|Publisher(s)||Sony, Working Designs|
Elemental Gearbolt, full title Genseikyokō Seireikidōdan Elemental Gearbolt (幻世虚構 精霊機導弾 ELEMENTAL GEARBOLT), is a light gun shooter for the Sony PlayStation. Originally developed by Alfa System, the game was published by Sony Computer Entertainment and released in Japan in 1997. Working Designs licensed the game for the North American market and released it in 1998.
Elemental Gearbolt was critically well received due to its science fantasy setting, which is uncommon in light gun shooters, along with its incorporation of RPG elements, and particularly the artistry of its presentation. It features an orchestral soundtrack, and animated cutscenes directed by the anime director Rintaro.
The events of the game are framed through the character of Tagami (a secret character in Shikigami no Shiro, another title developed by Alfa System), a mysterious figure who travels to the world in which the game is set many centuries after the main events conclude in order to investigate what caused the world's destruction. Tagami relives the tragedy of the Elemental Gearbolt incident.
Before the Elemental Gearbolt incident, the world was home to two races, Audo and Sulunkan. The Sulunkan, descendants of a fallen magical empire, were oppressed by the Audo. There are secret resistance groups, but none strong enough to challenge the powerful Audo ruling class. Destiny is set in motion when Nell and Seana, the Sugiku (half breed) daughters of a resistance leader, meet Bel Cain, the Sugiku son of the selfish King Jabugal. Nell and Bel Cain promise to meet again, but other circumstances interfere.
Years later, Bel Cain becomes crown prince, full of ambition to end the bitter class struggle. Armed with advanced technology, he starts a campaign of conquest. Meanwhile, Nell and Seana join the Sulunkan resistance, only to be killed. Their bodies are taken back to the capital city as trophies. At the same time, one of Bel Cain's technologies, a Neural Network Computer comprising human brains, malfunctions and initiates a self-destruct sequence. It links powerful weapons known as Holy Guns to Nell and Seana's corpses, re-animating them as Elementals. They have only one purpose - seek and destroy the Network. Bel Cain stands in the Elementals' path, unaware of the actions of the Network; never anticipating his impending reunion and inevitable battle with Nell and Seana.
Nell and Seana, now reanimated as elemental war machines, battle their way through the cathedral in the Opening Act: "Grieving Angel's Descent". They encounter the first of Bel Cain's several powerful armaments, "Wardom", an executioner-styled armament, and destroy it, after which they start heading towards the forest.
Prince Bel Cain is musing on his memories of Nell and Seana, and the promise he made to reunite with them, breaking his amulet in two and giving Nell one hald as a reminder. Prince Bel Cain is interrupted as his older brother and subordinate Ialu tells him that they will reach Owato soon, and reports to him about the missing supply troops from the garrison regarding the fight at the cathedral, and that the cause is unknown. The Prince orders replacements to be sent immediately, as well as an advisory to the military police.
In Act Two: "Enter The Dragon", Nell and Seana battle their way through the forest and make their way towards the sea, where they encounter the second of Bel Cain's powerful armaments, "Midguld", a sea-dragon armamment. Once Midguld is destroyed, the elementals make their way towards the Goate mountains.
King Jabugal rushes to Prince Bel Cain and Ialu and demands that they attack the rebels of the Republic and take the women as spoils, but Bel Cain dismisses him, telling Ialu he is disgusted by the fact they are blood-related to the king. Bel Cain then briefly visits the Network, revealed to be made of mass amounts of brain-matter of the casualties of war. Bel Cain believes that the people who gave their lives to the Network will find a way to carry out the plans that Bel Cain has carefully laid out, but Bel Cain grows impatient.
In Act Three: "The Crypt Of Despair", Nell and Seana battle their way through an underground cavern, where they encounter the third of Bel Cain's special armaments, "Neethog", a large spider-like bioweapon. Once Neethog is destroyed, Nell and Seana progress towards the Plains of Regret.
Prince Bel Cain visits his deceased mother, shown to be preserved in a transparent casket mounted as a trophy by King Jabugal. Bel Cain remembers the vow he made, that he would avenge his mother by killing and overthrowing her murderer, King Jabugal. Bel Cain's brother Ialu reports to him that the excavation unit at the Goate Mountains have been destroyed, the cause being one or two armored individuals mounted with incredible weapons headed towards Owato. The King wishes to speak with Bel Cain about the disturbing turn of events. Bel Cain decides to himself that whether the threat is good or evil, he must act decisively.
In Act Four: "Plains Of Regret", Nell and Seana fly across the plains, destroying larger armaments than before. Here, they encounter the largest of Bel Cain's powerful armaments, a powerful war-fortress flying across the sky: "Audmra". After what would be considered one of the most intense fights in the game, Nell shoots Audmra's core and is destroyed, crashing to the ground. The two elementals then continue their way towards Owato.
