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Japanese Mega Drive box art
Gaiares (ガイアレス Gaiaresu?) is a 1990 scrolling shooter video game developed by Telenet Japan and published by Renovation for the Sega Genesis. The game was released in North America in 1990 and in Japan on December 26, 1990. Gaiares was released at a time when the shoot 'em up genre was immensely popular in the gaming industry; competition was fierce with franchised games like Thunder Force II, R-Type and Gradius, so the developers had to distinguish the game with a unique weapon system. The name is supposedly a combination of Gaia (mother Earth) and a shortened form/abbreviation of the word "rescue" (Res), which is the main objective of the battle taking place within the storyline.
Most horizontal shooters require the player's ship to come in contact with a capsule to gain weapons. Gaiares design was different, and features one of the most original and unique weapon power-up systems in the shooters genre to date. The TOZ System device can be fired out like the R-Type's Force, except each time it comes in contact with an enemy, it would inherit and learn its weapon; the player can steal from the same enemy repeatedly until the weapon's strength is maxed-out. There are 18 weapons in total to be captured, and the appearance of each weapon varies depending on the strength meter.
Many of the stage designs were heavily influenced by Macross, Gradius, and Valis, though some deviation is apparent with bosses like Death Ghetto and Mermaid. Gaiares makes extensive use of parallax, wave and warping effects across all eight stages, and the bosses are mostly screen-sized, making it one of the 16-bit platform's premiere shooters. It was one of the first 8Mb cartridge games on the Sega Genesis.
The game is notorious for its high difficulty level.
- Stage 1 is a "training stage" which starts out with a non-playable sequence of the ship launching from a space station into a blue star field; shortly after the player must fight and navigate through an asteroid field. Soon after defeating the miniboss (Three warships which circle, then interconnect) the player must either fly over or under 'the floating continent'. The boss for this level is a female robot, which resembles a blue mechanical angel.
- Stage 2 starts out with the player's ship descending through a planet's atmosphere, before levelling out above the snowy, icy surface. The miniboss is a snake that appears at the same time as the northern lights. After this is a submerged cave where the player fights a mermaid boss simply named "Mermaid".
- Stage 3 begins with another non-controllable sequence of the player's ship ascending from a planet and entering hyperspace. After defeating an enemy similar to the levels miniboss, the player emerges in a region of space with a purple nebula in the background (that resembles a hamburger), during which the player must safely navigate a series of black holes. Later, the nebula gives way to a space castle, which to enter the player must first survive the miniboss - an armoured humanoid being who first fires upon and then charges at the player. The interior of the castle is characterised by mechanical hazards such as swinging wrecking balls, stabbing harpoons, collapsing bricks and a series of falling guillotines, which the player must race through. The boss for this level is Death Ghetto, a huge boss resembling the grim reaper.
- Stage 4 initially sees the player fighting through a junk-filled debris field and then shortly after enters a large metallic structure, where the player must decide whether to proceed via the top or bottom route. Taking the upper route results in the player's ship flying upwards between two rising platforms, before exiting the metallic structure and ascending towards an upside-down city skyline. Taking the lower route produces different enemies and inverts the afore-mentioned directions. The level concludes with a battle against several flying, angel-like guardians and stationary gun emplacements on a slope as a miniboss, which is shortly followed by a strange cavern with a warping background, containing the end of level bosses. These include a worm-like enemy which traverses two of the four lines in a particularly claustrophobic X-shaped part of the cavern, and an oval-shaped contra-rotating structure, which swoops around the screen and fires large yellow discs at the player's ship.
- Stage 5 has a dualistic theme of fire and ice, and represents a significant increase in difficulty. The player's ship drifts upwards and downwards between an icy crystalline upper-surface - where ice fragments continually break off and must be dodged by the player - and down again to the surface of an orange star - which spews fireballs at the player - all while fighting enemies. The miniboss is a vertically oscillating spaceship, which the player must fight while the icy upper and fiery lower surfaces are close enough to be on the same screen and thus must endure the dangers of both in addition to the miniboss. The end of level boss is a large, heavily armed space dragon.
- Stage 6 is what appears to be a Gulfer base filled with minibosses from stages 1, 4, and 5 respectively. The stage boss resembles a giant female warrior with shield and sword.
- Stage 7 is further in the Gulfer base but with all level bosses the player have encountered so far. This stage's boss is what appears to be a giant weapons platform that has three firing ports.
- Stage 8 is the last stage with the boss using an advanced version of the TOZ system. It will replicate any normal weapon the player uses. It is possible, however, replicate the boss and receive a random weapon.The robot here is piloted by Queen Zz Badnusty herself.
In the year 3000 the Earth has become a toxic dump ravaged by careless humans, leaving an uninhabitable, polluted wasteland. The space pirates Gulfer, led by the evil Queen ZZ Badnusty, plan to harvest the pollution to create weapons of mass destruction. The United Star Cluster of Leezaluth sent a warning to the Earth about their plans, stating that if they could not stop them, they would be forced to supernova Earth's sun to do so themselves; but if they succeeded, Leezaluth would use their technology to restore the Earth to its former beauty. Dan Dare (Diaz in the Japanese original), a young pilot from Earth was chosen to be the pilot of a new fighter ship to combat the Gulfer. The ship is armed with a powerful experimental weapon from Leezaluth called the TOZ System, which would be operated by Alexis, the emissary from Leezaluth.
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MegaTech magazine said the game was "an excellent looking game, but by far the toughest horizontally scrolling shoot 'em up available on the Mega Drive".