Galerians: Ash

Gamestyle Archive intro: another review from Gareth, this time a game that doesn’t register at all in my memory bank. I suppose that was a problem with the PS2. If your game didn’t make an impact within the first few days of release is was soon lost amidst the avalanche of titles for the system. This one dates from April 2003.

Galerians_-_Ash_Coverart

Stirring to life on the PSone, Galerians was a ‘survival horror’ game with a difference – namely, your character was a complete lunatic who had been genetically modified by a master computer named Dorothy. Rion would inject himself with mind-expanding drugs that allowed him to summon up fires and repel enemies with a shock wave of energy, among other things. The downside to his dependency, of course, meant that withdrawals were particularly nasty – with those close to him getting blown away by unstable psychic energy. In this sequel, Rion has returned to save the world from the threat of the all-conquering Galerians, and to smite his inner demons.

The plot is complicated: initially you are trapped within the data banks of a computer, trying to escape the vigilant gaze of Dorothy. After an early bid for freedom, it is revealed that Dorothy has a backup memory which constantly regenerates, and you are sent back to the starting point. From here you begin again, only to encounter a Galerian sent into the computer to erase your data. Things get progressively more confusing, but it all helps to build up the unique infrastructure you inhabit. Cyberpunk is very much the motif which attends the Galerians world. Through a mixture of external apocalyptic settings (as viewed through security cameras), and the sterile interiors which resemble those of ‘Minority Report’, there exists a juxtaposition of narrative between the rational thinking of those struggling to survive and the outright insanity and morbidity of your enemies.

While the graphics reasonably convey this tone, you can’t help but feel everything lacks a finishing touch. Long periods are spent wandering in locations that become increasingly familiar. Furthermore, characters seem to lack any real identity due to poor rendering, meaning after a while everything gets very monotonous as the action and enemies are not radically different throughout the game. What separates this title from others in the genre is the way in which combat is handled.

Galerians: Ash is not about finding ammunition for guns, but about using chemicals to enhance Rion’s abilities and thus destroy enemies in far more sinister ways. Unfortunately, the combat system itself is problematic: by holding down the attack button your energy gauge charges up and once it reaches maximum, your chosen power can be unleashed. However, while doing this Rion must remain stationary. This does not lend itself to being a fast and flexible system – especially when battling multiple opponents and bosses. Coupled with the equally loose targeting (which sometimes leaves you firing your powers into thin air) and the neverending boss battles (which require long and repetitive actions to overcome), the Galerians experience really does sour at times.

Rion himself is much more manageable; while focusing on enemies may be a little tricky, at least you have a variety of moves at your disposal. Firstly, your character moves much faster than standard monsters, with only the Galerians being able to keep up with you in terms of speed. You are also equipped with a diving roll that really proves useful if a creature lunges at you unexpectedly. Unusually for a survival horror title, the in-game camera is not fixed, and instead tracks the forward path of your character. However you cannot adjust the camera manually, which means there are still numerous occasions where the action is presented at an awkward angle; for instance, running away from an enemy means you have no idea where it is so you must stop and turn around – not exactly ideal if it’s right behind you, because Rion has no time to charge up his powers and retaliate.

Overall then, Galerians: Ash is only ever going to appeal to a niche market. The game mechanics have barely changed since the original and the sequel loses a lot of the tension and genuinely disturbing aspects as well. While the story is complicated and filled with reprehensible creatures and people, it loses something in the retelling. Fans of the original may well choose to continue the story but newcomers will find little to shout about. Gamestyle’s advice is to seek out the original Galerians on PSone for a truly warped experience of twists and psychoses.

Gamestyle Score: 6/10

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