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by Sotenga - September 28, 2014

Gigas / Gigas Mark II - Arcade (1986)

Gigas Title Screen

Gigas Mark II Title Screen

Sega is often considered one of the most innovative and progressive video game companies of all time, and their games have revolutionized several generations of gamekind. Their arcade tenure gave us immortal titles like OutRun, After Burner, and Shinobi which have given way to several clones imitating their style. On the flip side, Sega's developers were not above creating substantially derivative games that were quite similar to existing games of the time (though nearly every company engaged in this practice). Congo Bongo was basically isometric Donkey Kong, their Sunsoft collaboration Bay Route was Contra in all but name, and Desert Breaker was quite close to the style of Mercs. Not every game needs to be original to be good, and in some ways, they can turn out to be improvements over their unofficial parents if not at least roughly equal. Let's take Gigas as an example, which is quite a fun title that is very obviously another game which should be familiar to classic arcade fans.

In this case, Gigas is Arkanoid, the classic "destroy blocks by hitting them with balls" game released the same year. It may be a bit unfair to write off Gigas as a clone of Arkanoid, as both games are derived from the same source: Atari's Breakout. The simple formula of bouncing a ball off of a paddle to crush bricks while trying not to let the ball fall into the void below made for a high amount of imitators. Taito's Arkanoid was one of the more popular Breakout clones thanks to its unique futuristic style and the ability to grab power-ups that did all sorts of neat things. Now this brings us to Gigas, which takes nearly everything from Arkanoid. It doesn't just base its gameplay style on the original Breakout, but it goes a step further to take its visual and aural components from Arkanoid specifically. Arkanoid's penchant for bright backgrounds set in a single color and the blocks being arranged in all sorts of quirky patterns carries over to Gigas, and so does the musical silence in lieu of the ball making distinct "ping" sounds every time it strikes against a surface. There's also the factor of enemies floating around who will redirect your ball's trajectory (often for the worse) when hit, and on top of all this, you can even snag power-ups! Gigas is a Breakout clone to be sure, but its particular similarities to Arkanoid are uncanny. Considering it was released the same year, it may have been in development alongside its more famous half-sibling, so it's tough to say how much was actively taken from Arkanoid and how much was a happy coincidence.

Still, for all its alikes, Gigas also brings with it some unique touches, such as in the power-ups. Now there are quite a few power-ups that are like those from Arkanoid, like the relatively lame one that slows down the ball incrementally and the super-rare and super-useful one which instantly warps you ahead to the next stage. Then there's the horizontal expansion power-up which actually adds smaller paddles to both sides of your main paddle, but there is also a vertical expansion which places a smaller paddle above your main one. Also as in Arkanoid, you get everybody's favorite ability, which is to arm your ship with a laser and actually blast the blocks directly. Gigas actually gives you three different blasters to work with: Your basic single shot, a more effective double shot, and a powerful super shot which fires slower but can break through several bricks at once. You unfortunately have limited ammo with these guns, but you can potentially claim more by picking up red egg capsules. You can even get a bogus non-power by hitting these eggs, and while they may also contain an extra life, they will usually just morph into a taunting red skull. In Arkanoid, you only got the power capsules from regular blocks, while in Gigas, you only get them from the gem-like blocks which take multiple hits to destroy; multi-hit silver blocks in Arkanoid never gave over anything, whereas you need a bit more effort to bulk up in Gigas. To compensate, power-up drops seem more generous and you'll usually snag one from any given hard block.

So power-ups, while holding some differences, also share some similarities to Arkanoid. The same goes for enemies, which are mostly disposable targets that mess up your predicted ball trajectory. However, some stages have "boss" enemies which take multiple hits and spit fireballs that can also bend your ball out of line. These bosses usually mill around the top of the screen and are often partially obscured by indestructible walls, yet another feature borrowed from Arkanoid. So... perhaps Gigas treads a bit too close to being way too dang similar, but its transparent influences do not make it a bad game. It's simply the Sierra Mist to Arkanoid's Sprite, wherein it is similar yet different in its nuances, and it might actually be preferable to the better-known product. If there is any advantage Gigas holds, it allows you to continue on the spot with all of the bricks you've already broken staying gone. This would make Gigas easier than Arkanoid, but something about the game's design makes it seem a bit tougher to compensate. The ball seems to move faster or the paddle itself is a bit smaller, but the increase of difficulty is somewhat mitigated by less of a punishment for failure. As long as you have a working 5 key... erm, lots of quarters, you can reach the end of Gigas. For a clone, it's still quite a fun game that didn't glean as much popularity as Taito's product and never saw re-release on Sega's future consoles or compilations. It did actually have a "sequel" in Gigas Mark II, but this added absolutely no apparent enhancements to the game and merely offered different block arrangements for each level, plus a new design for your paddle which makes it appear more like an airplane. It's the sort of re-release that may be termed a "mission pack sequel," but those sorts of sequels were commonplace for eighties video games. It's still worth a play if you're up for more Gigas, and Gigas itself is worth checking if you're ever tired of Arkanoid.

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Gigas (Arcade)

Gigas (Arcade)

Gigas (Arcade)


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