rarely displays anything that would trouble a SNES. There’s a smattering of mode 7 type effects and the game throws around a decent amount of objects, particularly the opening stage, with no slow down. Many times the visuals take a turn for the surreal and trippy. These moments are interspersed with some rather lazy backgrounds that don’t even bother to use parallax scrolling to give them depth. This laziness extends to the level design which rarely gets hectic. There are no standout set pieces and it just feels bland overall. Boss designs are a little bit more interesting but there are a few too many that are non-descript grey ships. There are two ways to beat bosses, let a 2 minute timer run down or shoot them. Whichever way you kill them makes no difference except for the final boss. The only way to see the true ending and get to the real final boss is by running the time down. The one standout in the game is the soundtrack which is a pretty strange mix of genres but suits the strange mood and visuals of the game.
There is a story in Gaia Seed although I’m not sure what it is. It has quite a surreal attract screen which is narrated in hilariously bad ‘Engrish’ by someone that has probably never spoken a word of English in their life. It doesn’t help that he is barely audible. Both endings are narrated by the same guy and I’m still not sure what happened in either of them.
Gaia Seed is a mediocre game that is totally outclassed by many games in its genre. There are far better shooters on PSN including Gradius Gaiden, Raystorm and Einhander to name three. Its trippy visuals and music never come close to the likes of G Darius, a far superior game to Gaia Seed. I am glad that a PSN release has finally made this game available at an affordable price and I commend Monkeypaw games for releasing it in the West. More of these obscure forgotten games need to get exposure on digital download services and it’s good to see other games like Tomba get the same treatment. For the price I was glad to get to experience it even if it was ultimately disappointing.
Screenshots stolen from here: http://users.telenet.be/twin-dreams/PSone/Gaia_Seed.html