LEUCISTIC WYVERN（リューシスティックワイバーン）は、奥スクロールタイプのシューティングゲームです。自キャラであるワイバーンを操作して、次々に迫り来る敵を撃墜しよう！全９ステージ。うちステージ３と６はボーナスステージとなります。Copyright 2010 MUKAGOSOFTWARE DEVELOPMENT
LEUCISTIC WYVERNリューシスティックワイバーン didn't need a demo to sell me on the game. With a look that's half Panzer Dragoon and half Space Harrier, it scored a bulls-eye on my gaming tastes to buy the game before the download was complete due to the screenshots alone. Despite a title which doesn't exactly roll off the tongue -- and that's well before getting to the translated "Ryushisutikkuwaiban" second half of the game's official title -- Leucistic Wyvern's stated Sega influences should make the game a born success on the Xbox Indie marketplace. While the game largely succeeds, there are a few hiccups along the way which may put off those interested in the game.
The first thing which grabbed me were the graphics, vividly colored and fantastically designed, ripped straight from the Fantasy Zone itself. Blue skies, checkerboard landscapes, and colorful environments take center stage in Leucistic Wyvern, feeling very much like a homage to Space Harrier. Large rocks and other obstacles zip by while the player is forced to fend off a variety of robotic enemies which fly by in formation. The enemies look sharp though I wish there were some organic looking enemies as the gray metal look does get tiring no matter how much developer Mukago Software Development looks to dress them up with highlights and colored stickers. Likewise, the bosses are rather drab themselves, a handful of configurations of gray orbs which repeat as well, the first level's Space Harrier-esque snake making a later appearance, the second boss making an encore on stage eight, and so forth. The stages get reused, too, though they look so good that I'm hardly bothered by it. Space Harrier did repeat some bosses and levels itself, after all, though the Sega classic did offer much more in terms of variety when it comes to enemy designs, bosses, and levels. Still, it's tough to complain much about some recycling of graphics in Leucistic Wyvern given how good the result looks. The only visual elements which truly sticks out are the occasional spot of poor texturing (such as the heavily dithered background during the second level) and the animation of the wyvern, whose flapping wings never match the speed of the rest of the game, making it look largely out-of-place in these worlds.
On closer review upon playing, much of the game looks out of out sync due to the complete lack of shadows. The wyvern, the enemies, and everyone's shots do not cast a single shadow upon the ground, leaving the player unsure about the relative positioning in the game world at all times. This artificially enhances the difficulty as the player is constantly forced to make judgment calls at 100 miles per hour, wondering if that bullet is low or high, closing in or flying past the wyvern. This is incredibly frustrating at first, but the nuisance is reduced somewhat thanks to the constant flow of power-ups left behind by defeated enemies. Shot power-ups increase the strength and spread of the player's fire, score bonuses increase one's score, and hearts replace an empty cell on the wyvern's life gauge. The wyvern loses one unit of health when shot but coughs up nearly a third of the bar when running into a ground-based obstacle. This presents the game with its second and far more annoying flaw -- unlike Space Harrier, the environmental threats cannot be blown up, and Leucistic Wyvern throws out far, far too many of them, so much that the player is better off just focusing on dodging them just to survive, leaving interactions with the enemies little more than an after thought. Sure, the game does make the enemies cheap at times by having them enter the playfield from behind the player, but even that poor game design element won't penalize the player nearly as much as running into a rock or some other land decoration. This is most aggravating during the bonus rounds -- yes, the bonus rounds -- which distrain the player's health via a gauntlet of tightly packed loops and horseshoes whose enclosed bonus points just aren't the risk of flying anywhere near them. While I can't see a wyvern mounting Falkor as the player does in Space Harrier's bonus stages, surely something could have been done to make these rounds worthy of the appellation "bonus round," stages meant to act as a breather and not the chief cause of death in a game.
The icing on the cake comes from Leucistic Wyvern's love of giant, heavily pixelated explosions which blanket the screen and absence of any sort of invincibility period following when the player is struck by a shot or ran into something. There are too many times in which the game obscures the screen so badly that the player has to cease shooting just to see anything, mainly during certain boss encounters as they'll plant themselves right in the wyvern's face and force players to attack them and pray that there are no shots or other unseen threats coming their way. Thankfully, Leucistic Wyvern is a short enough game with its seven levels of arcade action (bonus stages aren't counted) such that all of these complaints can be worked around with some memorization on subsequent playthroughs. The continues do pick up the slack somewhat by dropping the wyvern right where it left off during a stage, and the game does provide three screen clearing bombs along with the standard shots available which can help it cut through some of the more hectic moments. Barring any trial period restrictions, the entire game should be beatable within the eight minute cap which should be plenty enough opportunity to decide whether or not the game is too challenging and cheap to be fun.
I don't regret my blind purchase of Leucistic Wyvern thanks to the low price, but the game's flaws do keep it from being anywhere near as fun as it should have been. The graphics are mostly excellent, the music is nice albeit no match for Space Harrier's theme, and the game controls well (though it lacks options to flip the vertical steering or sensitivity). Unfortunately, poor level design and 3-D positioning leave a game more frustrating than fun. Space Harrier and other rail shooter fans may consider looking into Leucistic Wyvern -- it is rather impressive considering the budget price -- but the game will prove far too difficult and unfair for a more casual fan to tolerate the action.