Aware of the threat headed towards their location, King Jabugal tries to escape after plundering Owato of its riches. However, Bel Cain shoots the king, killing him in front of on-looking nobles. Bel Cain criticizes the people for blindly following a king who exploited his people, then tells them to cast aside the memory of King Jabugal and bow down before "one with a vision of our future". The nobles cooperate without hesitation, as Bel Cain decides it is time to show their true strength, as he has a plan.
In Act Five: "The Palace Ruins", Nell and Seana fly through the sky towards the outer rim of Owato and make their way towards the central cathedral, taking out the many armaments that stand in their way. Inside the cathedral, they encounter another powerful armament, "Idon", an agile creature resembling a lizard. after destroying Idon, the two elementals make their way to the inner depths of the palace.
Ialu urges the prince to retreat to safety, but Bel Cain decides to stay, remembering an old memory of a younger Nell telling him that his strength of character will serve him well. Bel Cain tells Ialu he will not run like a coward, but his brother tells him that he does not have the right to choose to die, and has the royal guards escort him to safety by force.
In the Final Act: "Purposed to Perish", Nell and Seana battles their way through the inner depths of the palace to make their way to the Network. As they get closer to the end, They encounter one of the Palace's powerful warriors, "Maldel" an agile knight. Once Maldel is defeated, The elementals travel down to the hidden depths of the palace, and encounter the monster: "Reftraseal" A creature resembling a large dragon. Once Reftraseal is destroyed, an entity jumps out of Reftraseal. The entity is nameless and greatly resembles Nell's elemental appearance, and is revealed to be the final boss. After a prolonged battle, the entity is destroyed. The entity was revealed to be piloted by Prince Bel Cain himself in his last-stand.
In the epilogue, Prince Bel Cain is found in the wreckage of the battle, mortally wounded (Implied that everyone else including his brother Ialu have already been killed), lamenting on how his carefully set plans and the sacrifices of his subordinates have proven fruitless. Footsteps can be heard, and a black hand lifts the Prince's head up. The Prince notices the amulet the figure is wearing, and immediately recognizes the figure as Nell, his childhood friend. Reunited with his childhood friend again, although unaware that Nell's corpse is controlled by the Holy Gun, the Prince dies with a peaceful expression.
Nell carries the corpse of Bel Cain with her and heads towards the Network. She then aims her elemental gun at the Network and fires, destroying it. As the Network falls apart around her, a tear streams down Nell's face, before her armor glows a bright blue color. Having completed the task Nell was reanimated for, a large blue light envelops Nell and Bel Cain and illuminates the entire area, having Nell's body and the Holy Gun perish with Bel Cain in the process. A view of the destroyed area (the same area Tagami visits in the introduction) is seen from afar with people looking on, as Bel Cain's voice is heard speaking to the player:
"One day, all will put away the destructive desires of self, striving only to create a world without barriers. I failed. You must succeed."
The game ends and credits start to roll, along with small journal entries that appear in between, written by Tagami.
The journal entries reveal that Tagami came from another dimension and was the one who gave the Network access to the holy guns, anticipating the malfunction of the Network to mount the holy guns to Nell and Seana's bodies. The life expectancy of their bodies were limited to 24 hours, the exact amount of time needed for the holy gun to complete the operation of destroying Bel Cain's kingdom, which was a success.
Due to an accident with the dimensional gate, Tagami's return to her world was impossible, until the gate gets repaired. She then enters cryogenic suspension until the gate can be repaired, making this her final journal entry for centuries. She makes a private note, reading "Farewell, Yuri. I shall always love you."
Tagami writes, centuries later: "Today, I picked up an old pendant..." referencing Bel Cain's half of the old pendant she found in the pre-game introduction.
As is the norm with rail shooters, the action in Elemental Gearbolt takes place from a first-person perspective, and the pace of the game and rate of enemy occurrence is completely preset. The player is only required to aim and shoot with the light gun. Most light gun games require the player to reload as ammunition is expended, but Elemental Gearbolt does not, since both the player characters and their weapons are magical. Instead, the game limits the speed at which the player can fire, increasing the need for accuracy. The player can switch freely between three types of attacks - Blaze Phoenix, a basic, high powered shot; Thunder Tiger, a spread shot; and Water Snake, a rapid shot.
At the conclusion of each stage the player has the opportunity to "Trade Off", in which the player selects certain percentages of the score for the stage to allocate towards bonus points or experience. As in an RPG, the player characters gain levels by accruing experience, and thus grow more powerful and are better able to take damage. Score determines rank, and in the year following the game's North American release it was used to participate in contests sponsored by Working Designs.
The official soundtrack features a 24½-minute drama track in Japanese and 19 original score cues performed by a full orchestra. It was released by First Smile Entertainment on January 21, 1998 in Japan. Its catalogue ID is FSCA-10030 and the original price in Japan was 2,548¥. Kei Wakakusa composed and arranged the score.
Some winners of Working Designs' contests for Elemental Gearbolt received 'Assassin Case' prizes that contained gold-plated GunCon light guns. These Assassin Cases are among the most rare and prized collectibles from the PlayStation era.
According to Metacritic, the game received the average score of 76 ("Generally favorable reviews").
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