Reviewed in 2010 by Tibe

IS THERE A PILOT IN THE AIRPLANE . . ?

by Tibe

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Here is one of the first shoot them up ever made for the Neo Geo, and indeed, simply one of the first games released with the system. Ghost Pilots puts you in control of a Zero seaplane coming straight from World War II... It makes you think of the 1941 series? 42,43,44,45,46,47? uh... but I digress. This is normal. Declined with a vertical scrolling, this SNK-made shooter, unknown to younger and latest Neo Geo players, really deserves to be discovered. One or two simultaneously, you go to war against an incredibly huge army of planes, helicopters, tanks and other unidentified devices. By destroying red enemy planes and some other special fighters during your missions, you'll be able to pick up power-up for your machine gun, additional bombs and bonus. The task will be tough, so I'm warning you: prepare yourself!

The careful SNK style can be easily identified on these aerial views.
The careful SNK style can be easily identified on these aerial views.

Graphically, the game is remarkable considering its release year. Far from matching with the big names - Blazing Star, Pulstar, Last Resort, Viewpoint - the Ghost Pilots' style is still quite successful. The landscapes are varied and sometimes you fly over natural landscapes at low altitude, sometimes your missions will take you higher in the skies, even above the clouds. The backgrounds are nicely designed, the colors well chosen, in order to create "realistic" views. Aircraft and enemy tanks are benefiting a more sober design, but very appropriate to the sober and simple style. Animation is in tune too, offering a nice fluidity for such an old game! No slowdown s will ever disturb your progress at any time, and that's impressive. Explosions and enemy crashes are also noticeable, very well made, including boats sinking superbly. Soundtrack is common, both for the musics and in sound effects: it's just classic! Overall then, the game features a good realization.

These flying fortresses remind of WWII most incredible machines...
These flying fortresses remind of WWII most incredible machines...

So, what about the gameplay then? As we are accustomed with SNK, Ghost Pilots is considerably difficult. It only can be, conceptually! Let me explain: the planes controlled by players  are relatively large on the screen, even compared to a majority of enemy aircrafts. In addition, those vessels move fairly slowly, which does not help. A bulky fighter, moving slowly, this is already very disadvantageous. To spice up things a little more, enemy fire is relatively quick, let's say most of the time faster than your plane's moves. And worse, the shots are sometimes particularly difficult to discern when flying over certain backgrounds ... Hard you said? Yes, quite unfair.... Especially in the beginning, one wonders at first why is this game so cruel...? Because! The Neo Geo is not for casuals. Rest assured, after a little time to adapt (about fifty lives) we learn quickly to survive and how to lead and anticipate enemy fire.

Despite the difficulty, the 1 credit challenge is pretty taking in GP.
Despite the difficulty, the 1 credit challenge is pretty taking in GP.

At the beginning of each mission, you choose what type of bomb you will use, in addition to your machine gun. Weaponry is rather limited, since the game offers only the basic solfate, which may power-up over five levels. Once acquired, these power improvements, assisted by your accuracy, will greatly help doing the job. Suddenly, the game is quite addictive and you end up surprised playing so good... Rewarding, right? Okay, one last caveat. Getting hit by enemy fire causes the immediate destruction of your plane. And all the same, the power-up and bombs collected get back to the standard level... what is the shit. Ghost Pilots is an asshole game. Yet it may be masochism, but it's still fun to play... provided you have cat reflexes. Nevermind what people say, this game is classy. The icing on the cake, is that it's quite long for an arcade shooting game. There are lots of stages, clearing the soft is hard as hell, bosses are fat at will and difficult to beat... A treat. Word of advice before departure, for owners of universe bios: disable infinite credits, because they kill the life of the game. Be a great player, grant you a ten credits amount, and prepare to face a great shoot them up challenge : Ghost Pilots, from SNK.


GRAPHICS

84%

Landscapes are nice, enemy Bosses fat at will. Without pushing the Neo Geo, it's visually flawless.
ANIMATION 79%
Planes are animated with fluidity, and no slowdowns at all come to alter the game. Anyway, GP is way too slow, with an action that lacks nervosity and rythm.
SOUND 70%
Average, effects simply fit the action and music are not too surprising.
REPLAY VALUE 82%
GP is a long game, and it will inflict you some pain (of course if you don't use infinite credits...) !
GAMEPLAY 67%
Plane is not very handy and lacks speed, making the game so difficult. Everything else is basic, but it's exactly what we expect from old-school shmups.

NEOGEOKULT

RATE

73%
Offering a good realization, Ghost Pilots is a hard challenge which could stop some players, probably due to its 'old-school' style.

VALUE FOR MONEY

Ghost Pilots can be found easily for a price not above 50 euros in general. A good ratio for old-school Shoot them Up lovers, regarding this decent value.

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